ibusinesslines.com March 24, 2017

Sebastien Bourdais wins IndyCar season opener from last on the grid

20 March 2017, 05:04 | Justin Tyler

ESPN Opens IndyCar Season With Use Of Predictive Analytics System, Vision Cam On ABC

Manufacturer's Extension

France's Sebastien Bourdais won on adopted home track with defending IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud second.

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. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the first of 17 races on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

Of course he was upset - particularly about the "bogus" caution that cost him his early lead - but Hinchcliffe sounded like a driver who saw a silver lining he could cling to after Sebastien Bourdais' Verizon IndyCar Series season-opening win Sunday on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The peerless engineer, reunited with the Frenchman after demolishing the Champ Car series with four consecutive titles from 2004-'07, tried to gather his emotions as the team celebrated around him.

Wilson's widow Julia sent a text immediately after the race to congratulate the team, and with Bourdais' vehicle carrying the logo of Wilson's apparel company on the left-side mirror, one could say the big man, in a small way, went along for the ride to Victory Lane. Power is the last driver to win from the top starting spot - the first year he captured a pole at the track in 2010. Bourdais himself said that winning against top-spending teams like Penske is part of the "magic of IndyCar". In fact, other than a small handful of races - including Alexander Rossi's shocker at the Indianapolis 500 - previous year was boringly predictable and noncompetitive.

The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion will look for his third win at the circuit come Sunday. Though risky to read tea leaves after only one race, the results speak for themselves.

Dixon, meanwhile took the blue No. 9 GE LED Lighting Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing to second on the grid and arguably had the auto to win before getting caught out on Lap 26 when the second full-course caution flew for debris on course following contact between Dixon's teammate Tony Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin at Turn 4. And if that seems insignificant, just look back at what happened previous year at St. Petersburg.

The next race in Phoenix?

Dixon dominated practice in advance of qualifying and was the only driver to log laps under the 1:01 mark in each of the first two segments of qualifying.

The gap between the manufacturers wore on Honda drivers. "I don't know what to say, just thanks to the guys". "Because it's really hard to pass and every time we come here and it looks like we have a reasonable vehicle - and that was the case this weekend - I threw it away [in qualifying]!"

"I think we had a pretty decent start with the new brakes, a lot of the development stuff". With the benefits of Chip Ganassi Racing making its return to Honda and IndyCar's aerokit freeze, Honda appears to have closed the gap - and more quickly than most expected. "I was talking to Hinch (Hinchcliffe) the other day, and he said he started when he was 18 months". The next race is the 2017 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 9.

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