Guelph's Robert Wickens makes impressive debut in IndyCar Series racing

Carrie Guzman
March 13, 2018

Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power all wore special "Helio" stickers across the top of their visors in Friday's practice sessions for the season-opening race through the streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday.

Sebastien Bourdais opened up the 2018 IndyCar season with a victory in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit in St. Petersburg, Florida, which is exactly how he opened up the 2017 IndyCar season.

After the incident with Robert Wickens as the two were battling for the win, Rossi wasn't penalized by INDYCAR race stewards.

For Bourdais, 39, it was a 37th IndyCar triumph, but his first since his horrific accident at the Indianapolis 500 last May, when he suffered hip and pelvic fractures that sidelined him until last August, when he returned for the last three races of the season.

Though Wickens was disappointed not to secure his rookie win, others believe he may have gotten what he deserved.

Sebastien Bourdais wrapped up his second consecutive victory at St. Petersburg, a milestone in his recovery from serious injuries suffered in a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway past year. It was the sixth victory for Dale Coyne Racing, the first since Bourdais won at St. Petersburg previous year. "We have got a lot of experience in driving cars, new tires, changing conditions and that sort of thing".

"I'm not quite sure how many entries so far at Indy - 34? 35?"

Will Power spun as he raced Wickens for the lead in the first turn of the first lap.

Guelph's Robert Wickens makes impressive debut in IndyCar Series racing
Guelph's Robert Wickens makes impressive debut in IndyCar Series racing

Starting ninth on the grid, Dixon was penalised early in the 110-lap race for running into the back of Takuma Sato's vehicle.

But on the restart, Rossi attempted to put his #27 Andretti Autosport Honda inside of Wickens heading into Turn 1 at the end of the Albert Whitted Airport runway straight, but Rossi's vehicle slid wide and the two made contact.

"I just expected more from him today". "I [braked] really late into Turn 1". But the great thing I knew for us was that obviously, we were not going to be exposed to yellows for the rest of the race because we just chose to shift everything forward. "I just need to see everything before I comment".

The season opener was controlled by Robert Wickens, the newcomer from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports who surprised everyone when he captured the pole.

"It was a heartbreaking way to end", Wickens said in an interview. Alexander Rossi survived disputed contact with two laps remaining to finish third. Bourdais' victory is the sixth in the history Dale Coyne Racing and the fifth for Bourdais in cars entered by the co-owners Jimmy Vasser and James Sullivan. We just came with all the luggage, I went to Ikea, and that was that. Rossi continued, but Bourdais inherited the victory and Rahal also sneaked through. 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 auto in danger.

"I was just about to start Timbits hockey with all my friends and we started coming across karting and started looking into it a bit more, and my parents came up with the decision that I could either play hockey with my friends or try karting", Wickens said. It's been pretty hard for myself in some ways, obviously, but more for people around me and certain people, for my wife.

Although he's a spectator this weekend, Power said it felt like Castroneves was still part of the team. Made the [pass attempt], 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. "When you're put in the marbles, it's hairy". 2013 St. Pete victor James Hinchcliffe was fourth, and Hunter-Reay, after going to the back of the pack rounded out the top five.

Three-time St. Petersburg victor Helio Castroneves, this year's grand marshal, gave the call for drivers to start their engines in what quickly became an eventful race on the shores of Tampa Bay.

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