Sebastien Bourdais

LEXINGTON, Ohio — He’s started from the rear of a Verizon IndyCar Series race before, which means nobody faces a greater challenge in Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio than Sebastien Bourdais.

His race weekend started out so promising as the fastest driver in opening practice on Friday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but when the four-time Indy car champion sped into Turn 2 during his out lap in Round 1 of Saturday qualifying, the rear brakes on the No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda didn’t do their job. The Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan entry slid across track and into the tire barrier, which means he’ll start last in the 24-car field.

It's Bourdais’ worst starting position in 49 races since he rolled off 24th at Iowa in 2015 and finished ninth. And the braking problem is a familiar indignity – most memorably at St. Petersburg in 2017, when he won from the last (21st) starting position.

“The same thing as a couple of other times where I look like an idiot on the out lap or the first lap, going straight with no rear brakes whatsoever,” Bourdais said.

“We, for whatever reason, have to run a very forward brake balance and the front brakes heat up much faster than the rears. It was a super-slow out lap. It’s been like that the whole weekend, everyone is not getting going and I just can’t seem to be able to factor it in. You need to be so far off any kind of braking references until the brakes temperature stabilizes.”

The 39-year-old Frenchman had hoped to improve his 11th-place points position with a solid race finish, but it will be difficult to pass in 90 laps on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio circuit.

“I just can’t wrap my head around it and I keep getting caught out and making mistakes,” he said. “It’s very frustrating. I am very sad for the guys, they have worked so hard, and for SealMaster, Honda, everyone involved. We have a pretty good race car and we have nothing to show.”

Coyne tried to stay positive as he inspected the car in the garage.

“Not what we wanted, but we had this situation in St. Pete in 2017 and that one turned out pretty good,” the team co-owner said. “He just kind of ‘cold-braked’ it and it wouldn’t stop. We had too much speed.

“We’ll try some strategy now since we’re starting from the back. We’ll see what we can do. We’ll try to leapfrog the field somehow. It’s not easy.”

The worst-to-first scenario usually requires timely pit stops and some luck when full-course caution flags fly at opportune times to enable a driver to work toward the front. With 37 career wins that rank sixth all-time, Bourdais will make his 184th career start and eighth at Mid-Ohio on Sunday – but he’d rather it wasn’t from the back of the pack.

“Bottom line, it’s a repeat of St. Pete last year,” he said in a pit-road interview on NBCSN. “It’s a repeat of Long Beach last year. I don’t need to look at it. I know exactly what happened and I know exactly why it’s happening.

“I should know better, but it gives you no sign. I can’t catch a break. I keep making stupid mistakes.”

Live coverage of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio begins at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. A same-day encore telecast airs at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN.