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The Journal Gazette

Monday, March 12, 2018 1:00 am

Bourdais wins at St. Pete again

JENNA FRYER | Associated Press

Top 5

Finishers

1. Bourdais Honda

2. Rahal Honda

3. Rossi Honda

4. Hinchcliffe Honda

5. Hunter-Reay Honda

Points

1. Bourdais 51

2. Rahal 40

3. Rossi 36

4. Hinchcliffe 32

5. Hunter-Reay 31

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Sebastien Bourdais wept as he crossed the finish line Sunday for his second consecutive victory at St. Petersburg. The win was a milestone in his recovery from serious injuries suffered in a crash last year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Across the paddock, Robert Wickens fumed at the disastrous turn of events that had cost him a victory in his IndyCar debut. He dominated the season-opening event and had the win in his grip until contact with Alexander Rossi on a restart took him out of contention.

“It would have been a fairy tale to finish that well, but sometimes it's just not meant to be,” Wickens said.

Wickens led a race-high 69 of the 110 laps.

Even Bourdais, overcome with emotion after winning on his hometown track, understood that the race had been Wickens' to win.

“I was really happy for Robert and I'm heartbroken for him,” Bourdais said.

Wickens was a star in touring cars in Germany but defected to IndyCar this year at the coaxing of good friend James Hinchcliffe. Although he was one of seven rookies in the 24-car field Sunday, he is 28 and a proven winner.

He is part of an all-Canadian lineup at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and he and Hinchcliffe were strong the entire weekend. Wickens was only the third driver since 1993 to win the pole for his IndyCar debut – Nigel Mansell did it in '93 in Surfer's Paradise and Bourdais at St. Pete in 2003 – and the victory would have been a firm announcement of his arrival in the American open-wheel series.

Instead, two late cautions gave Rossi a chance to take it away.

On a restart with two laps remaining, Rossi tried to dive inside of Wickens entering the first turn. The two cars made contact and Wickens spun off course.

“I didn't get the best restart in the world,” he said. “I defended it a little bit, I told myself that if Alex wants to go there, go for it, but he's not going to make the corner. I gave him space on the inside and I guess he just couldn't keep it and slid into me. It's a shame.”

Rossi was not penalized and finished third.

“He defended the position, which he has the right to do, but in doing so, in moving the reaction, he put me into the marbles pretty late into the corner,” Rossi said. “I feel bad because I feel like I could have won and he could have gotten second. ...

“If he defended the inside ... and then I continued to go to the inside down the white line, then yeah, that's my decision and that's putting my car in danger. But there's no reason why I can't pop and stay next to him. I don't have to be all four wheels in the part of the track that nobody goes on.”