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Dale Coyne Racing and Sebastien Bourdais have become known for their strategic IndyCar gambles, but their latest attempt at Barber fell short against victorious Penske driver Josef Newgarden.
Extreme conditions in Alabama forced the race to be postponed to Monday, with Penske’s Will Power notably critical of IndyCar’s failed attempt to restart the race on Sunday.
With refuelling allowed overnight and a shorter distance to run on Monday, the scene was set for strategy variance and those plans became more of a headache for the strategists when rain returned late on.
Bourdais opted to conserve fuel to make a one-stop strategy work against Newgarden’s expected two stops, but the reigning IndyCar champion eventually won by almost 10 seconds, belying just how tense the final laps of the race were.
Newgarden and Bourdais both had different interpretations of how the race could have played out.
“I knew what he [Bourdais] was doing,” said Newgarden.
“The problem is we put the rains on a little bit earlier to protect and I kind of fried the fronts because you know, these things aren’t designed to work in the dry.
“So I kind of overcooked the front end.
“And then I had to deal with that when the rain actually came. Fortunately, we had a big gap.
“What I think helped us win the race was just building that gap over the beginning part.”
Bourdais added: “We were in it to win it, we did everything we could and it seemed it was going to be good enough because I saved a load of fuel.
“I wasn’t going to have to save very much once Josef had done his splash, I think we had beaten him.
“Then the sky opened and that was that.”
DCR boss Dale Coyne also believed that Bourdais would have won the race in the dry.
“We were in the catbird seat for second,” he said. “And then we were hoping.
“In the rain, he did some good times on the drys in the wet, but the wet just kept coming so we had to bring him in.
“He [Newgarden] did come in for a second stop, and when he put his wets on, he had us.
“Obviously, if it had stayed dry, we would have won the race, but he had to come in and that gave him a splash.”