Editor’s note: I just arrived at Winter Headquarters and saw the news. Here are some brief thoughts. I will follow up in a day or two.
Photo: Kyle McInnes
The NTT Indycar Series November of change added another shock today with the announcement of an amicable separation of Sebastien Bourdais and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan. The news follows the November 4 sale of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the series to Roger Penske and the release of Spencer Pigot from Ed Carpenter Racing. The 2020 grid will look very different from the 2019 grid. Bourdais will race for JDC -Miller in the number 5 Cadillac prototype with Jaoao Barbosa, who drove the same car last year fro Action Express.
The opening raises several questions. Is this where James Hinchcliffe will land? I’ve seen different answers from different sources. Since Honda pulled its support from Bourdais, is that money available for Hinchcliffe? Could Conor Daly take the seat? I’m not sure his Air Force money is enough for a full season. Will we see another driver from Europe driving for Coyne next year?
The 2020 grid is now missing three full time drivers from 2019- Hinchcliffe, Pigot, and Bourdais. I’m still not sure Tony Kanaan will be full time next season.
Meanwhile, the rookie battle for 2020 is set with Oliver Askew at AMSP and Rinus VeeKay at Ed Carpenter Racing. It could be close as both are on teams with fairly similar results in 2019. The outcome may depend on which team improves. AMSP with its new influx of resources or ECR, which is still looking for funding.
Goodbye to a Champion
Bourdais, who will 41 years old by the time the season begins, likely will not return to Indycar. His deal with JDC-Miller is for the next two seasons. Bourdais had a great career in Indycar. He is a four time season champion in ChampCar (2004,2005,2006,2007), has 37 wins, which ranks fourth all time, and earned 34 poles.
In late 2016 he returned to race in the last couple if races in that season after his horrible crash in qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. In 2017 Bourdais won the season opener at his hometown of St. Pete and repeated the victory the following year.
I was fortunate to see several of his wins. My favorite was at Milwaukee in 2015 when Bourdais took the lead halfway through the race and ran away from the rest of the field.