Bourdais Races To Victory In IndyCar Opener At St. Petersburg

Sebastien Bourdais on his way to winning the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg. [credit Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

Sebastien Bourdais on his way to winning the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg. [credit Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

By Joe Jennings

In a wild-and-woolly Verizon IndyCar Series season opener, Sebastien Bourdais raced to victory in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Running third with two laps to go, Bourdais pounced when race leader Robert Wickens and runner-up Alexander Rossi tangled in Turn 1 with the Frenchman powering past to win before a partisan hometown crowd for the second year in a row.

Driving the Team Sealmaster Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, Bourdais captured his 37th open-wheel victory and his sixth while racing for Dale Coyne.

Starting 14th, Bourdais stopped early for a cut tire, but he recovered and adhered to well thought-out strategy to end up in victory lane. He led 30 laps, including the important final lap.

“I was hanging back a little bit (on the restart) wanting to get a clean run, as all I cared about was not to lose third place and a spot on the podium,” said the exhausted victor. “I saw them both going for the win with Alex (Rossi) trying hard but it was so slippery in Turn 1.” (Until then) I was happy with third place. The whole day I was trying not to screw up. It was just a crazy day and I couldn’t dream of that ending.”

Addressing today’s victory, he added, “I was pretty emotional on the in-lap. I had to overcome a lot of things (after the crash in Indianapolis last year), the mental, the kinks, the physical of the speed and just getting back in the game and executing.”

Said Coyne, “Today’s race was strange but we had some luck. We had an eighth-place car, but Sebastien made it a fourth-place car, and luck made it a winning car.”

The action took place on the 1.8-mile temporary street course and the 110-lap race drew a sizable crowd on a sunny day in Florida. The race was spiced by the debut of the new IndyCar and seven rookie drivers.

Following Bourdais’s 2017 winning script, Graham Rahal started last and persevered to remarkably score a second-place finish in the United Rentals Honda owned by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“It was a great day for us,” Rahal said. “Running down the inside in Turn 1 was a risky maneuver and although I had a shot at Bourdais, I thought better of it.”

Rossi rebounded to finish third in the NAPA Auto Parts Honda entered by Andretti Autosport.

“I was going for the win,” Rossi said. “I had a run on Rob (Wickens) because he got to the push-to-pass pretty late. He defended me, but in doing so, he put me into the marbles in a big way. When that happens, it’s hairy. Super unfortunate. I feel bad because I feel like I could have won and he could have gotten second. I did everything I could not to let it happen, but I am glad I brought it home on the podium.”

Wickens, the pole winner, dominated much of the race, leading 69 laps. He was scored 16th.

“The track was dirty off-line and I thought if Alex (Rossi) wants to go there, let him but he’s not going to make the corner,” the rookie from Canada said. “I gave him the inside but he couldn’t keep it there. It would have been a fairy-tale to win it, but sometimes it doesn’t work out.”

Finishing fourth through sixth with Honda power were James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon.
Four Honda drivers led 105 of the 110 laps.

Ending up seventh, Josef Newgarden gave Chevrolet and Team Penske its best finish.

Ed Jones, Marco Andretti and Will Power rounded out the top-10.

Eleven lead changes were shared by five drivers.

11 caution flags slowed the race for 24 laps.

Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg race results
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Results Sunday of the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.8 mile Streets of St. Petersburg circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 110, Running
2. (24) Graham Rahal, Honda, 110, Running
3. (12) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 110, Running
4. (7) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 110, Running
5. (6) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 110, Running
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 110, Running
7. (13) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 110, Running
8. (17) Ed Jones, Honda, 110, Running
9. (18) Marco Andretti, Honda, 110, Running
10. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 110, Running
11. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 110, Running
12. (5) Takuma Sato, Honda, 110, Running
13. (11) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 110, Running
14. (8) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 110, Running
15. (16) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 109, Running
16. (15) Zach Veach, Honda, 109, Running
17. (22) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 109, Running
18. (1) Robert Wickens, Honda, 108, Contact
19. (20) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 108, Running
20. (21) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 107, Running
21. (4) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 107, Running
22. (23) Rene Binder, Chevrolet, 100, Contact
23. (19) Jack Harvey, Honda, 38, Off Course
24. (3) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 16, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 86.207 mph
Time of Race: 02:17:48.4954
Margin of victory: Under caution
Cautions: 8 for 24 laps
Lead changes: 11 among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Wickens, Robert 1 – 5
King, Jordan 6 – 10
Wickens, Robert 11 – 24
Bourdais, Sebastien 25 – 38
Wickens, Robert 39 – 59
Rossi, Alexander 60 – 62
Bourdais, Sebastien 63 – 76
Wickens, Robert 77 – 81
Rossi, Alexander 82 – 83
Hunter-Reay, Ryan 84
Wickens, Robert 85 – 108
Bourdais, Sebastien 109 – 110

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings:
Bourdais 51, Rahal 40, Rossi 36, Hinchcliffe 32, Hunter-Reay 31, Dixon 28, Newgarden 26, Jones 24, Andretti 22, Power 20, Kanaan 19, Sato 18, Pagenaud 17, Chaves 16, Wickens 16, Pigot 15, Veach 14, Claman De Melo 13, Chilton 11, Kimball 10, King 10, Binder 8, Harvey 7, Leist 6

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