ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Sunday, March 24, 2013) - Drama punctuated the Honda Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season opener.
The reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion opened the season in 18th place. The Verizon P1 Award winner and 2012 championship runner-up wound up 16th. The four-time series title-holder exited early in the race because of contact.
The 26-year-old Canadian overtook Castroneves in Turn 1 of a Lap 85 restart, conserved fuel in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport and held on for a 1.0982-second victory.
He's the first Canadian to win an Indy car race since Paul Tracy in 2007 at Cleveland and gave Michael Andretti his 44th Indy car victory (two more than he had as a driver).
Castroneves, the 2012 race winner, was second and Marco Andretti overtook Simona de Silvestro in Turn 1 of the final lap to earn third place (his best road/street course finish since Toronto in 2011).
Will Power, who earned his 30th Indy car pole, led 26 laps before Castroneves made an inside move on a restart and it went downhill from there. Under caution, the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car driven by JR Hildebrand sprung over the right side of Power's No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, causing a flat rear tire and bent mirror. The team spent two pit stops to repair and check for damage. Then, while running 12th, the rear end of Power's car caught the Turn 4 tire barrier. He finished 16th.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who started and finished third at St. Pete last March on his journey to the series title, encountered issues on an early pit stop and was not in contention.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet, winner Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg): "First of thanks to everyone. Thanks to the fans. This race is so awesome. The people in this town are incredible. I'm glad we can open up our season here. Man, that was a tough race. Last year we qualified fourth, finished fourth. Qualified fourth again and I thought that was kind of our cursed number there for a bit and then the big thing that people were saying early on in the season is 'What is it going to take to win?' And the big thing was minimizing mistakes.. We had a good car. Not sure if we had the fastest car over a lap but I'll tell you what, we nailed the pit stops. The guys were so good. The GoDaddy car was really good on those black tires. That last restart, man, Helio Castroneves there..he's a three-time winner at this race. He's on the reds. He makes a mistake. I get by, but I'm thinking, 'He has 30 laps to get this back." And we were saving a bit of fuel, trying to save the tires and I just can't be happier. It is so awesome. Dan's hometown. Dan's car. This one's for him."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, finished second): "The Hitachi car was awesome. It was everything by the book. It was running. It was the one to watch and it was pretty good. I was just making sure that I could protect. I knew Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) was really good. Especially in the Mickey Mouse section, as I call it. He was very strong there. As long as I was in front of him, it was going to be fine. Maybe I didn't warm up my tires enough. Just a small mistake. I guess the old dogs still make mistakes. Still have a lot to learn. Great effort by the Hitachi guys, incredible car. And good job Hinch. Congrats!"
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet, finished third): "Congratulations to James (Hinchcliffe) first and foremost. For me, this feels like a win for the struggles I have been having and all I can say is that it feels great to have the hard work pay off, for sure." (How big for the team?) "It's a good start. Looks like we are going to have to beat him this year."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "The Target car was generally pretty good. We were just trying to get good fuel mileage and look after the tires. The yellows didn't really fall our way today. We went a little bit off sequence there at the end but what killed us was the left waste gate on the turbo broke, so I had no boost. I was just getting killed on straight-line speed and they just all got past me on the final restarts."
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "It wasn't the start to the season that we would have liked it to be, but I think we can take many positives out of this race and put them towards our next one. I'm not in the car again for five weeks until Brazil, but I think we will have a better outcome then we did today."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "It was a hard-fought race all the way through. I give a lot of credit to the No. 83 guys in the pits. They put a new wing on the car when I needed it. The strategy was right; it was just a question of having to come from too far back at certain points. The pace is certainly there, we were quick when we needed to be. We have to find that balance but we'll be in good shape come Barber."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "We had a pretty good race. The Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda team called some good strategy and we managed to keep picking our way up there and making improvements. It was frustrating to lose a couple of spots right at the end - I seemed to get knocked around a little bit and be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's good to get a top 10, but we want to be up there challenging for the win, so we'll focus on what we can do better next time and try to make a step forward at Barber."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): "It wasn't a great day. We couldn't get our car into first gear on a pit stop for whatever reason. I don't know if that had anything to do with the stuck throttle that we ended up having, but that's what sidelined us in the end. I've heard some other guys have been having that issue so everyone is scratching their head right now, and trust me, on a street course it's not the thing you want - it's pretty scary to have one. That's racing. You can be on the highest high and then next weekend you can be on the lowest low. We just have to ride it and we'll come out swinging next week; it's all a part of it. It's a great win for James Hinchcliffe and Andretti Autosport.
E.J. VISO (No. 5 Team Venezuela /Andretti Autosport/HVM Chevrolet): "I am extremely happy finishing seventh after a very difficult beginning of the weekend with so many mechanical issues in the practice and qualifying. It's been tough to survive and make it to here, but the team did a great job to get me a very competitive car and give me all the tools to stay battling in the field. I'm feeling good about this year; I think we will be able to achieve good positions. Congratulations to my teammate, James, on his first win in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "It was a survival today. We had a busted front wing and it took us awhile to figure it out. So we ran most of the race with a broken front flat (of the wing). It was tough to hang onto. When we replaced the front wing late in the race, the Fuzzy's Chevrolet was much better. I think we got up to tenth at one point. But our red Firestones were pretty worn out by then. In fact, we ran many more laps with them than we would in a normal stint. But the race was improvement for our ECR/Fuzzy's team. It was not pretty but we survived to the finish. Way better than last year here when we finished a couple of laps down due to some contact. It was a great day for Team Chevy and to have (James) Hinch (cliffe) get his first IndyCar win. Team Chevy swept the podium and the weekend that is very cool."
SIMONA de SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva KVRT Chevrolet): "It's been a good weekend for us. Unfortunately we lost a few positions at the end there. We kind of ran out of tires at the end. I think we can be pretty happy with sixth. Now we know what we have to work on for the next race. It was really cool to be up front all day with Will, Hinch and everybody; it was awesome. I think we can learn a lot from this weekend to have a better result at the next race. I really want to thank Chevy and my Nuclear Clean Air Energy sponsors for all their support. I'm really excited to get to Barber and see what we can do there."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Yeah, that's a tough finish for us in 16th. It's too bad because the Verizon car was definitely fast. (On the incident with JR Hildebrand) He came over and apologized after the race. He said he was just looking down at his steering wheel and he just ran over the top of me. It's just a mistake but that happens in racing. Then I made another mistake there at the end and it cost us four more places. Tough day but we just have to move forward and look ahead to Barber."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Hydroxycut KVRT-SH Racing Chevrolet): "It's definitely a good start of the season for everyone at KV Racing, finishing fourth and sixth. My car was flawless while on track, the only problem we had during the race was that I couldn't shift into neutral during my last stop. That cost me three spots on track and made me work a bit more for this fourth place finish. I was impressed that my last set of scuffed red Firestones lasted that long and I can't say enough about my Chevy engine. It's unfortunate that Simona couldn't hold off that third place, she was running strong up front until she had no more tires. She deserved the podium. I guess Marco had a newer set of Firestones than both Simona and I, so it was a matter of time for him to get by us."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "It was a tough race right at the beginning, we clipped a front wing on the second restart so we had a damaged car most of the race. Before we changed the front wing we were as far down as 15th. We picked up some pace and were able to overtake a few cars on the track so that was encouraging. There are quite a few things we need to look at but we fought hard today and I want to thank the ABC Supply team for their hard work!"
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "We've been fighting car behavior and brake balance - front to rear and left to right evolving runs and massively… I really don't know what is going on, but every time the brakes start to stabilize, the car comes back to life. I've just been fighting a ghost that moves around in the car. It makes it difficult on the restarts because never know what you are going to get. It's the hardest 11th place I've ever had to fight for."
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Florida Lottery c/w Schmidt Peterson Honda): "I feel good. We had a great weekend. We made some progress and were right in there during the race. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports gave me a great car. It was very good on tires, so we could be very consistent. It is just a shame I was having a lot of fun running with the other guys and wish I was still out there."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Midas / Big O Tires Honda): "Frankly I am pretty pleased with how the Midas/Big O Tires car handled. Gerry (Hughes) and all of the guys did a great job getting the car in good running order and it definitely felt good. Unfortunately, we had some electrical issues; the car kept shutting off five or six times. Then we had a high fuel pressure issue that meant we couldn't run full power. We had to run conservatively because we couldn't ask the car for all of the fuel because it kept shutting off. I'm pretty disappointed that happened; we need to improve on that side but the guys did a good job. They were certainly on it. After the start to the weekend that we had, it felt good to be that competitive in the race."
JAMES JAKES (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda): "It was a difficult race for us. We were involved in an incident at the beginning when someone hit us from behind and it put us to the back. Then we managed to crawl our way to the front with a fuel strategy gamble and got up to sixth but then had to pit for fuel to finish the race and it put us out of sync. And I think we also we chose the wrong tire for the final stint so we were struggling but we finished 15th, got some points and will move on. Someone told me the average finishing position of the champion last year was ninth so if you look at that everything is not lost. We just need to make some small improvements with the Acorn Stairlifts car. I appreciate all the effort from the team and I'm looking forward to racing in Alabama."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 22 Panther DRR Chevrolet): "At least we showed what we've been saying, the team has improved so much over the winter. We showed we had the pace. First we had bad luck, there was a crash in front of us and I broke the front wing. We were on a different strategy after that, but it gave us the lead. The car was great; I was really happy to be able to maintain and to keep that gap in front of Castroneves, Power, and Hinchcliffe. I think the race was going to play out in a way that would have had us finish in the top five the way we were running. It was unfortunate - we came into the pits, the clutch wouldn't disengage and we lost several laps fixing the problem. However, I am still very happy with how we ran today."
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 7 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. The race will be telecast live at 3 p.m. (ET) by NBC Sports Network. The IMS Radio Network will also carry the race live on Sirius and XM channels 211. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Legacy Indy Lights 100 on April 7. It will be telecast by NBC Sports Network immediately preceding the IZOD IndyCar Series race.