Sebastien Bourdais

Verizon IndyCar Series drivers were asked to rank the five most interesting storylines leading into the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that opens the 2017 season on March 12. Today, we feature the first of those five.

No. 5: Sebastien Bourdais returns to Dale Coyne Racing

It has been six years since the Frenchman last drove for Dale Coyne’s team. Keep in mind that it was Bourdais’ first season in the combined series after his Formula One stint. But it was a strong showing, with four sixth-place finishes.

That was 2011; this is now.

Bourdais’ return to Dale Coyne Racing includes a strong and familiar brigade supporting him. Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson are the new engineers on the No. 18 car and the crew includes additional key members from Bourdais’ championship-winning days at Newman/Haas Racing: chief mechanic Todd Phillips and lead mechanic Oren Trower among them.

Then there’s this: Bourdais is one of only three fulltime drivers in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series field to have won a race each of the past three seasons. The others are Will Power and Scott Dixon. That’s a stellar group.

In other words, don’t overlook Bourdais. Clearly, his peers aren’t.

It’s also important to note the historical significance that would come with another Bourdais race win. He enters this season with 35 for his career, tied with Bobby Unser for sixth place on the all-time Indy car list. It would take four more wins to catch Al Unser for fifth place, but given how well Bourdais has raced in recent years, that doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.

Where are Bourdais’ best chances to reach victory lane? Maybe Detroit, where he has won each of the past two seasons. Toronto has been good to him, with two wins (2004 and 2014), three other podium finishes and poles for three races in his four-year Champ Car World Series title run.

And before writing off Bourdais at the ovals, remember the 118 laps he led at Milwaukee in winning that race in 2015. Add it up: The Frenchman is one to watch.

Tomorrow: No. 4 on the list.