France's Sebastien Bourdais completed a worst-to-first storybook run Sunday, starting last after a qualifying crash but bouncing back to capture the season-opening IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The 38-year-old from Le Mans, who now calls the Florida race host city home, led 69 of the 110 laps over a 1.8-mile (2.89km) temporary road course and defeated compatriot Simon Pagenaud by 10.3 seconds.
Bourdais became the first IndyCar winner who started last since New Zealand's Scott Dixon at Mid-Ohio in 2014. Dixon finished third on Sunday followed by American Ryan Hunter-Reay and Japan's Takuma Sato.
After sliding off the course in qualifying and into a tire barrier, Bourdais did not post a time and started at the back of the field. He admitted that he felt he had thrown away any chance of winning the race.
"It's probably the hardest race to recover... it's hard to pass," Bourdais said. "It was a pretty good car and I just threw it away. To turn that from yesterday into today, I just have to say thank you to the guys."
Bourdais, who collected his combined 36th career race triumph in IndyCar and ChampCar open-wheel series events, choked up as he began to speak about his team, which nearly collapsed after last season.
The Frenchman drove for KV Racing in 2016 but jumped to car owner Dale Coyne when it appeared KV would go under, which it did. Coyne kept together Bourdais, team engineer Olivier Boisson and his KV crew.
"Dale, I will be forever in debt to you man. Thanks for bringing my crew back and giving me that opportunity," Bourdais said over the radio on the drive to Victory Lane.
Bourdais later added, "It's the first one (since) putting the band back together. Hopefully we have many more like that."
Bourdais won four consecutive ChampCar season crowns from 2004-2007, then spent two years in Formula One before joining IndyCar driving for Coyne in 2011.
This was Bourdais' fifth victory since returning to IndyCar, having won at Toronto in 2014, Detroit and Milwaukee in 2015 and Detroit last year.
Pagenaud, the defending IndyCar series champion who started 14th, fell behind early and adopted a fuel-saving strategy that earned him a runner-up showing in the race for the second consecutive year.
After Bourdais passed him for the lead, Pagenaud closed within two seconds late in the race but could not overtake the leader.
"I pushed really hard to try to come back and get him on the pit sequence but the tires dropped off and I couldn't get him," Pagenaud said.
Pagenaud appreciated the moment's meaning for Bourdais after his having nearly lost the chance to race this season.
"It's tremendous what they did today," said Pagenaud. "He was untouchable. He was very strong."