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Bourdais Snatches Victory at IndyCar Opener in Dramatic Finish

13 March 2018

Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power all wore special "Helio" stickers across the top of their visors in Friday's practice sessions for the season-opening race through the streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday.

Not only did Robert Wickens capture the pole position at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida, but he nearly won Sunday's race after leading for 69 laps.

Wickens was heading to a victory in his IndyCar debut until two late cautions gave Rossi a chance to take it away.

It is the 37th career victory for the Frenchman, who ranks sixth on IndyCar's all-time list. The #18 Dale Coyne Racing driver now trails Al Unser by just two wins for fifth spot on the list.

Sebastien Bourdais drove by both Wickens and Rossi as they collided to collect his second consecutive victory at St. Pete and complete a comeback from a broken pelvis and hip suffered in crash last May at Indianapolis. It was the sixth victory for Dale Coyne Racing, the first since Bourdais won at St. Petersburg past year. We were going to get a podium today, which was awesome.

He snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Sunday, but if you're Robert Wickens, there's still a lot to be happy about. "We hit and spun me out and that put us on the back foot from the beginning".

Wickens, who had a lengthy meeting with Verizon IndyCar Series officials after the race, disagreed with Rossi's assessment of the incident, saying he was uncertain if the race was being restarted because the flashing lights on the pace auto weren't turned off as is customary on the final caution lap before a restart. Wickens seemed to be in charge of the race as well, until a heated battle with Alexander Rossi opened the door for someone else to slip by. "I [braked] really late into Turn 1. I don't have to be all four wheels in the part of the track that nobody goes on". But there's no reason why I can't pop and stay next to him.

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"It's a shame. Everyone on the Lucas Oil team and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports did a fantastic job today".

"It was a heartbreaking way to end", Wickens said in an interview.

Instead the win went to Bourdais, who led 30 laps, second only to Wickens, and was in position to pounce when the opportunity developed.

"They both wanted it really bad, and I have no idea whose fault it is or if it's just a racing thing", Bourdais said.

"We had an eighth-place vehicle", said team owner Dale Coyne.

"We had an eighth-place vehicle today", Coyne said. Wickens slid off course and finished a devastating 18th.

"I let Alex get within a second of me, but he was never going to pass me [before the yellows]".

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"I didn't get the best restart in the world", he said. "I think we showed we had a vehicle that could qualify up front yesterday and we redeemed ourselves a little bit today..."

Although he's a spectator this weekend, Power said it felt like Castroneves was still part of the team. It's hard with these cars with how much we're sliding around even on the racing line, so on the marbles, it's hairy. When you're put in the marbles, it's hairy.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal took his #15 United Rentals Honda to his best ever St. Petersburg finish since becoming the youngest race victor in Indy vehicle history in 2008.

Rounding out the top five were were Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon.

There was some consternation about the rookies in the field, particularly three at the front at the start of the race, because of the potential for a messy start. The trailing distance has been reduced and the downforce is generated from bottom of the auto. IndyCar officials touted the new Dallara as safer, cheaper and potentially racier, and St. Pete had a race-record 366 on-track passes.

We were treated to an absolute spectacle in St Petersburg as the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series burst into life and gave us 110 laps of pure adrenaline. The next round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series takes place on April 7 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Bourdais Snatches Victory at IndyCar Opener in Dramatic Finish