Bourdais wins Champ Car title; Philippe takes Indy 300
SURFERS PARADISE, Australia -- Sebastien Bourdais made it three series championships in a row and his French countryman Nelson Philippe picked up his first Champ Car win in an incident-filled Indy 300 Sunday.
Bourdais secured his third series title when American A.J. Allmendinger, his closest pursuer for the season championship, crashed out on the 19th lap.
"Once I saw him stopped on the track, I knew we had won it," Bourdais said. "I radioed the team and said, 'OK, let's go racing."'
Nine laps later, Bourdais was penalized by race officials for "avoidable contact" after colliding with pole sitter Will Power of Australia.
Power, among the leaders, stalled after the accident and fell back in the field, finishing 12th. Derrick Walker, a co-owner of Power's Team Australia, said it was a "bonehead move" by Bourdais.
Bourdais served his drive-through penalty in the pits on lap 33 and finished eighth.
Later, Bourdais received the Vanderbilt Cup for the third year in a row, raising the trophy over his head following the ceremony in pit row. Bourdais also clinched last year's title during the Australian race.
Members of his Newman/Haas pit crew surrounded him, most of them raising three fingers in the air to signify the three straight titles.
"It's an amazing day," said the ponytailed Philippe, who relaxed before the race by listening to soul singer James Brown on his iPod. "Right now I need to come back down to earth."
Philippe, whose previous best finish was a third place in Milwaukee this year, becomes the 16th different winner of the Australian race.
He finished 59 laps of the 2.79-mile temporary street circuit in 1 hour, 50 minutes, 50.985 seconds at an average speed of 89.259 mph.
The biggest -- and potentially most dangerous -- early incident occurred on the 14th lap in the pits when Allmendinger appeared to leave his area too soon and with fuel still being dumped into his car.
A fire started and several of his pit crew had flames around them before water was thrown on them to extinguish the fire.
Going into the Surfers Paradise race, Bourdais had a 58-point lead over second-place Allmendinger in the standings. The French driver needed to finish ninth or better, assuming that the American driver picked up the maximum number of points in Australia, including 31 for a win.
But Allmendinger's exit -- hitting the wall on the 19th lap -- gave the title to Bourdais with one race remaining in Mexico City on Nov. 12.
Ted Horn is the only other driver in the 97-year history of Champ Car racing to win three championships in a row, from 1946 to 1948.
The chance of a first-turn pileup on a notorious chicane was reduced when the race began under a caution after the starter deemed the 17-car field was not bunched close enough together.
When the field came around again, after completing the first lap, they were in a single-file formation instead of side by side, and all starters made it through the twisting first turn without incident.
Katherine Legge, racing for the first time since surviving without injury a serious accident three weeks ago at Elkhart Lake, Wis., hit the wall on her 43rd lap and did not finish the race.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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