Bourdais, Coyne Open Season With Win In St. Pete

Wilma Vos 87 of Clearwater Beach takes off her helmet after riding with retired racing legend Mario Andretti on Thursday during the Indy Racing Experience. Participants got to ride in the two-seater or a pace car once around the track

Sebastien Bourdais and his Dale Coyne Racing team left the wealthier teams choking on their exhaust fumes as they dominated the field in the IndyCar Series season-opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday. IndyCar's rule is that anyone who causes a red flag in qualifying is not allowed to transfer out of that group.

What made the Frenchman's first triumph on the streets of St. Petersburg all the more impressive is that it came despite his starting the race last of 21 cars.

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

Bourdais extended his run of seasons with at least one race win - now at four.

When he moved to Coyne, Bourdais had the team owner open the payroll to hire engineer Craig Hampson, who led Bourdais to 31 victories, 31 poles and four consecutive titles from 2004 to 2007.

In an attempt to revitalize his career, Bourdais returned to Dale Coyne Racing and tried to reassemble his old crew.

The four-time series champion started on the front-row, but had a day of mixed fortunes as he constantly had to fight back from the mid-pack after unfortunate timings with cautions and his pit strategy.

Wilson's widow Julia sent a text immediately after the race to congratulate the team, and with Bourdais' auto 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. It also can't be understated how much money Coyne invested in the program.

"2003, our first race together, was here and we should have won that race".

His team showed the creativity, he got the required visit from Lady Luck, and he solidified the advantage by driving a very fast and flawless race.

"I thought we'd races this season", Coyne said. Though Pagenaud closed in, Bourdais had enough of a lead to make his final pit stop and come out in second. Hunter-Reay recovered from brake failure in the morning pre-race practice that led his Andretti Autosport auto to slam into the tire barrier in Turn 10. Takuma Sato was fifth in his first race with Andretti.

Round 2: Max Chilton, Alexander Rossi, Charlie Kimball, Graham Rahal, Carlos Munoz and Ryan Hunter-Reay eliminated. Kimball's auto collected Carlos Munoz (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet).

Bourdais led 69 of the 110 laps to give Honda a much-needed victory over Chevrolet. 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. IndyCar now has a break in its schedule before the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 9.

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