It was the two Frenchmen who reigned supreme at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg last Sunday in the opening race of the 2017 IndyCar season. Sebastien Bourdais, coming from last to first, and defending series champ Simon Pagenard were uncatchable in the second half of the race. Bourdais, who suffered a spin out and mechanical issues during the Saturday qualifying session in his Dale Coyne Team Honda, had to start 21st and last in the starting grid. But by the first series of pit stops, Bourdais had driven his way to the lead and seized command of the race from then on. Only Pagenaud was able to stay up with him, but he wasn’t able to catch him.
Pole winner Will Power suffered mechanical issues early on and was never a factor during the race. He was black flagged on lap 99 and finished 19th. Scott Dixon driving a Team Ganassi Honda finished third after starting second. The new Honda engines took seven of the top ten finishing spots, indicating that they may have addressed the horsepower problems that dogged them on the short tracks last year.
Takuma Sato, in his first start for Andretti Motorsports, drove a smooth and careful race in his Honda and stayed in the top five all race long. He was in the fourth spot until the last lap when he ran out of fuel and was overtaken by his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay. Rookie Ed Jones, driving the other Dale Coyne car, finished a creditable 10th.
On the first lap Graham Rahal, Charlie Kimball, Spencer Pigot, and Carlos Munoz were involved in a crash. All were able to return to the race after some lengthy pit work, but all were out of contention and none finished the race. Munoz finished 21st and last on lap 26. Tony Kaanan and Mikhail Aleshin bumped each other which only brought out the yellow flag. After pit work returned them to the field they finished in the back of the pack.
It was a nice win for Dale Coyne. The popular team owner hasn’t had a victory since 2014 with Carlos Huetas at Houston. Helio Castroneves in a Penske Chevy finished sixth. Marco Andretti was seventh. Josef Newgarden, in his first start for Penske, finished 8th. DWTS contender James Hinchcliffe was ninth after leading much of the early part of the race in the Sam Schmidt/Peterson Honda, and Ed Jones finished 10th. Overall, a very exciting way to start the season. Now it’s on to the streets of Long Beach on April 9th for the Toyota Grand Prix.
Colt Free Agent Moves
New Horseshoe GM Chris Ballard has been busy trying to rebuild the Colts roster. He traded tight end Duane Allen to the Patriots for a fourth round draft pick — a win-win for both teams. He signed defensive end Jabaal Sheard away from the Patriots to help with the pass rush. Likewise, he signed linebackers John Simone from the Texans, and Barkevious Mingo, also from the Patriots, to add to the pass rush. Punter Jeff Locke was signed from the Vikings to replace the retired Pat McAfee. Defensive end Margus Hunt was acquired from the Bengals. Center/guard Bran Schwenke was signed from the Titans. There will be a great deal more moves before the start of the season so this is only the beginning. So far though, Mr. Ballard has shown signs of being a general manager who actually knows what he is doing.