Montoya leads Penske 1-2 in St. Petersburg

Juan Montoya
Juan Montoya celebrates

Juan Montoya won the opening IndyCar race in St. Petersburg last year and he repeated the feat again in 2016, winning the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg by 2.3-seconds over his Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud despite a steering wheel that partially broke causing the wheel to have a significant amount of play.

"The steering arm was broken. Like, there is play in my steering wheel. Like play, play, play, completely."

"Yeah, it was kind of like lag, lag, and then turn. But it was okay." (laughs)

The win gave Chevy a 1-2 in the opening salvo against rival Honda. American Ryan Hunter-Reay came home 3rd – the highest finishing Honda. Hunter-Reay pressured Helio Castroneves right to the finish and made a daring pass with 2 laps to go.

Russian Mikhail Aleshin rounded out the top-5, also in a Honda.

Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, Carlos Munoz and Tony Kanaan rounded out the top-10.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Montoya's 15th career Indy car win ties him with Alex Zanardi for 31st on the career chart. It is also the 179th victory for Team Penske in Indy car racing, the most of any team in history, and eighth for Roger Penske's outfit in the 13-race St. Petersburg history.

Perhaps the driver that had the most disappointing race was Marco Andretti. Until he spun on lap 46 when he made a dive-bomb move to pass in Turn 1 and got it all wrong, Andretti was passing car after car and moving up to the front. Andretti was fit to be tied, pounding the steering wheel in the car afterward.

Ultimately he was credited with a 15th place finish.

Three other young Americans that had eventful races were Conor Daly, who led 15 laps due to great pit strategy by the Dale Coyne team, Alexander Rossi who made his IndyCar debut but struggled with an ill-handling car all race, and Graham Rahal who got punted from behind by Carlos Munoz in the Turn 4 melee on lap 57 of 110 and suffered significant car damage.

We have to wonder if Rahal's middle fingers are sore after giving Munoz the bird for the longest time as he waited for the safety crews to get his car restarted.

Rossi still learning best setup for an IndyCar
Rossi still learning best setup for an IndyCar

Rossi told me afterward, "That was probably one of the more challenging days I’ve had in a race car in quite some time. We just didn’t have the car underneath us today for whatever reason it was quite tricky out there. I think we made the most of what we could, we stayed out of trouble and obviously the finishing position doesn’t look that bad, but considering we were almost a lap down from our teammate is a bit of an issue. We need to really look at things in the next couple weeks. It’s another set of circumstances coming up in Phoenix, but we really need to understand this with Long Beach going forward."

Polesitter Will Power was replaced in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet by Oriol Servia, who started last in the 22-car field by rule. Servia was involved in the mid-race multi-car pileup and finished 18th.

Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Conor Daly led a career-best 15 laps midway through the event while on an alternate pit strategy. Daly, driving the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, finished 13th.

The race saw just two full-course yellow conditions, tying a St. Pete record for fewest in a race. One yellow was due to a multi-car logjam triggered when the cars of Castroneves and Dixon touched but kept going. Behind them, the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda of Carlos Munoz ran into the rear of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Steak 'n Shake Honda of Graham Rahal on Lap 57 and that triggered a multi-car accident. Nearly 10 cars blocked the track until the Holmatro Safety Team could clear a path for them to rejoin the action.

How the race unfolded

Lap 1: GREEN. 22-Pagenaud leads the field into Turn 1. 14-Sato is off course in Turn 4 with a flat right rear tire. 5-Hinchcliffe is off course in Turn 10 with a flat right rear. 14-Sato and 5-Hinchcliffe on pit road for four tires and fuel. 21-Newgarden pits for front wing.

Lap 5: 22-Pagenaud leads 3-Castroneves by 1.9366 seconds.

Lap 7: 10-Kanaan pits for four red tires and fuel.

Lap 10: 22-Pagenaud leads 3-Castroneves by 4.4383 seconds.

Lap 11: 2-Montoya passes 3-Castroneves for second place entering Turn 1.

Lap 13: 18-Daly on pit road for four tires and fuel.

Lap 15: 22-Pagenaud leads 2-Montoya by 5.4509 seconds.

Lap 16: 19-Filippi and 7-Aleshin on pit road for four tires and fuel.

Lap 17: 41-Hawksworth, 98-Rossi on pit road for four tires and fuel.

Lap 18: 3-Castroneves, 12-Servia, 21-Newgarden on pit road for four tires and fuel. 3-Castroneves and 21-Newgarden also made front-wing adjustment.

Lap 20: 22-Pagenaud leads 2-Montoya 5.6819 seconds.

Lap 21: 2-Montoya, 28-Hunter-Reay and 15-Rahal on pit road for four tires and fuel.

Lap 22: 9-Dixon, 11-Bourdais and 16-Pigot on pit road for four tires and fuel.

Lap 23: Leader, 22-Pagenaud on pit road for four tires and fuel. Leader on track is 27-Andretti. 83-Kimball and 8-Chilton also on pit road for four tires and fuel.

Lap 24: 27-Andretti on pit road for four tires and fuel. 22-Pagenaud resumes the lead. Andretti did not lead the lap. 21-Newgarden returns to pit lane with electronics issues.

Lap 25: 22-Pagenaud leads 26-Munoz by 0.9409 of a second.

Lap 30: 22-Pagenaud leads 2-Montoya by 1.7919 seconds.

Lap 31: 10-Kanaan on pit road for four tires and fuel and front-wing adjustment.

Lap 35: 22-Pagenaud leads 2-Montoya by 0.7369 of a second.

Lap 40: 22-Pagenaud leads 2-Montoya by 0.8379 of a second.

Lap 41: 18-Daly on pit road for four tires and fuel and new front wing.

Lap 45: 22-Pagenaud leads 2-Montoya by 0.7588 of a second.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Lap 46: YELLOW. 27-Andretti spins in Turn 1 and is stopped on course. Leaders under caution are: 22-Pagenaud, 2-Montoya, 9-Dixon, 28-Hunter-Reay and 3-Castroneves. Pits are closed.

Lap 48: Pits are open. Lead lap cars are on pit road. Leader on track is 18-Daly, who did not stop. 22-Pagenaud wins the race off pit road followed by 2-Montoya, 9-Dixon and 28-Hunter-Reay.

Lap 55: Restart waved off because leader, 18-Daly, went too soon. YELLOW displayed again for 27-Andretti who has stopped on course in Turn 13. Pits are closed.

Lap 57: GREEN. 18-Daly leads the field into Turn 1. 10-Kanaan makes a bid for a lead in Turn 3. Behind there is a YELLOW for a multi-car contact in Turn 4. Leader under caution are: 18-Daly, 10-Kanaan, 2-Montoya, 22-Pagenaud, 9-Dixon. Cars involved in accident were 26-Munoz, 15-Rahal and 12-Servia. 41-Hawksworth also has damage on the front and rear of the car. Pits are closed.

Lap 59: 10-Kanaan and many of the cars involved in the contact are on pit road.

Lap 64: GREEN. 18-Daly leads the field into Turn 1. 2-Montoya takes the lead in Turn 1.

Lap 65: 2-Montoya leads 18-Daly by 1.2815 seconds. 16-Pigot on pit road to replace front wing

Lap 70: 2-Montoya leads 18-Daly by 1.0429 seconds. 9-Dixon on pit road for four tires and fuel. Dixon is also reporting car is overheating.

Lap 75: 2-Montoya leads 18-Daly by 1.2366 seconds.

Lap 80: 18-Daly on pit road for four tires and fuel and a front wing adjustment. 2-Montoya leads 22-Pagenaud by 2.9352 seconds.

Lap 81: 3-Castroneves and 10-Kanaan on pit road for four tires and fuel.

Lap 82: Leader, 2-Montoya, 22-Pagenaud, 7-Aleshin on pit road for four tires and fuel. New leader is 28-Hunter-Reay.82

Lap 84: Leaders, 28-Hunter-Reay and 83-Kimball on pit road for four tires and fuel. 18-Daly back on pit road for front wing damage and overheating issues. New leader is 2-Montoya.

Lap 86: Green flag stops complete, 2-Montoya leads 22-Pagenaud by 1.4280 seconds.

Lap 90: 2-Montoya leads 22-Pagenaud by 1.9482 seconds.

Lap 97: 2-Montoya leads 22-Pagenaud by 3.7138 seconds.

Lap 100: 2-Montoya leads 22-Pagenaud by 4.2552 seconds.

Lap 106: 2-Montoya leads 22-Pagenaud by 2.0821 seconds.

Lap 109: WHITE: 2-Montoya leads 22-Pagenaud by 4.1586 seconds.

Lap 110: CHECKERED: 2-Montoya has won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the second consecutive year. He wins by 2.3306 seconds over 22-Pagenaud.

QUOTES

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was good. The Chevy was good all day. It was exciting to have a new paint scheme (on his car) and come out and win with it. It's just awesome. We started the year last year like this. I felt this morning we had a really good car and it paid off."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a great day for Team Penske. With three laps to go it was very difficult because I was on black tires and everybody else was on reds. I was hanging on with my life. The Hitachi Chevy was very good but a little bit difficult in some of the corners with some understeer. Great Strategy; great work! Everybody did a heck of a job. Ready for the next race."

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "It was not very easy because of the lack of testing, but the SMP Racing car was very easy to drive. I had so much fan, especially when I almost crashed into the group of guys. I don't know how I manage to find reverse, which is not easy, I'll tell you. A few seconds later and the engine would have overheated."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "It looked like a very promising day from the start for the Gallagher team as we were doing the same lap times as the majority of the cars around us. We were working our way forward and up to around P10 when we had an overheating problem. We had to make a long stop to clean out the radiator and get the temps back down, and then another final stop to address the same issue."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "Unfortunately we had a radiator that was clogged and overheating and there was nothing we could do. We had to pit off sequence so the Target team could get it cleaned up. That stop took a while and put us to the back. We were fortunate that the one big incident took half the field out and let us gain some positions back. But if we didn't have that problem early on, we were definitely looking at a podium finish."

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "Not the day we wanted to have for the NTTA Data team. We fought and fought and sometimes you just have to make the best of the situation. Given the way the race played out for us, I was happy to get the car home and salvage the race with a 10th-place finish."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut Chevrolet): "Obviously, not the way we wanted to start the season. I am disappointed for our sponsors and want to thank all of them: Hydroxycut, Europa, Mouser, Molex, Plantronics, GEICO, American Racing Wheels, everyone, for their support. The good news is that we had pace and qualified eighth. Unfortunately, we got involved in that melee that destroyed any chance we had of a solid finish. This is only the first race and we are going to have to work very hard to ensure we have a good season. Hopefully, with a couple of weeks to prepare for the next few races, that time together will help."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was not quite the finish we were hoping for, but it was still good to get a chance to race the No. 12 Verizon Chevy for Team Penske. I really enjoyed working with the team and the car was definitely fast. I thought we made some really good progress after starting from the back, but then we got caught up in the accident with several other cars and it was tough to come back from that. I want to thank Team Penske and Verizon for the opportunity and I hope my friend Will (Power) feels better soon and can get back to the team."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "I have good memories from St. Pete. We had a difficult time in qualifying, but the boys and the engineers did a fantastic job to bring the car back and we had a very strong race pace. The ABC Supply team did a great job in the pits and I'm happy we were able to come back twice."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Honda): "It was an interesting day overall. We struggled a little bit at the start but we started to get the Steak 'n Shake car a little bit better mid-race, but when Munoz punted us there was nothing we could do. The race was over for us so we just tried to make the most of it and we did all right and passed four or so cars at the end, but it's frustrating because we deserved better results. The whole team put a lot of work in and it's a shame to have it go the way it did. If I look at our day as a whole, I think we had one of the fastest race cars, but when you get caught up in someone else's mistake, there is just not much you can do."

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 16 RLL/Andersen Interior Contracting Honda): "It was an eventful race. I had a little bit of everything. There were some good passes, we had a good pace, which is exciting. We've been working on the car and some things that I needed to work on over the weekend and I think they all came together in the race and I'm proud of that. There were a couple of rookie mistakes as well that hurt us and also getting caught up in a few other incidents. I'm happy to get the first one out of the way and happy with our pace. I definitely learned a lot and can't wait to get another shot. … (On the first pit stop) "Something happened with the fuel hose but the guys had awesome stops all day after that. They were perfect and I think we definitely picked up some spots when we came in with everyone. I had a great first weekend with the team. … (On the mid-race contact:) "I was looking inside of Filippi and I wasn't really going to pass him because I wasn't quite far enough alongside him, but then Kanaan came flying down the inside and clobbered me and clobbered Filippi. Unfortunately that broke our front wing again, which kind of screwed us up for the second half of the race."

CONOR DALY (No. 18 Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality Honda): "We came out of the pits right in the middle of a scuffle and, obviously, we're on cold tires but the tires come in pretty quick. I thought Hinch was a couple of laps down so I didn't know he was going to go heavy to the inside. But then Munoz tried to go on the outside of both of us and we're both already trying to do something, there was no room there. You can't go three wide there. I don't know what he was doing exactly and I ended up on the curb and the wheel actually flew out of my hands. I had no idea if the suspension was broken or if anything was broken. I kept going and it felt fine and we would have been fine, but there was debris from the nose that lodged in one of the sidepods so that caused us an extra stop and that killed our race. Other than that, it was fun. It was nice to be out there. We had a bit of luck to get out to P1 but, man, I thought we really nailed it on that set of Firestone reds when we got there. The Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality car was really good on the reds and I was able to kind of just establish a pace, but I got caught in traffic a little bit. I need to work on where I apply the overtake and our traction. We're not good on traction and a lot of people were getting us and it made it hard for overtaking. I mean, there's a lot to learn, but overall it was nice to fight up front with the Penskes. That's the key thing is that we were fighting up front and they weren't pulling away. We were right there and we were saving fuel. It's a good place to start. We have to start somewhere. We had all kinds of ups and downs but these are INDYCAR races; it's normal for that. I'm happy with it but you always want more. When we're running up front, that's the real feeling that we like. We just want to get back there."

LUCA FILIPPI (No. 19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda): "We had the potential to finish in the top five like Hunter-Reay because I was running in front of him after he made a move in reaction to me and I had a damaged wing. Even with the damaged wing, we still did well but I wasn't happy with his defensive reaction. Still, we were running well. We changed the wing and we got back in to the top 10 again, even if we were hit from behind. Then on the restart I just felt a big hit and I had a puncture. At that time, it didn't go yellow and that was it for us since we had to pit under green. It's very unfortunate because I felt there was some poor driving this weekend. It's the first race so maybe everybody got a little too excited, but I felt that I wasn't lucky with the moves the guys around me made. I think we deserved much more. It could have been an easy top 10, possibly a top five, so it's a shame. I knew we had a fast car on the long runs, I knew we had a consistent car so I was very positive for the race, I wasn't worried at all. I knew that if we had the opportunity to run for a few laps by ourselves we had a chance to get up front and we did it. We now have a good place to start for the street courses. I think it's looking good and I feel that the Dale Coyne Racing team will do well this year."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "We didn't have the start we wanted. We were playing the catch-up game right from the beginning, but I felt confident in what we could do to catch up and make a good day out of it. Instead, we ran into an electrical glitch and it ended up putting us out for the day. It's a shame, we brought a first-class effort with the Fuzzy's crew, but it just wasn't our day. You're going to have bumps in the road and this was one of those bumps. We just have to try to minimize how many of these we have a year. Now we have bounce back and focus on Phoenix."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet): "Overall it was a great day. If you compare to last year, it's been a massive improvement on the whole 22 crew. I'm super proud to represent HPE in our first race and be here on the podium in second place, leading the race for a while. But, yeah, Montoya is an old dog. He found a little good trick on me. I made one tiny little mistake and it lost me the race."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "We were looking good, but then the yellow flag came out and didn't help us any. I ended up making a mistake trying to overtake (Charlie) Kimball, so we ended up crashing because of my move. Its racing and I apologize to all of those who were involved in that incident. We ended up getting back into the race and we finished strong in the eighth position, not the result we were looking for, but we have to take all the possible points we can get this early on."=

Marco Andretti was moving through the field until he spun
Marco Andretti was moving through the field until he spun

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): "The Snapple Honda was strong and we were really making progress early on, but it was my mistake. I wanted the win too bad and was impatient. I hurt what was a good car. Disappointed, for sure, but we'll look ahead to Phoenix."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "It was a good accomplishment today – very good car and the guys did a great job. We did everything we could today from fifth. We got a little held up behind Filippi for a bit in the middle of the race and that kind of gapped it, but good day all-in-all. I'll take starting the year out with a podium for sure."

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "We struggled for pace throughout the race but we were in the ballpark on strategy. On that one restart I lost some positions with the congestion in Turn 1, and then it stacked up in front of me in Turn 4 and I had nowhere to go. We had to replace the rear wing. but I'm glad we were able to finish 11th."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet): "It was quite an exciting day for the first race of the season. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing car was really quick when we got in clean air. Unfortunately we had a few mechanical gremlins that crept in during the last third of the race. I'm happy we were able to come away with a top-10 finish. The team today was great and really had clean pit stops so thanks again to them. A lot of credit to all the guys. We'll figure it all out and come back stronger."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): "That was probably one of the more challenging days I've had in a race car in quite some time. We just didn't have the car underneath us today for whatever reason it was quite tricky out there. I think we made the most of what we could, we stayed out of trouble and obviously the finishing position doesn't look that bad, but considering we were a lap down, it's a bit of an issue. We need to really look at things in the next couple weeks. It's another set of circumstances coming up in Phoenix, but we really need to understand this with Long Beach going forward."

Results (Unofficial until Tech Inspection over)

Pos No Name Laps Diff Gap Stops FL FTime Led ST FSpeed Engine
1 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 110 0.0000s 0.0000s 3 29 1:02.522 44 3 103.644 Chevy
2 22 Simon Pagenaud 110 2.3306 2.3306 3 88 1:02.502 48 1 103.676 Chevy
3 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 110 8.8764 6.5458 3 95 1:02.962 3 5 102.920 Honda
4 3 Helio Castroneves 110 9.3237 0.4473 3 21 1:02.937 0 2 102.961 Chevy
5 7 Mikhail Aleshin 110 9.7167 0.3930 5 98 1:02.926 0 17 102.979 Honda
6 14 Takuma Sato 110 26.0373 16.3206 5 5 1:02.246 0 10 104.104 Honda
7 9 Scott Dixon 110 40.7056 14.6683 4 75 1:02.364 0 4 103.906 Chevy
8 26 Carlos Munoz 110 55.9459 15.2403 5 87 1:02.673 0 12 103.393 Honda
9 10 Tony Kanaan 110 59.1204 3.1745 4 34 1:02.806 0 19 103.175 Chevy
10 83 Charlie Kimball 109 40.8984 0.0472 4 90 1:02.505 0 13 103.672 Chevy
11 41 Jack Hawksworth 109 1 LAPS 8.2963 7 67 1:03.062 0 9 102.756 Honda
12 98 Alexander Rossi 109 1 LAPS 6.4044 4 4 1:03.757 0 18 101.636 Honda
13 18 Conor Daly 109 1 LAPS 0.7210 4 17 1:02.428 15 20 103.799 Honda
14 16 Spencer Pigot 109 1 LAPS 2.6313 5 92 1:02.644 0 21 103.442 Honda
15 27 Marco Andretti 109 1 LAPS 11.7572 5 84 1:03.133 0 14 102.640 Honda
16 15 Graham Rahal 109 1 LAPS 13.9676 5 95 1:02.461 0 6 103.744 Honda
17 8 Max Chilton 109 1 LAPS 2.7749 4 82 1:03.102 0 16 102.690 Chevy
18 12 Oriol Servia 109 1 LAPS 0.3432 4 90 1:03.023 0 22 102.819 Chevy
19 5 James Hinchcliffe 109 1 LAPS 5.9344 7 82 1:02.443 0 8 103.774 Honda
20 19 Luca Filippi 108 2 LAPS 29.9163 6 20 1:02.790 0 15 103.201 Honda
21 11 Sebastien Bourdais 87 2 LAPS 43.9017 4 35 1:03.370 0 7 102.257 Chevy
22 21 Josef Newgarden 47 32 LAPS 31 LAPS 8 42 1:02.231 0 11 104.129 Chevy

Race Statistics
Winner's average speed: 89.006 mph
Time of Race: 02:13:28.4650
Margin of victory: 2.3306 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 16 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 4 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Pagenaud 1 – 48
Daly 49 – 63
Montoya 64 – 81
Hunter-Reay 82-84
Montoya 85 – 110

Points

Rank Qual Car Driver Engine Led Pts Qual Pts Lead Pts Eng Pts Driver Pts
1 4 2 Montoya, Juan Pablo Chevy 44 50 1 50 51
2 2 22 Pagenaud, Simon Chevy 48 40 3 40 43
3 6 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan Honda 3 35 1 35 36
4 3 3 Castroneves, Helio Chevy 32 32 32
5 18 7 Aleshin, Mikhail Honda 30 30 30
6 11 14 Sato, Takuma Honda 28 28 28
7 5 9 Dixon, Scott Chevy 26 26
8 13 26 Munoz, Carlos Honda 24 24
9 20 10 Kanaan, Tony Chevy 22 22
9 20 10 Kanaan, Tony Chevy 22 22
9 20 10 Kanaan, Tony Chevy 22 22
10 14 83 Kimball, Charlie Chevy 20 20
11 10 41 Hawksworth, Jack Honda 19 19
12 19 98 Rossi, Alexander (R) Honda 18 18
13 21 18 Daly, Conor (R) Honda 15 17 1 18
14 22 16 Pigot, Spencer (R) Honda 16 16
15 15 27 Andretti, Marco Honda 15 15
16 7 15 Rahal, Graham Honda 14 14
17 17 8 Chilton, Max (R) Chevy 13 13
18 1 12 Servia, Oriol Chevy 12 1 1 13
19 9 5 Hinchcliffe, James Honda 11 11
20 16 19 Filippi, Luca Honda 10 10
21 8 11 Bourdais, Sebastien Chevy 9 9
22 12 21 Newgarden, Josef Chevy 8 8
Total 110 4

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