Scott Dixon third in IndyCar season-opener in Florida

  • Scott Dixon third in IndyCar season-opener in Florida

Scott Dixon third in IndyCar season-opener in Florida

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.

Six years after he last raced under the Dale Coyne Racing banner, Sebastien Bourdais strung together a near-perfect performance, driving from his last-place starting position to victory lane in today's Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. IndyCar's rule is that anyone who causes a red flag in qualifying is not allowed to transfer out of that group.

This is Bourdais' first win in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg. Scott Dixon leads all active drivers in fourth place (40 wins).

The win wasn't only big for Bourdais and Coyne, whose team earned its first win since 2014, but for Honda.

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 manufacturer won just two of 16 races last season, neither of which were on a street or road course.

Coyne's team is known for being savvy with race strategy, winning four races since 2009 with Justin Wilson (twice), Mike Conway and Carlos Huertas.

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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. It also can't be understated how much money Coyne invested in the program. "But I didn't think we'd win the first one".

"The auto was fast today, we definitely had some speed, we made a lot of spots back up, so it was a nice recovery for third spot, Dixon said after the race".

Bourdais also brought with him Olivier Boisson, who was Bourdais' engineer at KVSH Racing the last several seasons. Pagenaud finished second in this race a year ago, as well. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fourth for Andretti Autosport, and Honda appeared much improved with four drivers in the top five. "Sebastien is really good at setting a vehicle for the race".

The brakes, which are new for this season, weren't the problem some people feared. Kimball's vehicle collected Carlos Munoz (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet). He resumed the lead when Pagenaud pitted, and was uncatchable for the final 27 laps.

NOTES: Sebastien Bourdais led 69 of the 110 laps. IndyCar now has a break in its schedule before the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 9.