|Sebastien Bourdais has helped elevate the Dale Coyne team into a consistent top-5 threat|
There was a divorce. Then we started seeing each other again, and I started to recall why I fell in love many years ago. Something got lost. Something went off-course. But when she came back, and resembled the lady I recall, it all started to well-up in me again. She is still not quite that lady I knew before, but the experience of life and the past several years of hardship has made us both more complete in many ways.
I think we both appreciate each other more now. I see the glimmer and magic of the one that made me smile and kept me looking...and it seems that she is working on getting back to the wonderfully captivating and compelling lady I remember...
Rhetoric aside, and coming to this weekend's race at Motegi, I think the story of the day was Sebastien Bourdais in the Coyne car. I will stand up, and say that I hope they stay together and Coyne builds his team into a winner on a more regular basis. Much like many teams and the rest of the sport, for years, he has been seen as the buy-a-ride team turning a profit by taking lesser drivers and running a car as cheap as he could, but the past few years it seems he has caught the fever and desire to win.
First, putting Justin Wilson in the car and making the commitment to put him in victory lane. Now, he manages to get Bourdais to fill the seat, and I think there is much promise in this pairing. We could see an emergence here, emanating from the core of what IndyCar racing and the diversity of tracks and challenges that comprise its international, yet uniquely American character.
Bourdais is obviously taking that car to finishes that are beyond what it would typically be capable of. I think that is the unrecognized beauty of road racing. Yeah, Dixon and Franchitti and Power can win races in the very best cars. But watching Bourdais and Coyne make the most of a fairly rag-tag team of talented but mostly unproven people and taking a car to several top-10 finishes, and a couple of top-5's, I think is an even bigger statement. I really think this team is the sleeper story of the year.
I will say, without hesitation, that I am not sure that Franchitti, Dixon or Power could do the same. All great drivers, but all having always been in the top teams. I have never really been a huge fan of Bourdais as a spokesman or even how he dominated in the Newman Haas car in Champ Car. I think F1 might have humbled him just a bit, and perhaps made him an even better and more complete driver, having to wrestle not only a car that did not suit his driving style, but a team that did not seem very interested in making it so.
I am a new fan of his now, watching what he is doing in the Coyne car.
What attracted me to road racing as a kid, having a father who was a drag racer, and going to the weekend midget and late model stock car oval races at Illiana Speedway...when I went to an SCCA national race and watched a 50+ year old guy win his class in an old Triumph TR3, and just drove the crap out of a car that he trailered in on a flat-bed trailer behind a 1970's Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon with his tires in the back...camping in a tent, and working on the car in his driver's suit with his wife and his dog looking on and handing him wrenches and screwdrivers...
I was hooked. I donâ€™t even remember his name; But I remember the drive. I remember watching him pitch and drift the car through Big Bend at Lime Rock and trail-brake into the left-hander and make a pass into the uphill as he made fools of much younger guys in brand new cars prepped by professional prep-teams.
He got out of the car all soaked in as much glory as sweat, with about 50 spectators cheering his victory. Forgive me for saying so, but that brought a tear to my eye. The same thing happened when I watched Paul Newman win the 24 hours of Daytona. There is a unique purity of that ingredient of the sport that gets lost among the big-dollar sponsors and the media and power-player elements of the sport. I think it is what makes our sport so amazing and compelling to watch.
I was hooked. When you have to turn left and right, it quickly becomes a sport that is about the driver.
When I see a driver with a lesser car or team get up front and start mixing it up with the guys with big budgets, and every possible advantage over everyone else, it just gets my blood and hunger for this sport pumping.
I just hope that Dale Coyne can up the ante for 2012. With a new car, there should be a more even playing field, and the opportunity to make up some ground and put Bourdais in the winner circle. I would really like to see Dale there again too. He is one of the good guys in the sport, and it's great to see him taking a winners approach and attitude on the sport. I think with Bourdais on board, and maybe bringing in a hot-shoe marketing guy, he can continue to develop a team that can bring home some trophies.
This kind of thing, is why I still love IndyCar. She is a fickle lady, and despite a prolonged estranged period...I still love IndyCar.