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Sebastien Bourdais enjoying second act in IndyCar

When Sebastien Bourdais moved back from Europe in 2012, he didn't bring much to St. Petersburg.

The dozens of trophies he had already won from his decorated racing career stayed behind, boxed up in a garage in his other hometown, Le Mans, France. Bourdais and his family bought new furniture from Ikea and set up empty shelves in the living room downstairs.

"We're running out of room pretty rapidly," Bourdais said Monday, a day after winning the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the second year in a row. "I don't know what we're going to do."

RELATED: Bourdais wins hometown Grand Prix of St. Petersburg again

It's a great problem to have — especially considering where Bourdais was a few years ago, and where he was last May.

Bourdais established himself as one of North America's top open-wheel drivers by winning 31 races and four consecutive Champ Car series titles from 2003-07. Then he went to Europe and never finished higher than seventh in 27 Formula One races.

When he returned to the U.S., his expectations were simple.

"Just to have fun again," Bourdais said. "Usually when you have fun and when you're with good teams, there's success."

It took a few years, but the success has started to flow. Sunday's victory was his sixth since 2014.

It might have been the sweetest, given the horrific crash Bourdais endured in May. Bourdais was gunning for the Indianapolis 500 pole when he slammed into the wall at 227 mph. The fiery accident fractured his pelvis, hip and two ribs.

Then 38 years old, Bourdais could have considered retirement. He didn't; racing life is all he knows.

When team owner Dale Coyne saw his driver after a three-hour surgery, Coyne could tell Bourdais wasn't ready to quit.

"We knew then, this hasn't fazed him," Coyne said. "He's coming back."

The toughest part for Bourdais was waiting 6 ½ weeks for a follow-up X-ray. He had never knowingly broken a bone before, so he didn't know how his body would heal.

When the X-rays came back fine, Bourdais' concerns eased.

"After that, it was eyes forward and head down," Bourdais said.

He returned in August for the final three races of the season, then put the crash behind him — mostly. He thought about it during an extra-emotional celebratory lap around St. Petersburg's 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course, and he brought it up moments after emerging from his victorious No. 18 Honda.

"When we had the crash, it set a lot of things in perspective," Bourdais said. "It also set me back quite a bit. It was a lot of things to overcome. It was quite overwhelming (Sunday) when we ended up winning the thing. It was completely unexpected."

Maybe it shouldn't have been.

Sebastien Bourdais' team celebrates his win in Sunday's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Sebastien Bourdais’ team celebrates his win in Sunday’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Yes, Bourdais needed Robert Wickens and Alexander Rossi to wreck in front of him to get the win. But Bourdais didn’t win on luck alone. He led 30 laps, behind only Wickens (69). Only five racers in series history have more career victories than Bourdais, who remains one of the most respected drivers in the paddock.

"When he's on his game," Grand Prix runner-up Graham Rahal said, "he's as hard to beat as anybody out here."

That was the case in his first stint in North America, and it's still true in his second act in IndyCar.

The trophies are still coming. Bourdais might need to start clearing off another shelf downstairs.

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