FLORIDA FRESH. FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG.
BOURDAIS AND COYNE RACING ARE HOT ON A COOL BREEZY DAY.
The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series got off to a great start with the opening round won by Sébastien Bourdais over French countryman and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud. Scott Dixon was third, the Kiwi still not successful here after 13 attempts.
Penske-star Will Power started from his seventh St. Pete pole position, next to him was Dixon, the Ganassi team now powered by Honda. Josef Newgarden, the man from Tennessee, qualified on the second row in his first drive for Penske. Sato-san was fifth, having jumped from Foyt’s stable to Andretti Autosports.
Setback & Comeback
Sébastien Bourdais crashed his Coyne operated car in qualifying and was relegated to the back of the grid. Compadre Pagenaud also did not fare well, qualifying only 14th.
Power led the first few laps before the Mayor, James Hinchcliffe, laid down the law and took the lead. This was just the beginning of Power’s problems; a puncture, running over air hose and fuel-feed issues led to his retirement.
Bourdais avoided tangle with other competitors and on lap 37 passed Pagenaud for the lead. The Penske driver started his charge in the closing stages of the race but the ex-Toro Rosso F1 racer kept his cool and gave Coyne racing team a well deserved win, a very happy reunion not only for the two and but also for the driver and crew chief Craig Hampson – the last time they worked together was in their glory days at Newman-Haas.
Behind Dixon in third, Florida native Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato completed the top five.
Victory for Le Mans-native & St. Pete-based Bourdais was 36th of his stellar career on this side of the pond and elevates him to 6th on the all time wins list.
Paul Tracy was the winner of the inaugural St. Petersburg event in 2003, then held under the CART umbrella. Helio Castro Neves is the only three-time winner of the event, 2006/7 & ‘12. And, surprisingly, Graham Rahal is the only American winner.
Penske has been the dominant team here with eight wins, but their winner from the past two years, Juan Pablo Montoya, was missing in action but will be activated by the Captain and self ‘percolated’ during the merry month of May.
American heavy weights in Indy Lights
The future of IndyCar racing is bright as two young Americans won their first race in the series in dominating fashion. The season opening race was led from start to finish from pole position by Wisconsin native Aaron Telitz. Last season he won the Pro Mazda (formerly Star Mazda) championship.
F1Weekly will feature an exclusive interview with this young talent in an upcoming podcast.
On Sunday, second generation and 16-year-old driver Colton Herta took victory after a race long duel with Santiago Urrutia, the Uruguayan driver is in his second year in the series. Colton made papa Bryan proud by becoming the youngest ever winner in Indy Lights history.
— Nasir Hameed