IRL: St. Pete: Race report

CASTRONEVES SCORES ST. RE-PEAT ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Helio Castroneves made his second consecutive win on the Streets of St. Petersburg look easy. The Team Penske crew started from the pole, posted the fastest race time on Lap 88 (1 minute, ...

CASTRONEVES SCORES ST. RE-PEAT

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Helio Castroneves made his second consecutive win on the Streets of St. Petersburg look easy. The Team Penske crew started from the pole, posted the fastest race time on Lap 88 (1 minute, 3.0737 seconds; 102.737 mph) and led 95 of 100 laps as he beat Scott Dixon by 0.6007 of a second to win the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg -- the closest finish in six IndyCar Series street/road course events spanning three years.

Castroneves, who has led 135 of 200 laps on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn circuit the past two years, tied Dixon as two-time winners on IndyCar Series road/street races. He is the first to translate a pole start into a race victory on a street/road course.

Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, took the points lead with his second-straight second-place finish. He was followed across the line by the Andretti Green Racing trio of Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Dario Franchitti. Kanaan, who started sixth but was considered a sleeper based on his qualifying effort before the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car made contact with the Turn 9 wall in the "Firestone Fast Six" session, experienced more misfortune on the first lap when his car made contact with Franchitti's No. 27 Canadian Club car heading into the tight Turn 4. Kanaan fell to 16th position before making his climb back to contention.

Vision Racing's Tomas Scheckter posted his second top-10 finish in a row (sixth), followed by Sam Hornish Jr., Danica Patrick and Dan Wheldon. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Buddy Rice finished 10th. Scott Sharp was 11th and Darren Manning, who was running third on Lap 65, wound up 12th after the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car spun in Turn 4.

HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG POST-RACE NOTES:

* This is Helio Castroneves' 12th career IndyCar Series victory and his first win of the season. He ties Dan Wheldon for second on the IndyCar Series' all-time victories list.

* Castroneves also ties Scott Sharp's record for most consecutive seasons with a win (7).

* Castroneves has led 135 of 200 laps in the last two races at St. Pete.

* This is Team Penske's first win of the season and its 24th win in the IndyCar Series -- the most by any team.

* Scott Dixon finished second for the second consecutive year. He has finished in top 10 of all three Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

* Tony Kanaan finished third for the second consecutive year. He has finished in top 10 of all three Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG POST-RACE QUOTES:

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fourth): "It was the first stint that killed me. I was pushing so hard that I killed the front tires. I flat-spotted the tires, so I was hanging on for dear life. We lost a lot of ground. The NYSE car was a good car and my teammates had a good car. You need to be a half-second quicker to pass. It's qualifying the whole race. We're not on the podium, but we did score points."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, winner Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg): "It was all about consistency today. Team Penske was incredible. The car was very consistent; a little bit tough on the cold tires. Almost everything was working perfectly. The gears started to wear a little and I had to be careful to not make any mistakes, especially on the brake point where the gears were tough. It was a great weekend. We worked very hard and it paid off in the end."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished second): "It's great for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Two second place finishes after only two races this year puts us in the points lead. Dan (Wheldon) had a bit of a rough day but he'll bounce back at the next race. Helio (Castroneves) had us covered, but I think we had a little more speed on cold tires. We didn't make any mistakes and had a clean race, so it was a good day for us."

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third): "I didn't help the team when I crashed yesterday during qualifying and went back to sixth place. That's probably why I caused the accident. I hate to say it but we had the car to win the race, we just didn't put ourselves in the position to do it. It's done and third place is better than nothing. We'll just work on the next one."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished fifth): "I have to thank the Canadian Club crew for fixing the car. We had a couple go's at it after an unfortunate first lap. I'm not sure what happened. Tony (Kanaan) was going around the outside. I was trying to stay out of trouble and had a bit of understeer and we got together. The guys did a great job getting the car back together. They didn't get the car back 100 percent, but they made a bloody good attempt. The big thing was the last 50 laps, we lost the brake pedal. I was just staying out of trouble."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished seventh): "We ran the Team Penske car in the top-five for pretty much the first three quarters of the race. We stayed out a little too long on that second stint, so it's not exactly where we wanted to finish. But sometimes that's the way it goes. Now we'll just have to keep working hard and look ahead to Japan."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 10th): "The race started off really good for us. The qualifying wasn't that good but the warm up this morning was really good. We had a problem with the car early on in the race and we weren't sure what it was. We found out at the end of the race that we broke the upper wish bone in the right front corner. So basically, we ran most of the race with that. I guess for us to finish where we did was pretty good. We got some decent points. But we'll move on from here and get ready for Motegi."

DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 12th): "The last 30 minutes killed me. My feet were numb and my hands were in such pain as I tried to keep ahead of Tony Kanaan. The steering was so heavy on full tanks and new tires because this track has so much grip. It was tough to hold on. I should have let Tony go. It was a fantastic weekend overall for a one-car effort. It's a testament to the spirit of this team. We're just scratching the surface on performance."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished sixth): "It was OK. I struggled just on that last set of tires. I think overall we were competitive though, and that's good. We did well. We were able to keep (Sam) Hornish behind us, which was good and to get a top-six finish for the team is great. I'm happy with that on a road course."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished eighth): "I'm happy with the way the Motorola car performed today. It was a good car; it was a consistent car. I just didn't feel like I had the run down the front-straight to get anyone. I was good on the brakes and I was alright everywhere else. I just couldn't get on the power. On my own, I just need to work on getting up to speed quicker so I can capitalize on our good pit stops."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "(About today's race): It was a frustrating weekend for the No. 10 crew. I think the good thing we can take away from this weekend is that we were fast. We were quick, but it was a case of what happened on Saturday put us behind the eight ball. We went with the strategy that we thought was right. Sometime it works out and sometimes it doesn't. Today, it just didn't quite work out for us. From a posititve standpoint, I think it was good in terms of building points heading into Japan and Indianpolis, two of my favorite racetracks outside of St. Petersburg."

***

Third-place finisher Tony Kanaan's carried three bandages on the nosecone during the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Kanaan's car was damaged in an accident during Firestone Fast Six qualifications.

TONY KANAAN: "Let's make it clear. The band-aid was on the nose of my car, not on my nose. Although they fit here, it wasn't on my nose (laughter). You know me. After yesterday, I went back there. I went to dinner, a sponsor dinner, came back and the guys are still here. I looked at the guys, we have a mechanic, Steve Price, he's always hurt. If you see him, he always has a band-aid or something like that. This weekend, I had band-aids all over the place. I had a problem with my back because of the ALMS race in Sebring. I had to do a three and a half hour stint with no power steering so I kind of messed up my back, so my arm was a little sore. I had the same thing. They started to make fun of both of us. Then we looked at the car. First thing I said, "Hey, looks like Steve. It was all banged up, different colors." One of the guys said, "Well, we're missing some band-aids. I went and got some. We put it on without the clear tape. One of them tried to come off in warm-up, which I was very upset. When the car is good, you don't touch it, so I'm a bit superstitious. Let's put clear tape over those things. We left it there. I hope the car feels better now."

***

The next IndyCar Series event is the Indy Japan 300 on April 21 at Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Japan. The IMS Radio Network will carry the race live at 11:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 20. The race will be telecast at noon (EDT) on April 21 by ESPN.

The next Indy Pro Series event is the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25. ESPN2's coverage of the Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will air at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 6.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Darren Manning , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing