NEWTON, Iowa -- Sebastien Bourdais isn’t one to pay much attention to routine milestones in his career, but this one is different.
The 40-year-old will make the 200th start of his Indy car career when he takes the green flag Saturday for the Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway. He’s letting it slide without much fanfare, but that doesn’t mean he’s ignoring the underlying implications.
“When you get to this stage in your career, you know you’ve got more in the rearview mirror than you have in front,” the driver of the No. 18 SealMaster Honda said Friday. “You better enjoy every bit of it, because sooner or later it’s going to come to an end.”
Bourdais’ career in Indy cars began in 2003 in the CART Champ Car World Series. He won three races in his rookie season for Newman-Haas Racing, then went on to win four consecutive championships -- the only driver to accomplish that feat in the history of the Indy car genre.
His eight victories in 2007 is tied with Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Tony Bettenhausen and Al Unser Jr. for third on the all-time list of most victories in a single season. He ranks sixth on the all-time wins list with 37, trailing only A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Scott Dixon, Michael Andretti and Al Unser.
“I’m mostly feeling privileged that I got the opportunities I got,” Bourdais said. “I was fortunate enough to make good use of it. I had some really good runs and did some cool things. I’m happy that I’ve had all those opportunities and that it worked out the way it did. Ever since I came back part-time in 2011 and full-time in ‘12, it’s not been as easy as it was in the Champ Car days. Regardless, it’s been a great time, and I’ve managed to win some races.”
The 200th start moves Bourdais past Raul Boesel into 24th place on the all-time list and just two shy of Rick Mears’ total. Several active NTT IndyCar Series drivers are ahead of Bourdais on the list, including Graham Rahal, who hit 200 starts at the Indianapolis 500 in May, and Tony Kanaan, who passed A.J. Foyt for second-place all-time with his 370th start last month at Road America.
Bourdais’ total is smaller because his career took several different paths. After his fourth CART championship in 2007, he competed in Formula One for 27 races over two seasons. His other career totals include 40 sports car races in North America, 13 attempts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 10 Australian Supercar races and four International Race of Champions races.
With IndyCar's competition as close as it is, Bourdais credits his fitness routine in part for his longevity.
“You have to bring your A-game,” he said. “This physical aspect of things is the easiest part. If you have a professional approach, you know where you need to be physically to be 100 percent in the car. The physicality of it should not be a factor. You owe it to yourself to be there every race.”
Bourdais will grid from the 21st position.
Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud will start from the poles with teammate Will Power alongside on the front row. Neither driver has won an Iowa Speedway race.
Pagenaud had the fastest lap in Friday's final practice, a session that started about the same time as the green flag will wave Saturday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Channel 209. The rest of the top six: Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter, Scott Dixon, Conor Daly and rookie Colton Herta.