Late Crash Gives Bourdais IndyCar Series Victory In St. Petersburg

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 11 2018

Veteran driver Sebastien Bourdais won the St. Petersburg, Fla. street fight on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Sebastien Bourdais took the lead when race-leader Robert Wickens was wrecked by second-place Alexander Rossi just in front of him after a restart with two laps to go and went on to win Sunday’s season-opener on the street circuit in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Bourdais, a St. Pete resident driving a Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, took the checkered flag with the race under yellow.

“We didn’t have the fastest car today but we had consistency and we pulled it together,” the native of Le Mans, France, said. “I was really happy for Robert and kind of heartbroken for him but for us…I can’t quite put it into words.”

The win, his second straight at St. Pete, caps a comeback after a horrendous crash at Indianapolis last May. After winning at St. Pete, Bourdais said he never considered not coming back after the wreck.

“When I got the verdict of what (bones were) broken and that it was going to heal pretty well, there was never a question in my mind whether I should continue or stop,” he said. “Guess I’m glad I did continue.”

Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Racing finished second while Rossi slipped to third. James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt-Peterson Racing was fourth.

“I had a shot at Bourdais but I kept saying to myself ‘Just take fourth, just take fourth,” Rahal said. “Take the points and move on.’ There was a lot of action there. Then I saw Rossi and thought ‘Oh, here we go. This could be perfect.’ And sure enough, bam!  We got a little luck and you have to have that. We haven’t had a good start to the season in a long time. I guess the last time was 2008 when I won this thing. Our whole team did a fabulous job and it was an awesome day for Honda.”

Rounding out the top six were were Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon.

Pole-sitter Wickens, a Canadian driving for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, led the most laps by far and appeared on his way to a victory in his first-ever IndyCar Series race, when a couple of late-race cautions  tightened the field and led to his being taken out on the aggressive move by Rossi.

“I had a big jump on Rob [Wickens], and he got to the Push-to-Pass pretty late,” Rossi said. “The run was perfect for me going into Turn 1, and I knew there wasn’t going to be many other opportunities. Obviously [Wickens] had a good car all day, and they did a great job.

“I made the pop. He defended the position, which he has the right to do, but in doing so, in moving the reaction, he put me into the marbles pretty late into the corner. It’s difficult with these cars and with how much we’re sliding around in the first place, even on the racing line. When you’re put in the marbles, it’s hairy. Super unfortunate. Like you never want to see that happen. I feel bad because I feel like I could have won and he could have gotten second. You never want to see that happen, but nevertheless, it was a great job by the whole team all weekend.”

Wickens wound up 18th and not very happy with Rossi.

“I need to see it before I think I comment on anything,” Wickens said, “but I didn’t really want to defend too hard because there was so many marbles off line, so I figured if Alex (Rossi) wants to go there, go for it. I gave him space around the outside. I broke late. I made the corner and then we had some contact, and obviously it put me into a spin into the wall. I ended my day with one lap left in the race.

“Not the way I imagined the day going for the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda. It was all a little bit confusing because I was told on the radio we were going green, but they didn’t turn the lights off the pace car, so I didn’t get the best restart I could have done. Probably the worst one of the whole day. I want to kind of speak to the officials to see why they didn’t turn the lights off the pace car before we went green but I don’t know. I just need to see everything before I comment.”

Honda had a huge day in the season-opener as cars power by their engines collected the first six positions.

During a press conference this week, Honda’s Art St. Cyr said, “We think our engine is going to be strong coming out of the box.”

Guess so.

Defending Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske was the top Chevrolet driver at seventh.

“It was a messy P7 but for us it was a good top 10,” Newgarden said. “It’s a decent start to the year. We had a great Chevy package – it’s just sad we couldn’t take better advantage of it. I felt we had really good power today from Chevrolet. The Hitachi car, overall, was pretty strong. We were just fighting all day to catch back up and we were on the wrong end on the fuel mileage and getting run into and cutting the tire didn’t help us. But I think if a couple of things would’ve gone differently, I really think a podium finish was in the cards for today.”

(This story will be updated shortly)


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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 11 2018
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