When the checkered flag had waved and the crowds had left the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the box score for this year’s Indianapolis 500 Mile Race showed Bertrand Baguette finished P7. What it doesn’t show is that the young Belgian driver was within a single caution flag of winning the whole dang race.
And what a race it was for Baguette. He continually fought his way back into the Top 5 and Top 10, dropping back due to fuel strategy or pit stops, only to charge back to towards the front. After passing Danica Patrick, Baguette led until 197 when he had no choice but to pit for a splash of fuel. Had a caution come out later in that period, it’s extremely likely that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing would have claimed a 500 victory, with Baguette’s image gracing the Borg-Warner Trophy.
As we all saw, it didn’t work out that way. After his quick pit, Baguette rejoined the field in time to secure the aforementioned seventh-place showing. Whatever disappointment there might have been for missing out on drinking the milk as 500 champion, it was still the best showing yet by this young driver who continues to get better with each opportunity,
Baguette (nicknamed “Baggy” , “Breadman”, or just plain “Bert” depending on the IndyCar fan you’re talking to), wasn’t added to Conquest Racing’s program until the third race of 2010. But despite middling finishes, he impressed many around the IZOD IndyCar Series with his calm demeanor, quick pace of learning and ability to generally stay out of trouble as a rookie. He would qualify P6 and finish P10 at Kentucky for his best result of the year. Not bad for a driver who came into the series with limited oval experience.
Having had the opportunity to chat with Bertrand this past month, I found him collected, pleasant, and focused on the job at hand. He has a certain poise and demeanor that inspires confidence that he will do the most with what he is given. Watching him interact with fans, he’s quiet but friendly, with a sense of sincere gratitude. You come away understanding why he had become so well-considered by many around the garages.
Right now, Bertrand Baguette is not full-time in the IZOD IndyCar Series. As it stands, his one-off program for Indy was his only planned race of the year. Considering the month he had, from a strong Pole Day run to start P14 to his near-miss of winning it all in just his second 500 start, we can only hope he returns, and soon. His sponsors RACB and Aspira have to be pleased in their driver’s results, and the confidence Bobby Rahal and company showed in Baguette appears to have been well-justified indeed.
Said Baguette of his brush with 500 immortality, “It’s incredible - leading the 100th Anniversary of the race. It is something unbelievable”.
What’s believable is that when it comes to racing, Bertrand Baguette is the real deal.
Editors note: We joked around on Sunday wondering what the ABC production trailer looked like when Baguette continued to lead the race. Papers and fingers flying, Google was on fire..."someone find out who this guy is!" But in the INDYCAR Fan Village on Friday (prior to his Sunday performance), Baguette was introduced and walked on stage to loud cheers and whistles from the fans. He looked over at us and said in a quiet, humble voice, "Is that really for me?" Yes, Bertrand, it's for you.