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Bourdais, Coyne Open Season With Win In St. Pete

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 12 2017

Sebastien Bourdais out fought fellow Frenchman and defending IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud to win the season-opening event on Sunday.

Sebastien Bourdais and his Dale Coyne Racing team left the wealthier teams choking on their exhaust fumes as they dominated the field in the IndyCar Series season-opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday.

Bourdais, a native of Le Mans, France who now resides in St. Pete, started at the rear of the field but took the lead from fellow Frenchman and defending series champion Simon Pagenaud on Lap 37 and from there, led 69 of the final 84 laps.

“We knew we would be much better than we were before,” team-owner Dale Coyne, who dumped what for him, was a lot of money into the team in the offseason, said. “And everybody did the perfect job today. Our strategy was good…and it all worked out perfect.”

The victory was the 36th in an Indy car for the four-time champion. It came in a car powered by a Honda engine.

“I can’t talk man,” a tear-choked Bourdais said in Victory Circle.

It came by 10.3 seconds of the Chevy-powered Team Penske car of Pagenaud.

French solidarity nearly topped the downer of finishing second for Pagenaud.

“First of all, I want to congratulate Sebastien,” Pagenaud said. “It’s tremendous what they did today. Congrats to him. It’s his hometown now, you know?

“Honestly, he was untouchable. He was really strong.”

Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing finished third while Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport was fourth. New Andretti driver Takuma Sato was fifth.

Pagenaud’s was the only Chevy driver in the top five.

Bourdais moved to St. Petersburg permanently more than a decade ago and rejoined Coyne’s team this season after leaving it six years ago.

“It’s putting the band back together and hopefully we’ll have many more days like this,” he said.

Will Power started the race from the pole but a series of problems, including a speeding penalty, sent him backward.

The second half of the race developed into a duel between Bourdais and Pagenaud.

Bourdais headed in for his final pit stop on Lap 82 and went to red rubber. His lead was over 6 seconds.

Pagenaud pitted a lap later and also went to reds. But when he got back onto the track, he had trimmed Bourdais’ lead to 4.4 seconds and quickly began whittling away at that.

On Lap 90 of the 110-lap race, Pagenaud had cut the lead to 2.3 seconds. Bourdais, meanwhile, had ran into backmarker traffic.

Bourdais, however, quickly made his way through traffic while Pagenaud had trouble. With 15 laps to go, the lead was back up to 4.4 seconds.

With five laps to go, the lead was back up to 7-plus seconds, the race stayed green and Bourdais was never threatened again.

The next stop on the 17-race schedule is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach the weekend of April 7-9. Live race coverage starts at 4 p.m. ET April 9 on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

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Results Sunday of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.8-mile St. Petersburg street circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (21) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 110, Running
2. (14) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 110, Running
3. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 110, Running
4. (12) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 110, Running
5. (5) Takuma Sato, Honda, 110, Running
6. (16) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 110, Running
7. (15) Marco Andretti, Honda, 110, Running
8. (4) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 110, Running
9. (3) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 110, Running
10. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 110, Running
11. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 109, Running
12. (6) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 109, Running
13. (19) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 109, Running
14. (17) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 109, Running
15. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 109, Running
16. (7) Max Chilton, Honda, 109, Running
17. (10) Graham Rahal, Honda, 108, Running
18. (9) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 105, Running
19. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 99, Mechanical
20. (13) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 71, Mechanical
21. (11) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 32, Mechanical

Race Statistics:
Winner’s average speed: 95.391 mph
Time of Race: 2:04:32.4153
Margin of victory: 10.3508 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 8 laps
Lead changes: 8 among 5 drivers
Lap Leaders:
Power 1-5
Hinchcliffe 6-26
Pagenaud 27-36
Bourdais 37-53
Pagenaud 54
Sato 55-56
Bourdais 57-81
Pagenaud 82-83
Bourdais 84-110

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Bourdais 53, Pagenaud 41, Dixon 35, Hunter-Reay 32, Sato 31, Castroneves 28, Andretti 26, Newgarden 24, Hinchcliffe 23, Jones 20.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 12 2017
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