Race Report: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 25, 2021)—A wild roller coaster ride of emotion would sum up this weekend for the AJ Foyt Racing team.
With Sebastien Bourdais starting fifth in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet, the expectations were high for the two-time winner of this event. However, a radio issue on the grid which delayed his powering up meant he had to play catch up on the parade laps as he snaked his way through the field over the 1.8-mile street course.
Then a shunt into Josef Newgarden as the field barreled down into Turn 1 on the opening lap damaged the nosecone of the 14 which negatively affected the car’s downforce. However, Bourdais was able to maintain his fifth place through the first stint of 33 laps. A small hiccup on the first stop cost him a couple spots because the competition was so tight on track.
Thomas Semik (top right) and Warren Wilson add two turns of front wing to try to compensate for the loss of downforce from the damaged nose.
Marcus Ericsson slipped past Bourdais on lap 56 when he was trying to lap Jimmie Johnson who was having a tough time in his first ever race on a street course. Undaunted, Bourdais kept pressing and posted his fastest lap of the race 10 laps later on lap 65. It appeared he was headed for a top eight finish but with 11 laps to go in the 100-lapper he was fighting to hold off a hard charging Will Power on the softer alternate tires. He locked the brakes going into Turn 1 and ran wide. Power and Rinus VeeKay slipped past. Bourdais soldiered home in 10th.
Sebastien's disappointment is evident after the race.
“Not the best of days here in St. Pete for Round 2 of the INDYCAR Series,” said Bourdais, who was physically spent from the effort today. “Our ROKIT Chevrolet No. 14 suffered some damage when I misjudged a little bit the gap at the start with Simon [actually Josef] and the race was a long drive from there. I had some not so great sequences, a few hiccups in the pits and I made a couple mistakes so unfortunately we started fifth and finished 10th, definitely not what we were looking for today but got some points and brought it home.”
Dalton Kellett, who started 24th in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet, was driving a steady race, making passes on track and avoiding the problems of others’ spins and shunts which brought out three full course cautions.
Dalton Kellett was headed to one of his best races to date until electrical issues cut short his race.
Unfortunately, the engine in the 4 car shut off as he entered Turn 1 on lap 68 and Kellett pulled into the run-off area. He could not get the engine to restart. Unfortunately, INDYCAR did not throw a yellow and Kellett’s car was stranded there for the duration of the race. “Well, that’s not the way we wanted the race to end for the No. 4 K-Line Insulators Team Chevy but we had some electrical gremlins throw us a curveball,” said Kellett, who made his first start in an NTT INDYCAR Series street race today. “Going into Turn 1 the car just shut off on the downshift so without the ability to start the car on our own, we were pretty much parked there. It wasn’t looking like we would be able to get going again anyway so that was the end of our race. It was going decent for us, running P19, made some spots up in the first half of the race and it felt good. The car felt good overall. Maybe on the mechanical side, it needed a little bit of front grip as the tires were wearing down but it still felt good so overall happy with our progression from qualifying. Looking forward to Texas.”
Larry Foyt (second from left) talks to engineers after the race. Pictured (L to R): Daniele Cucchiaroni, Foyt, Mike Colliver, Justin Taylor.
Team President Larry Foyt said it best: “It was an up and down weekend for the AJ Foyt Racing team. A great qualifying effort for Sebastien Bourdais and car 14. A great start to make the fast six, but unfortunately, he suffered a little damage on the car at the start which made the race a struggle. Sebastien drove a helluva race having a compromised car to bring it home in the top 10. And Dalton was having a good race in the 4 car and, unfortunately, electrical issues caused the car to shut down so we need to look into that and see exactly why that happened. It’s unfortunate for Dalton because he was doing a great job. We have a quick turnaround for Texas and we’ll see if we can have a great weekend in our family’s home state.”
Colton Herta won the race after starting from the pole. Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Jack Harvey and Scott Dixon rounded out the top five. The teams head to Texas Motor Speedway for a doubleheader this weekend. Both races will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network.
Saturday night’s broadcast starts at 7 pm ET. Sunday’s broadcast starts at 5 pm ET.