A year of frequently fantastic on-track action ended with 10 different winners from 19 races, a worthy champion, a heart-warming result in the Indy 500 and…yes, some troubling incidents, too – mainly, but not exclusively, off-track.
The fact that the “500” winner finished outside the top 10 in the championship compelled us to extend our more in-depth assessment, and 11 seemed such a weird number…so we went for the top 12 finishers in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series. In the coming days, Marshall Pruett will do a mop-up of the almost-made-its, which include winners such as Takuma Sato and Mike Conway, as well as drivers who grabbed runner-up places, such as Graham Rahal, James Jakes, Simona de Silvestro and Josef Newgarden. For now though, Robin Miller, David Malsher and Marshall Pruett are counting down the dirty dozen. Today, it's…
12th – SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS
Dragon Racing Dallara-Chevrolet
Best finish – 2nd, Toronto 1
Best start – 2nd, Toronto 1
Robin Miller writes…
It was hard to recognize Sebastien Bourdais the first half of 2013 but he was easy to find – mired at mid-pack or worse as he didn't record one top-10 finish during those opening 10 races. But, after a change of engineers, the 35-year-old Frenchman looked like the force everyone expected him to be for Jay Penske.
Seabass scored three podiums in the final eight races, led 74 laps and rallied to finish 12th in the final points standings. Not what he envisioned following the promise of 2012 but certainly a good save to a season that seemed hopeless for so long.
Always a contender at street races, the four-time Champ Car king came to life at the Toronto double-header with a second and a third as veteran Tom Brown took over engineering duties. Baltimore could have been a victory (he led 19 laps) before he was bumped back to third and he qualified fourth at Houston and ran eighth after starting 14th because of an engine change. In the Fontana finale, he started third and took was at the front for 35 laps before crashing while battling for the lead.
If there were any doubts regarding his commitment following the early run of poor results, they should have been dismissed because Bourdais still possesses the hunger of a 20-something along with his talents.
It might not be fair to lay everything on the engineering change but there was obviously something missing those first 10 races and it wasn't Seb's skills. For a guy who ran for the best operation in Champ Car with Newman/Haas, he made the most of running for a mid-level team that may be gone next year.
One can only wonder what the ex-Formula 1 regular could do with a Ganassi or Penske but his closing pace earned him a seat with KVSH Racing for 2014.
“It's nice to know I've got a place to race and don't spend all winter worrying,” he said at Fontana. “I think people in the paddock know I can still run up front and I've still got a few good years in me.”
He went from nowhere to right back in the mix this season. For a racer who can be pretty moody, Seb showed a lot of mental toughness when things were going bad and kept pushing. He's the consummate pro.
After the break: Marshall Pruett's take.