Six years after he last raced under the Dale Coyne Racing banner, Sebastien Bourdais strung together a near-perfect performance, driving from his last-place starting position to victory lane in today’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Bourdais (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda) beat Simon Pagenaud (No. 1 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet) by 10.3508 seconds in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season opener. The win is the 36th of the four-time Indy car champion’s career, breaking a tie with Bobby Unser for sixth place on the all-time victory list.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (No. 9 GE LED Lighting Honda) rounded out the podium, while Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda) battled back from pitting at the green flag with electrical gremlins to finish fourth. Hunter-Reay’s Andretti Autosport teammate, Takuma Sato (No. 26 Honda), scored a top-five finish in his debut with the team.
With Team Penske’s Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet) leading the field to the green, drivers made it safely through the precarious first corner, but as the racetrack tightened through Turn 2, Graham Rahal (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda) and Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Tresiba Honda) made contact, sending Rahal spinning. Kimball’s car collected Carlos Munoz (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet). JR Hildebrand (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet), Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) and Mikhail Aleshin (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) also encountered damage in the incident.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Honda) passed Power into Turn 1 on the ensuing Lap 5 restart and assumed the lead for the first time at St. Petersburg since his 2013 race win. Power pitted from second on Lap 14, but clipped an air hose exiting his pit box and was assessed a drive-through penalty, dropping him deep in the field.
The second caution of the day flew on Lap 26 when Aleshin and Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) made contact, inflicting damage to the front of Aleshin’s car and the rear of Kanaan’s car.
When the top seven cars made their first pit stops under the caution, defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Pagenaud inherited the lead. The race restarted on Lap 31 without issue as Pagenaud led the field. Six laps later, St. Petersburg resident Bourdais passed his countryman in Turn 1, taking his first lead at St. Pete since his first Indy car race in 2003.
After an uneventful second pit cycle, Bourdais and Pagenaud made stops on Laps 82 and 83, respectively, and returned to their 1-2 standings on Lap 84. By leading that lap, his 43rd of the day, Bourdais crossed the threshold of 2,500 laps led in his Indy car career, 22nd all-time.
Bourdais continued to extend his lead and ran unchallenged to the checkered flag. Reigning Indy Lights champion and Bourdais’ teammate, Ed Jones (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda), finished 10th in his first career Indy car race.
The next stop on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The April 9 race on the 1.968-mile street circuit airs live at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.