ST. PETERSBURG — Sebastien Bourdais had seen 24-hour races slip away in the closing minutes before, from driver errors, mechanical breakdowns or sheer bad luck.
So as the St. Petersburg resident watched co-driver Joao Barbosa race the final laps Sunday in the 24 Hours at Daytona, he waited for disaster.
"I was kind of holding my breath at the end," Bourdais said. "You can't help but just think, so what's going to go wrong?"
The answer: Nothing. His Action Express Racing team pulled away in the closing minutes to earn victory in the United SportsCar Championship opener.
One day and a few hours of sleep later, Bourdais sat outside the Mahaffey Theater to promote the 10th running of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Bourdais said he hoped his first victory in a 24-hour race is a sign of good fortune heading into the March 30 IndyCar season opener.
"It just seems like maybe there's going to be some good times again," Bourdais said. "I don't say there is momentum, there is this, there is that. I do feel like sometimes it's meant to be or it's not meant to be. I sure hope that this year is meant to be a good one."
Bourdais said it's hard to carry over success in one series to another, but he has reasons for optimism.
He ended last season with four top-10 finishes in his last IndyCar five races. He earned his first three podium finishes since joining the series in 2011. And Bourdais has jumped from Dragon Racing to a KV Racing Technology team that won last year's Indianapolis 500.
Bourdais said his early impressions of the team are strong and that the group of engineers and mechanics are starting to come together around his No. 11 Chevy.
"It just feels like there's everything you need to perform," Bourdais said. "So fingers crossed."
Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.