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Bourdais aiming for repeat of 2017 St. Petersburg success

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Sebastien Bourdais had his emotions on display after winning last year’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, even getting choked up during his Victory Lane interview. But, when you think of the surrounding circumstances around that victory – Bourdais is a resident of St. Petersburg and came from 21st and last on the grid to win – his emotional reaction becomes much more understandable.

I live in St. Petersburg and am very proud to be a resident,” Bourdais explained. “Downtown is booming and our neighborhood is a great environment to raise a family. St. Pete is my home race and it is an honor to represent the city during race weekend.”

Sebastien Bourdais and Dale Coyne Racing celebrate victory at St. Petersburg in 2017. Photo: IndyCar

Further, the streets of St. Petersburg have been an important part of his career. Bourdais made his U.S. debut at St. Pete in 2003, where he also grabbed the pole, but a victory there had always alluded him.

“My first IndyCar race was here in 2003 and I took the pole, but until last year I really didn’t have a lot of success,” Bourdais detailed. “It took 15 years, and now I am the defending champion and that feels good. I don’t feel any additional pressure to do well, but it’s nice to be able to sleep in my own bed and have friends and family at the track.”

Bourdais and Coyne are also keen to make up for a 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season that got away from them. Bourdais led the championship after three races in 2017, with finishes of first, second, and eighth in those three races. But, after getting caught up in a Lap 1 crash at ISM Raceway and suffering a Lap 3 engine failure at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he dropped to seventh in the standings.

However, those struggles paled in comparison to what happened next. Bourdais’ horrific crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifying resulted in several fractures to his hip and pelvis, sidelining him for the next three months. Although he returned for the final three races of the season, 2017 was a year of what might have been for Bourdais and Coyne.

However, Bourdais enters 2018 reinvigorated as part of a bolstered Coyne operation that sees former KVSH Racing partners Jimmy Vasser and James “Sully” Sullivan join the venture, with new sponsor SealMaster adorning Bourdais No. 18 Honda.

Sebastien Bourdais sees a new sponsor SealMaster and new partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sully” Sullivan join his Dale Coyne Racing effort. Photo: IndyCar

“This is a small team, but we have proven we can take poles and win races. However, I think we are now putting together what hopefully is a consistent program that can compete at the highest level and contend for a championship,” Bourdais said of their prospects ahead of the 2018 season.

Bourdais and Coyne will look to build on their successes from 2017 and become championship contenders throughout the 2018 season.

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IndyCar’s season finale at St. Pete approved to have 20,000 fans

IndyCar St. Pete fans
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ season finale will be permitted up to 20,000 fans, making the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg possibly the circuit’s most well-attended race of 2020. The race originally was scheduled as the season opener before being moved to Oct. 25 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IndyCar has enjoyed limited crowds at Road America, Iowa Speedway, Gateway, Mid-Ohio and this weekend’s doubleheader races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which could have up to 10,000 fans in attendance. That had been the largest maximum grandstand crowd for an IndyCar race this season.

At a St. Petersburg city council meeting Thursday, Mayor Rick Kriseman approved plans by race organizers Green Savoree Racing Promotions to hold the Oct. 23-25 weekend for the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Pete with 20,000 fans who would follow health and safety protocols that include mandatory temperature checks and masks.

 “My thanks to Green Savoree Racing Promotions and IndyCar for their flexibility and resilience during this challenging time,” Kriseman said in a release. “I know that everyone is excited to get back on the track in St. Pete. I can’t wait for Oct. 23rd. I know everyone will embrace this race the St. Pete way, adhering to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Let’s have some great racing in the Sunshine City.”

Paddock and the pit lane will remain closed to spectators, and social distancing of at least 6 feet will be observed on site.

“Our entire team greatly appreciates the patience and understanding of our ticket holders as we worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council and local health officials,” Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree Promotions. “It’s important for everyone who attends to read and follow all the COVID-19 protocols to contribute to a fun, safe and successful event for us all.”

“The ongoing guidance and support of Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and the City of St. Petersburg’s event team have been phenomenal,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of Green Savoree Promotions. “We also would not be in this position to move this spring tradition to fall without Firestone’s unwavering commitment and dedication. It’s going to be a terrific weekend again in downtown St. Pete in three weeks featuring world-class racing from INDYCAR.”