The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship commenced with a big win for Sebastien Bourdais and the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing team. Bourdais and company used a combination of strategy and daring moves to get past the rest of the podium. Simon Pagenaud finished runner-up in his No. 1 Team Penske Chevrolet as Scott Dixon completed the podium in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato finished fourth and fifth. Hunter-Reay overcame an incident in warm up and a problem with the brakes for his top five run. Despite being team mates, the two Honda drivers survived a sketchy final restart competing for position.
The day was marked by stellar drives from a number of drivers making hard charges throughout the field. Bourdais led most of the middle part of the race despite starting dead last due to an incident during qualifying. The team decided to reduce the Frenchman’s downforce at the start of the race to give him a leg up on straight line speed. The clever change in strategy proved valuable and key to the team’s win, lending today’s results to the large changes Dale Coyne made in the off season.
The move of the race came after the first restart of the day when Bourdais followed Pagenaud to the green flag. The reigning champion had nothing for Bourdais’ daring dive to the inside of Turn 1. The move put Bourdais’ No. 18 Honda in command to the end of the race.
Pagenaud has no reason to be unsatisfied with runner-up after starting 14th. The results will no doubt support another championship charge. He outperformed arguably his most competitive rivals for the season including Dixon and Power, the ladder of which finished a disappointing 19th.
Starting on the outside of Row 1, Dixon drove a conservative first lap, staying out of trouble. Yellow flag and pit stop timing put the No. 9 crew on its back foot. Dixon was able to race back into the podium after periods of green flag pit stops.
Reflecting the results from last year, Will Power’s day resulted in a DNF. The polesitter ran over an air hose exiting the pit box after his first stop and promptly received a drive-through penalty. He was able to charge back through the field after a couple of well-timed cautions, but his No. 12 Chevrolet began to experience fuel pressure issues. A black flag for the slowing Australian driver forced a retirement.
The race was interrupted only twice for full course yellows for a total of eight laps. The traditional Lap 1 Turn 1 was kicked off with contact between Charlie Kimball, Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Munoz, Spencer Pigot and Graham Rahal.
The action forced retirements for Munoz and Pigot. Contact on Lap 1 caused steering damage to Munoz’s Honda that, even after attempting repairs, forced the team behind pit lane. Pigot experienced a brake fire early in the race and was eventually taken behind the wall.
The Verizon IndyCar Series will be back on track for the traditional Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in four weeks. Practice begins on Friday, April 7 at 1:00 PM PT. Green flag for the main event is scheduled for 4:00 PM Sunday, April 9.