Juan Pablo Montoya held off Team Penske teammate Will Power by nine-tenths of a second to win the 12th Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Power, who started from pole for the fourth time in 5 years and led a race-high 75 laps, was the leader going into the final pit stop. However, a delay on pit road allowed Montoya to move ahead of the 2014 series champion into the lead. From there, the Colombian would hold off a furious charge by Power, which included the two touching.
"If I hadn't damaged my wing, maybe I would have had another shot," Power said. "He was very strong on the front straight and my exits weren't very good. I thought maybe I would catch him off-guard there. You don't expect someone to pass there, so, yeah, I gave it a shot.
"I was surprised at how aggressively he turned, but he wanted to win the race and so did I."
NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing's Tony Kanaan was third with Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud making it four Penske cars in the top-5. Four Penske cars in the top-5 capped off a weekend in which the four teams cars qualified in positions 1-4.
The first half of the race featured five caution periods, as a number of incidents left debris from the new aero kits on the tight street course. However, the race's second half was clean and green, resulting in what many thought we might see: a Penske battle for the win.
Ultimately, it was Montoya's 13th career Indy car win, and first on a temporary circuit since the Vancouver race in 1999. It was also the seventh victory for Team Penske at St. Petersburg.
Sebastien Bourdais was sixth with Ryan Hunter-Reay the top finishing Honda in seventh. Jack Hawksworth was eighth with Luca Filippi 9th and Marco Andretti tenth.
Next up for the Verizon IndyCar Series will be the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana at New Orleans Motorsports Park on April 12th.
St. Petersburg embraces the race
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman looked toward the blue sky, looked at the fans streaming into the downtown race circuit and declared it "a wonderful day" for the city and INDYCAR. Kriseman attributed the tens of thousands of spectators attending each of the three days of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in part to the city's "Embrace the Race" marketing campaign.
"An event like this has such an impact on our city and we wanted to try to make everyone feel like they're a part of it," Kriseman said. "When you do that, you have so much more fun, too. I look forward every year to this weekend, and to see the community embrace it through the years, and especially this year, has been wonderful.
"The downtown has changed a lot since the first race (2003)," the mayor added, "and I expect that in the next few years it to look totally different with all the construction going on and new restaurants, and I see it as more opportunities to get people downtown on this weekend."
The picturesque setting alongside Tampa Bay and spectacular early spring weather complemented the on-track action.
"It's just a special place to go racing," said Kevin Savoree, Green Savoree Racing Promotions president and COO. "The fans love this race, and I share with everyone that Kim (Green, CEO of Green Savoree) and I are just the stewards of this race. It really belongs to everybody in St. Pete and I'm sure that every year they put an 'X' on their calendar for this race weekend."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): "Honestly, it was the hardest fought 10th (place) of my career. Sort of just different balances all the time – three problem cars in every corner. We were really on top of the racetrack, but we'll work to figure things out sooner rather than later."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet): "It was a solid result for the Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing team, but it was a bit up and down. Initially, it felt like we had something special going. I got TK (Tony Kanaan) and the car had good pace. Then I made a couple of mistakes and a restart didn't go my way. After that, Sato hit us and we lost three positions. It was one of those races where you controlled the damage, but you don't feel you have achieved what you were capable of. I am satisfied with the result and happy for the team, they did a good job. It's a good start to the season. The pace was good when we got clear air, but it is definitely is hard to follow other cars and get a run on them. We will keep digging, keep working on starting higher up on the grid and see where we end up."
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet): "Really proud of the Hitachi Chevy guys today. They did a great job and we battled hard throughout the race. The car was fast. We didn't end up where we would have liked to be, but overall we had a good day. Really happy for Juan (Montoya) and congratulations to him on the win and to Will (Power) on his podium finish. Great way to start the season for Roger (Penske) with a 1-2 finish."
GABBY CHAVES (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda): "I learned so much today. I learned tire management and the differences in the red to black tires. I learned about fuel saving, driving to a number and trying to not lose position. The incident with the 5 car (Hinchcliffe): I saw an opening, but it closed up. I tried hard to avoid it, even getting down in the grass, but just couldn't avoid it. All in all, it was a good weekend. We learned a lot as a team, I learned a lot and we showed that we can run strong at this level. I'm really looking forward to NOLA and the rest of the season."
STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "The KV Racing Technology team gave me a great car today, but unfortunately we didn't have the result to prove it. The car was fast and I overtook a lot of people. Every restart I overtook several cars, improving three or four positions. Obviously, I am disappointed with the final result. I had some issues and had to make up a lot of positions, so I used a lot of fuel. As a result, I had to pit with four laps to go. At least I had fun today in my first Verizon IndyCar Series race and hopefully the result will change when we race in New Orleans in two weeks."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): "The incident with Carlos (MuÃ±oz) kind of started the whole downhill of our day. We lost a lot of pace after that incident and then we were kind of behind the ball a little bit. At the end, you just kind of keep going – you adapt to it (how the car changes after an incident). Then, it was unfortunate with (James) Jakes; he seemed to brake really early into the last turn and I couldn't really avoid him. We finished – it's definitely not the day we wanted. I think we were expecting much more, just a lot of things that went wrong during the race and could never really settle except towards the very end. Not the greatest day in the race car. I think it's been a positive weekend; we showed that we had the pace, which is a good thing, for sure. Not racing for a year and a half, you can feel that, especially when you are passing people – it's like, OK, I haven't done that in a while. It's OK – I don't think I'm really happy with it, but we finished the race and it's experience we're going to take on if we do more races together."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chevrolet): "It wasn't the day we had hoped for in the Target car today. We had some early issues with the air jack and couldn't get the car off the ground during our pit stops. It seemed like the front would come up, but the rear end would stay on the ground. The team did the best they could on our stops, but in reality you can't be competitive in this type of racing when your stops are taking that long. We just never seem to have the best luck in St. Petersburg but we'll keep pushing for the results we know we're capable of."
FRANCESCO DRACONE (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "I am really upset that I wasn't able to finish the race today. I was having fun out there and having some success. I think the team had me on a good strategy but there was something not right with the power delivery of the car. I was having some issues and couldn't continue. Hopefully we will get it sorted and do better in the next race."
LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): "I am happy with that. Obviously, so many things are new to me. On one hand we want to have good results, on the other hand we know that we have to learn a little before we can really fight for the podium. The team did a great job, they gave me great pit stops and we can build on this. This is a good start for the season, from here I can just get better and better."
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "Really fun race, really entertaining. After the disappointment in qualifying, the guys really worked hard last night and found what was wrong and corrected it and gave me a fast car today. We lost the front wing on the first lap, replaced it, then had some contact in the middle of the race and lost an end fence. I didn't have a clue what was going on out there, I was just pushing like crazy all the way through once we got into clean air because I knew that was going to be important. The guys made good stops, got me in clean air and we finished in the top 10 from the back of the grid. I was really happy for the whole ABC Supply team. I don't think I've ever been so happy with an eighth-place finish before."
CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "Today was not how we wanted to start the season. Something wasn't right with the steering because when I turned the wheel all the way, it didn't feel like I was getting as much to the wheels. I didn't make contact with anything but something clearly wasn't right. I would like to have finished the race but I would have been struggling to keep my pace enough. Hopefully things will go better in New Orleans. We just tested there so I got to know the circuit and am looking forward to going back there."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "I think that was the hardest seventh-place finish I've seen. That's how it is sometimes, when you have bad days you have to bring home solid top 10s. We fell back to like 18th or 19th after the issue at the start with Bourdais. We rebounded nicely, but to be honest I think that's about the car we had today – a sixth- or seventh-place car at best. We'll take the top 10 and move ahead with the DHL car for New Orleans."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): "It was a really fun race for us and I'm just so happy that I was able to get NTT DATA Racing a podium finish in the first race out. We still have some things to work on to get better as a team, but I'm pretty happy with today's finish. I have to give so much credit to the guys on pit lane. They just did such a great job today. This is a nice way to start the season and after this third-place finish, I'm even more motivated to continue to do better."
SAGE KARAM (No. 8 GE LED Chevrolet): "It was funny, I came into the pits after the race, took off my helmet to debrief with the guys and noticed I didn't use any tear-offs from my helmet! A rookie mistake, I guess. I was so focused on taking care of the car and running good laps, I totally forgot. But all in all, I just tried to do what the team told me to, which was keep the car in one piece and run all the laps. That was the plan today. Although I wished we would have finished higher, I know that this is a learning process. I spoke with Dario (Franchitti) after the race and we talked about saving fuel and how crucial that is in these races. I know we'll get better and I had a good first experience in the GE LED car in my first road and street course in the series."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet): "Obviously it's a disappointing result for the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen guys. Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing has worked really hard over the winter. We had great pit stops, and I got taken out by some dumb driving. We ended up fixing the rear wing and when I was in clean air, the car was really fast. I guess that is the frustrating thing, really. The result wasn't there but the speed in the car was. I can't wait to get the car back to NOLA, where we had a good test at the beginning of the week, and then to Long Beach."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet): "Today was a good day, to be honest with you. The car was really good on black tires and that was the key. The tires were not falling off and right there at the end I was just running slow to look after them. When I needed to push, I could push. Everybody with Verizon and Team Penske did an amazing job – Chevy as well. This aero kit is amazing to drive."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): "So it wasn't a good race with everything that happened. I smashed my front wing and I wasn't really good in the restarts, so that was part of it all. We weren't really there the whole weekend, so we have to work hard for New Orleans."
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): "It was a really strong effort from everyone to try to keep us in the fight. All the CFH guys were awesome, as they always are. I have to say thank you to Ed (Carpenter), Wink (Hartman) and Sarah (Fisher) for everything that they do to make this happen. Twelfth is not the best finishing position, but we can only go up from there. I think we had a car that was able to challenge for a top-five finish, but we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Right when Charlie (Kimball) got spun out in Turn 10, it was a bottleneck, I got into the back of (Sebastien) Bourdais and damaged the front wing. It sort of hurt us; we struggled to fight with everyone after that. We lost a lot of pace, then did what we could to finish as strong as possible. Twelfth was the best we had today, but I think we have more for the future."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): "The Penske Truck Rental boys did a great job today. I am happy and you have to take it step by step. You just can't walk onto a team and push your teammates out of the way. I didn't want to create a mess at the start of the race, which I thought was a smart move but it was too cautious, which cost me a position during the race. (Fifth place) is a good start to the season and I'm excited about the next race already coming up in NOLA."
ROGER PENSKE (Team Penske, Owner): "Well, I will tell you it was a fight between our two guys in front there. It was just an amazing weekend. The guys worked hard in the offseason on the aero kits and thanks for Chevrolet and Verizon for the support. But to come back this year with the fast times in qualifying and win this race 1-2, and four drivers in the top six – wow, what a day."
|Letterman with his driver Rahal|
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Chevrolet): (On his late attempt to pass Montoya for the lead) "That was the only place that I could kind of get a run on him. He was very good out of the last corner, so the only chance I had to get around and drive past him was there, but I think he saw me. It was kind of optimistic, but if he would have gave me something, I would have taken it; but he didn't. He did what anyone would have done. He was phenomenally fast. I couldn't drop him on that stint before and he was very quick on the reds. … It's a great day for the Verizon car. As we thought it would be, it's going to be a battle between teammates for the championship, I'm sure."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): "The car was really good. I was very pleased with it. I thought we had a car that could have won today. When we got into fifth place after passing (Sebastien) Bourdais in Turn 1, (Simon) Pagenaud in Turn 4 and then Charlie (Kimball), I had Helio (Castroneves) in my sights. I was strong on restarts so I thought I would be able to fight my way up there and catch up to (Will) Power. I knew we had reds (alternate tires) to come, which in the end proved to be a strong suit. But then we got penalized. Kimball had a broken car and I didn't know what he was doing. He was so slow off of Turn 9 that I thought he was pulling over and then he accelerates into the kink. He had a broken car and was slow. I went inside of him and then he broke deep. He was cranking in well before the apex so I was trying to bail out and I just tapped him. Sure enough, I dive inside him and he comes over. It's a shame because the car was good today."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "It was a tough race. We got a good start but then after a restart, there was a bottleneck in Turn 1 and I was boxed in. (Sebastien) Bourdais and I touched and it damaged the front wing. We had to change it and that really decided our race. We were able to overtake a few positions, but the time we lost was too great and we couldn't get back to the front. It was a tough one, but hopefully we got some good data for the next race."
|1||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||110||0.0000s||0.0000s||27||4||Chevy||51|
|18||25||Simona de Silvestro||110||63.1422||0.0755||0||11||Honda||12|
|19||8||Sage Karam||109||1 LAPS||17.2544||0||18||Chevy||11|
|20||4||Stefano Coletti||109||1 LAPS||33.6452||0||17||Chevy||10|
|21||83||Charlie Kimball||109||1 LAPS||17.9615||0||13||Chevy||9|
|22||7||James Jakes||100||10 LAPS||8 LAPS||0||20||Honda||8|
|23||19||Francesco Dracone||70||6 LAPS||6 LAPS||0||23||Honda||7|
|24||18||Carlos Huertas||19||9 LAPS||9 LAPS||0||24||Honda||6|