Bourdais Leads Honda Sweep of Indy Car Season-openerMar 16th, 2018
A thrilling late-race battle for victory ended in disappointment for Robert Wickens, and a second consecutive Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg win for Sebastien Bourdais, as Honda drivers and teams swept the season-opening round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series. Honda drivers claimed the top six finishing positions and eight of the top 10.
Four Honda drivers led 105 laps of the 110-lap contest Sunday on the 1.8-mile downtown St. Petersburg circuit, with Wickens dominating at the point for a race-high 69 laps. But a late-race restart on Lap 108 gave the second-running Alexander Rossi an opportunity to mount a challenge for the lead. The pair of Honda drivers made contact in Turn One, with Wickens spinning and making light contact with the outside wall. An opportunistic Bourdais used the opening to jump from third to first, and claimed the victory as the race ended under caution.
A hard-charging Graham Rahal used all 110 laps to climb from last in the starting field – due to a spin in qualifying – to finish an excellent second; with Rossi recovering from his own slide following the contact with Wickens to complete the victory podium in third.
In a wild race that featured eight caution flags for a total of 21 laps, there still were 366 on-track passes in the race, a record for St. Petersburg. Honda drivers dominated the top 10, with James Hinchcliffe [Schmidt Peterson Motorsports], Ryan Hunter-Reay [Andretti Autosport] and Scott Dixon [Chip Ganassi Racing] claiming fourth through sixth, respectively, and five Honda teams represented in the top six. Ed Jones finished eighth in his first race with the Ganassi team and Marco Andretti took the checkers in ninth for Honda and Andretti Autosport.
Race day got under way with Arie Luyendyk Jr., star of the most recent season of The Bachelor, giving new fiancé Lauren Burnham a ride around the St. Petersburg circuit in the Honda “Fastest Seat in Sports” two-seater Indy car. Indy legend Mario Andretti then took Burnham for a second ride, this time at the head of the 24-car field, during the parade laps leading up to today’s race start.
Video recaps from this weekend’s Honda IndyCar Series season opener in St. Petersburg are available on the “Honda Racing/HPD” YouTube channel. Produced by the Carolinas Production Group, the video packages can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV.
The Verizon IndyCar Series next heads west to ISM Raceway near Phoenix, Arizona, for the Desert Diamond Phoenix Grand Prix, the first Saturday night short-oval race of 2018, which will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network at 9 p.m. EDT on Saturday, April 7.