Sunday’s win in the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg completed a long comeback for driver and his two co-owners in the race. Sebastien Bourdais took the checkered flag in the 110-lap race, his first win since a last-to-first charge in the event in 2017. The win for the four-time ChampCar champion comes almost ten months after a violent Indianapolis 500 qualifying crash.
In the crash, Bourdais sustained a fractured hip and pelvis. Despite the injuries, the Frenchman was adamant about going racing again, and doing so as soon as he could. He accomplished that feat at Gateway in August, and ran the next two Verizon IndyCar Series races at Watkins Glen and Sonoma to end the season.
2018 would see Bourdais be joined in his efforts by some familiar faces. On February 5, Dale Coyne Racing announced that 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan would partner with the team. Vasser and Sullivan previously worked with Bourdais at KVSH Racing from 2014 to 2016, where they won four races together.
The newly rebranded Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan was a thrilling announcement for all involved.
“When Jimmy, Sulli and I met to discuss creating this partnership, it was very enticing,” said Dale Coyne owner of Dale Coyne Racing in a February 5 press release. The release also announced SealMaster as a sponsor for nine races, including Sunday’s season-opening race.
“They’ve had a lot of success in their previous years in IndyCar, and I’m thrilled to have them as partners. It’s an opportunity I couldn’t turn down as we move forward with this program. The future is bright, and we’re excited to get the season going with SealMaster onboard as a co-primary sponsor. Hopefully we can continue the success Jimmy and Sulli have had, and that we’ve had with Sebastien.”
After KVSH Racing folded following the 2016 season, Vasser and Sullivan took a year off. The pair admitted they were thrilled to be back and expectations were high for 2018.
“I took a year off from competition for the first time in many years and realized how much I missed it,” Vasser admitted.
“This is the next chapter in my racing career, so I want to say thank you to Sulli, Dale, SealMaster, our sponsors and Sebastien. With their support we are focused on re-creating our prior success and again challenging for wins in 2018.”
Sullivan echoed similar sentiments to Vasser upon the new partnership.
“First, it’s great to be back,” Sullivan said.
“We took a step back last year to evaluate and construct our next chapter, and both Jimmy and I, after many discussions with Dale, all came to the conclusion that this was the right time and opportunity to move this partnership forward.”
“Most importantly, having SealMaster, a world-class brand, on board to support the new team gives us big momentum out of the gate. With Sebastien (Bourdais) driving, the engineering staff and the crew that Dale has assembled, we are positioned for a banner year,” added Sulli.
After joining the team for the 2017 season, Bourdais noted how much the team has grown. Upon the announcement of Vasser and Sullivan joining, he expressed how the team has put itself in a position to contend.
“I want to thank Dale Coyne, Jimmy Vasser and Sulli for the opportunity to move forward with this program that’s been in the works for over a year.”Bourdais expressed.
“Over the last few years we’ve all captured poles and won races together. This is a team that started small, but what we needed, and now have collectively, is a consistent program, from top-to-bottom that can compete at the highest level and contend for a championship. I am very excited to get in this SealMaster car and represent such a great company.”
Following the win at St. Petersburg, Bourdaids expressed what bringing Vasser and Sullivan on board once again meant for the team, in addition to the commitment it took from Coyne.
“It’s been his baby for many, many years,and for him to trust these guys in the way he did and to bring them on board and bring the commercial and the marketing side, which we’re probably not as a group the way we — because it’s just us and it’s Dale, and that’s the way we function.” Bourdais said of Coyne and the team.
” And now they’re definitely bringing something else to the table, and when you combine forces, you’re only stronger.”
After a strong start to 2017 was derailed in May, Bourdais and Coyne will be looking to improve on last year’s success. With Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan now with the team and a win under their belt, their aspirations look as promising as ever.
Image Courtesy of Joe Skibinski of IndyCar Media