A tenth of a second isn't much, but that's all it took for Sebastien Bourdais to make poor results at Montreal and Laguna Seca a distant memory as he took a sixth win of the season in the Bridgestone 400 – the first Champ Car race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Bourdais battled side-by-side with Newman Haas teammate Bruno Junqueira for the last 15 trips around the 1.5-mile before nipping him at the line by just 0.066 seconds, the sixth closest winning margin in championship history.
The two title challengers swapped the lead four times in the closing seven laps before Bourdais the win that gives him a 27-point lead in the championship with two races remaining on the calendar.
“It appears that I am very good on superspeedways, but still need work on short ovals!” a delighted Bourdais said afterwards. “This is great for the McDonald's team, they deserve the true credit this weekend. After two frustrating race weekends, it is very rewarding. It is another great finish for Newman Haas Racing, hopefully we can also finish one and two in the championship.”
Junqueira but kept himself alive in the hunt for his first series championship with his fourth consecutive Champ Car podium, earning additional championship points for leading a lap and for posting the fastest race lap.
“The PacifiCare car was good; I felt that it would be difficult for people to pass me as long as we had good pit stops,” he said. “Towards the final laps of the race we were racing together, side-by-side, and that produced real exciting racing for the fans. It was clean racing; we have good drivers to race against. This is another great result for the Newman Haas Racing team, the win truly goes to them.”
The action in Saturday nights race started soon as the green flag dropped, but ended just as quickly for one of the local drivers. Las Vegas resident Paul Tracy saw his title challenge come to a halt on the opening lap when a broken spline in his rear drive train sidelined the Forsythe machine and ended the Canadians chance of retaining his title.
However Tracy's teammates were determinted to battle on in his absence, as Laguna Seca winner Patrick Carpentier stormed to the front ahead of the Newman Haas duo. Carpentier's stablemate Rodolfo Lavin then made it a two-team race at the front by moving into the fourth slot as the rest of the field sorted itself out.
Ryan Hunter-Reay threw his hat in the ring as the first set of pit stops approached, but chance of victory went up in haze of tyre smoke on lap 37 when he spun on the entry to Pit Lane, bringing out the first caution flag of the night.