March 23, 2018

Bourdais Wins Second Consecutive Firestone Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg

13 March 2018, 02:51 | Joan Schultz

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Late Crash Gives Bourdais Victory In St. Petersburg

Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power all wore special "Helio" stickers across the top of their visors in Friday's practice sessions for the season-opening race through the streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday.

There was one other group of individuals that Bourdais also thanked in victory circle, but for more than just being there to witness his win.

It was the sixth victory for Dale Coyne Racing and the first since Bourdais won at St. Petersburg past year. They welcomed him and his family with open arms, and he in turn reciprocated by becoming involved in the community in several capacities. He'll be too rattled, too squeamish to ever tackle the dangers of the Verizon IndyCar Series with the reckless abandon required to succeed in the sport.

That's especially true after Firestone extended its sponsorship of the St. Pete Grand Prix this past week through 2020.

"To be honest, I felt very comfortable with the pace I had", explained Wickens following the race-ending collision.

"And obviously when you win in front of friends and family, it's very special". "At the start, Wickens squeezed me really tight", said Will Power, who was involved in a crash with Wickens at the start of the race before clawing his way back to 10 place. Later that season, he missed eight races as a result of injuries he suffered in a crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifications. "[Bourdais'] consistency makes that a fourth-place vehicle, and luck made it a winning auto".

Bourdais said he never considered not returning to racing.

"At the end of the day, this is my life", he said. "I loved racing for as long as I can remember". "Really, that's all where it started. Not the way I imagined the day going for the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda". We didn't get a good lap. Fast rookies, sleek cars, lower downforce, and cars that put control back into the drivers hands. They helped make him stronger, perhaps not physically, but certainly emotionally.

This one was for them.

Bourdais was overcome with emotion after his 10-month journey. "I can't quite put it into words".

"I let Alex get within a second of me, but he was never going to pass me [before the yellows]".

"I didn't get the best restart in the world, but that didn't really matter", said Wickens, who ended being classified 16th.

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"It's been bumpy, it's been tough, it's been everything in between, but I've gotten a lot of support from the CEO to my family to everybody on board". But like I said, I think this is the first of many great races.

Of course, there was a bit of luck involved with Sunday's win, Bourdais and team owner Dale Coyne both agreed.

Wickens had a bad launch on the restart, later blaming the pace vehicle for not turning off its lights, and Rossi tried his move on the inside part of the track, only to find the limit of grip on the loose marbles and send the rival Honda driver spinning into the wall. He made a mistake on the inside and I guess he just couldn't keep it, and just slid into me. Just a insane day. "I'm living a childhood dream and it's pretty cool".

Added Coyne quite astutely, "We had an eighth-place vehicle today". "His consistency makes that a fourth-place vehicle, and luck made it a winning auto".

When Bourdais and his family moved to St. Petersburg in 2012, they had plenty of room in their house. Three-time Indianapolis 500 victor Helio Castroneves was bounced to sports cars as Roger Penske made his lineup younger, and even though Castroneves will race at Indy in May, he wants back in the series and wasn't pleased to be a spectator Sunday.

Still in the St. Pete area, of course.

"With that new aero kit, it was - everything was up in the air", Bourdais said. Is he going to come back? Today we didn't have a top-three vehicle, but after the puncture, we came from the back and won again!

"I was very emotional in the vehicle".

"Yeah, we've managed to win one pretty much every year since '14".

While Hinchliffe is an IndyCar veteran, Wickens comes to the American series after a successful career racing in Europe. "Hopefully it's his home street".

Regardless of pit strategy, most of the race was led by the rookie pole sitter.

"We had an eighth-place auto today", Coyne said. "You told me 34".

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