Dixon Ushers in New Era as Runner-Up at St. Petersburg
Manufacturer competition returned to the IZOD IndyCar Series Sunday at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, with Scott Dixon leading the way for 10 Honda-powered entries, finishing second to Helio Castroneves after 100 laps around the temporary airport/street circuit on the Florida Gulf Coast.
Dixon and eventual winner Castroneves were two of only a handful of racers who chose not to pit during an early-race full-course caution, and their strategic gamble paid off as both were then able to complete the race distance with only two pit stops, while the rest of the field needed three to make the finish.
The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg featured several new Honda trackside programs, rewarding fan loyalty and enthusiasm for the brand. The fans in the Honda Fan Section were a sea of red, cheering on Honda-powered teams and drivers. The winners of the Honda Backstage Pass were treated to an exclusive “behind-the-scenes” tour of the IndyCar paddock and garage areas, including Grand Prize winners Mike and Carson Harris from Maineville, Ohio.
Behind the leaders, Simon Pagenaud recovered from a post-qualifying, 10-position grid penalty – due to a precautionary, but unscheduled engine change on Friday – to finish sixth in his debut race for Schmidt Hamilton Racing. The former American Le Mans Series champion for HPD now takes an early lead in the IndyCar Rookie of the Year standings.
Charlie Kimball made the biggest move though the field in today’s contest, finishing ninth after starting 22nd in his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Just behind Kimball, Justin Wilson recovered from a long stop after running out of fuel just before his second pit stop to round out the top-10 finishers, passing fellow Honda driver and series rookie Josef Newgarden on the last lap.
Defending three-time series champion – and 2011 St. Petersburg race winner – Dario Franchitti ran out of fuel just a quarter mile from the finish line, dropping him to an unrepresentative 13th-place finish.
The IZOD IndyCar Series continues next week with the first permanent road course of 2012, the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama, April 1 at the scenic Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala.