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Jun 4, 2016 7:50 PM

Bourdais races to first win of season at Belle Isle

The Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) Sebastien Bourdais had a hard time recapping his first IndyCar victory of the season.

"I think I missed a couple of steps how we got from 13th to 16th to 18th to last, pretty much, to 13th again, and jumping into the lead on the late stage," Bourdais said. "It was a rather interesting day."

Bourdais took control down the stretch Saturday and beat Conor Daly by 2 seconds at Belle Isle. Bourdais had not led a single lap in any of the season's first six races, and the Frenchman hadn't finished higher than eighth. He led only 12 of the 70 laps Saturday on the 2.35-mile street course, but Bourdais was able to hold on the rest of the way after Daly made a pit stop on lap 61 and gave up the lead.

"Toward the end there, it was very dicey, a bit of a drizzle, then a lot of fights coming off the pits, whether I was coming off the pits or the guys were coming off the pits," Bourdais said. "There was some really close wheel-to-wheel action. We came out on top and we couldn't be any happier."

Bourdais won for the 35th time in his career and the second time at Belle Isle. He took the latter half of last year's doubleheader at the Detroit course. There's another IndyCar race at the track Sunday.

Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi finished 10th.

When Bourdais won last year at Belle Isle, there were eight caution periods and the race was shortened to 68 laps because of a two-hour time limit. There were only two cautions Saturday, and although there were some sprinkles in the area, the rain was never all that significant.

Bourdais qualified 13th and spent the early stages of the race in the bottom half of the field. But a pit stop on lap 13 during the first caution period would prove crucial. Bourdais made another stop on lap 35, and when a dozen cars pitted on lap 43, during the second caution, Bourdais moved from the middle of the pack up toward the lead.

By the time he made his last pit stop on lap 57, he was in the lead and in good enough position that he fell only one spot behind Daly, who stopped himself a few laps later.

"The cautions obviously fell at the right time for us," Bourdais said. "Put us back in the game."

Daly had never finished higher than sixth in his career, and the rookie was pleased with his performance.

"This series is the most competitive series in the world. Everyone, we're fighting for just the smallest amounts of time," Daly said. "To be on the podium my first year, it's a really rewarding experience. I just hope I can do more obviously."

Pole winner Simon Pagenaud fell to 13th while trying to stretch fuel at the end. He finished first or second in each of the first five races this year before a 19th-place showing at the Indy 500. He remains atop the series standings, 59 points ahead of Helio Castroneves, who finished fifth Saturday.

Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, followed by Graham Rahal.

PENSKE'S LETDOWN: Pagenaud, Castroneves and Montoya swept the top three in qualifying for Team Penske, but it was another Chevrolet Bourdais' No. 11 for KVSH Racing that came away with the win. Montoya and Castroneves managed solid finishes, but Pagenaud slipped badly at the end and Will Power, another Penske star, had a shifting issue with about 25 laps to go and ended up 20th.

TOUGH DAY: There was a red flag during Saturday's practice session when James Hinchcliffe spun and made contact with a barrier. Then in the race, Hinchcliffe made contact with a barrier at a different turn. He finished 18th.

HARD TO BELIEVE: The fastest lap of the race was the 30th by Scott Dixon. He made it around in 1 minute, 14.6675 seconds which was actually faster than the track record of 1:14.6899 that Castroneves set during qualifying the previous day.

Dixon, however, had electrical issues and finished 19th.


Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister


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