Change is Good, Just Ask Dixon and Bourdais

It’s said that change is the only constant in life. The world I get to live in, sometimes to my own bewilderment, is the world of racing… and that old adage about change is just as true here.

Scott Dixon (No. 9, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams) and Sebastien Bourdais (No. 18, Dale Coyne Racing) are living that truth on this gorgeous Friday in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The two seasoned IndyCar drivers clocked some of the fastest practice laps during the first day of the Firestone Grand Prix. Dixon put up a time of 1:02.5591 – good enough to top the board in the second session, as well as the day overall. Bourdais did his best lap in the afternoon as well, 1:02.9056 which placed him at P5 by the time the checkered flew.

Both drivers have been through some of the biggest changes in the paddock over the off-season. Chip Ganassi Racing announced back in October that they were switching their IndyCar entries to Honda power for the 2017 season. Perhaps this change will allow the team to find the consistent results that were hard to find last year. They are kicking off their 28th season within the series and you can be certain that Chip wants more than just the two wins they had last year – both achieved by Dixon (Phoenix and Watkins Glen).

The only other CGRT driver to podium was Tony Kanaan with a P2 finish at the series return to Road America.

Max Chilton (No. 8)  showed good progress in his rookie season with his highlight race being the Iowa Corn 300 where he had a P4 start and led his first career laps. You may think that’s surprising, given his mostly-F1 background, but don’t forget that he won from the pole at Iowa during his time in Indy Lights the year prior with Carlin Racing.

Charlie Kimball (No. 83) completed the most laps of any driver in 2016 (all but 4) and also finished P9 in points, tying his best result from 2013.

Dixon, the driver that tends to lay low towards season start and then attack with a seemingly effortless vengeance around mid-season has come out of the gate hot this year. Could today’s practices mean a Ganassi polesitter at the end of tomorrow’s qualifying?

Not if Sebastien Bourdais has anything to say about it. The Frenchman moved from the now defunct KV Racing to Dale Coyne Racing in the fall. The move had been under Bourdais’ consideration for about a year when things fell into place to make the end of 2016 the right time to act. DCR has been the quintessential underdog in the IndyCar paddock for years. Justin Wilson put them on the map by delivering their long-awaited first win in 2009 at the historic and legendary Watkins Glen International. The team has since added three more race wins to their tally..

Dale Coyne wants to add to the “W” column and has brought Sebastien Bourdais on board to try and get the team there. He has already broken his own custom by announcing both drivers very shortly into the off-season, and they are both confirmed for the entirety of 2017. So, on that note, why not break some other stereotypes – like the underdog stigma? With an eager rookie in Ed Jones, and a four-time Champion in Bourdais – there’s a dynamic at DCR that we haven’t seen before and that could mean results we’ve never seen before either.

Bourdais kicked things off with running 5th quickest on the first day of practice. The only drivers in front of him? Will Power in his Team Penske Chevy and three Hondas piloted by Ganassi drivers Dixon, Kanaan, and Kimball. That’s darn good company to keep. I’m excited to see how it all translates on race day – not just this weekend, but in the coming months. Who doesn’t love to root for the underdog? Better yet, who doesn’t love when the underdog gets to shed that title and simply allow their achievements to speak for them, instead of a stigma?

I know I do.

Here’s to this IndyCar season proving that change is not only constant in the world of racing, but it’s welcomed.

Verizon IndyCar Series track times for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg:

Friday, March 10th:
Practice #1 – 11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET
Practice #2 – 3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. ET

Saturday, March 11th:
Practice #3 – 10.50 a.m. – 11:35 a.m. ET
Qualifying: – 2:55 p.m. – 4:10:p.m. ET

Sunday, March 12th:
Warm Up – 9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. ET
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET (Live on ABC w Green Flag at 12:30 p.m. ET)

All non-race sessions are livestreamed.
All links to livestream and IndyCar radio coverage is available here.

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Photo Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher / IndyCar ; Joe Skibinski / IndyCar