Champion Driver, Underdog Team Find Victory Together

This past Sunday, Sebastien Bourdais achieved something unprecedented at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg by winning the race from a starting position of P21, which Bourdais clarified to the crowd from the podium as meaning, “…LAST. I started LAST.” No one has ever won this contest from further back than P9.

His spirits were high and he didn’t mind joking around about his accident in qualifying which prevented him from being able to complete the session, thus starting his No. 18 Sonny’s Barbeque Honda at the back of the field.

That didn’t seem to phase the experienced driver, who took it in stride, taking advantage of the race flow during the falling of yellows, helping him jump to the front of the field;  with his own talent and the power of Honda, he passed the reigning series champ and fellow Frenchman, Simon Pagenaud. Not only did he pass, but he built a gap, maintained the lead, hit his fuel numbers, and came out victorious.

C’mon, admit it, you’d be in a darn good mood too!

Bourdais joking continued into the post race press conference, his joyous mood apparent. When team owner Dale Coyne joined and was asked his mindset upon Bourdais crashing during qualifying, Bourdais interjected by exclaiming, “What an IDIOT…” into the microphone, earning quite a bit of laughter from the present media members.

Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

Coyne was in just as obvious a mood when he retorted, “We took his shoelaces away so he couldn’t hang himself.” Cue more laughter, and then it was time to get into some race review from both gentlemen.

The now five-time race winning team owner shared how outlook improved vastly from qualifying afternoon to race day, and how team strategies combined with Bourdais’ natural strength as a driver, came together for success:

“We were all disappointed. You work hard to get here, those things happen. That’s part of racing. We sat there wondering… we still have a 30% chance to win this race because we can go on alternate strategy. Chance of catching a lucky yellow, about 30%. We caught it right away.

It could have turned around. Someone else could have leapfrogged us back on the last two stops. Didn’t happen. So the luck of the yellows worked out in our favor today.

Obviously when he got (there), he took command of the front of the field. We did our part. He did his part. It worked out perfect.”

Bourdias gave us an idea of what was happening inside the helmet during the race,

“A lot of things come back. I caught myself thinking about 2003. We dominated the weekend, were on pole, cleared the field, then all hell broke loose. I found myself tapping the wall in turn eight, threw it away.

It was kind of redemption day here. To come out on top with obviously a lot of friends and family on-site, the whole community supporting the effort, it was just a great feeling. I couldn’t really be any happier for Honda and Dale for giving me the opportunity to put the band back together and make it happen.

Everybody works really, really hard. It’s a great little group. We’re sure not going to stop there. We’re just going to keep on trying.”

The four-time Champ Car World Series Champion is now two-for-two in his racing contests this season, coming in first for the GTLM class at the 24 Hours at Daytona with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. He will be joining his IMSA co-drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller in the Ford GT this weekend at the 12 Hours of Sebring to go for his third win of the season.

Stay tuned to Live Full Throttle tomorrow when Dusty, Zach and I publish a two-part Push to Pass podcast that includes great insight from the 2017 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner, and driver of the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda sponsored by Sonny’s BBQ, Sebastien Bourdais!

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