Series St. Pete race report

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IZOD IndyCar Series press release

CASTRONEVES WINS HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Sunday, March 25, 2012) - Helio Castroneves ended a winless drought of more than a year by winning the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the third time on March 25.

Podium: race winner Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet, second place Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, third place Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
Podium: race winner Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet, second place Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, third place Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Chevrolet, passed Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon for second place with a pass on the outside of Turn 1 on Lap 73 and went on to score the 26th win of his Indy car career.

Dixon finished second in his Honda-powered car, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport in a Chevrolet-powered car. James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Briscoe rounded out the top-five.

It was an emotional day for the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. After taking the checkered flag, Castroneves stopped his car at Turn 10 and honored the late Dan Wheldon by climbing the fence and patting the "Dan Wheldon Way" sign located there.

DAY 3 NOTEBOOK:

Jack Hawksworth of Cullingworth, England won today's Star Mazda Championship race #2 on the Streets of St. Petersburg to earn his first victory in the series. Connor De Phillippi of San Clemente, Calif., won Saturday's race #1 for the Star Mazda Championship presented Goodyear at St. Petersburg.

It was the second consecutive season that De Phillippi has won the opener at St. Petersburg. The series' next event is a doubleheader weekend at Barber Motorsports Park on March 31 and April 1.

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Spencer Pigot of Windemere, Fla., and R.C. Enerson of New Port Richey, Fla., were the Championship Class and National Class winners, respectively, in the today's Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship race #2 at St. Petersburg on Sunday.

Pigot, who won Race #1 at St. Petersburg last year, and Enerson all were the winners in Race #1.

Star Mazda is the middle level of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system that leads to the IZOD IndyCar Series. The entry level is the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda; the top level is Firestone Indy Lights.

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

· This is Helio Castroneves' first win of 2012. It is his 26th Indy car victory and his third win on the Streets of St. Petersburg.

· With the win, Castroneves ties Rodger Ward for 15th on the all-time win list. His last win was at Twin Ring Motegi in 2010.

· This is Team Penske's fifth win at St. Petersburg.

· Scott Dixon finished second. It is his third runner-up finish in St. Petersburg. All have been to Castroneves.

· Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third. It is his second podium here at St. Petersburg. He finished second in 2009.

· James Hinchcliffe finishes fourth, matching his career-best finish in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

· Simon Pagenaud finished sixth, his best finish in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

· Charlie Kimball finished ninth, matching his career-best finish from New Hampshire in 2011.

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Chevrolet, winner Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg): "It's been a little while, but it never gets old. Certainly it's good to be back in victory circle, what a great group of guys, I have to thank also my teammates as well, they are incredible. No question, these guys are awesome, Ryan (Briscoe) and Will (power), and for me it's a great Chevy-power group, it's been always consistent. It might not be the quickest, but I did say out loud, 'If I start in the top six, I'll win this race.' And we did it, we are here in Victory Circle." (About different strategy): "Well certainly the start of the race I didn't want to do the same mistakes that we did last year, so I want to make sure we cooled down, we kept cool, we lost probably one position, but everything was fine until the play started playing in our hand, and (race strategist) John (Erickson) and (engineer) Ron (Ruzewski) decided let's do something crazy. I saw my teammates pit, we decided to go in the opposite way and it paid off." (About stopping in Turn 10): "You can never question God's mysteries, and today for me, I ended up stopping [my car] on Turn 10, and honestly I did not plan it, it was just the way it happened, and there was the sign Dan Wheldon Way. So for me, and for all of us, the drivers and the fans, not having him here certainly we'll miss. But we've got to remember him as he lived, the way he lived, and continue to pray for his family."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, finished second): "We seem to have the strategy right, and Helio (Castroneves) was just really fast. He was fast, but also able to save fuel. So we did a really good job for what we did at saving fuel, but obviously we didn't have the speed and we seemed to burn the tires up really quick. I'm happy to finish. I haven't finished here in a while, so it's nice to come out here in St. Pete and get some good points. We definitely had a good strategy there after me missing the pit call, and then the race sort of cruised on there. We just couldn't seem to keep the tires under us, it was really quick for the first sort of five or six laps maybe after ten laps and then it sort of fell off from there. But Helio was really quick and I could have pushed the envelope going into one there, but all in all I think I could have ended the day in tears later on."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet, finished third): "The guys did a great job to prepare these cars and we had a good showing for DSL/SunDrop but we were hoping to put on a better show for the fans there at the end. It was a fuel strategy race and the Chevy engine was getting great fuel mileage but we had to really take our time to finish to the end. We took a gamble on making it two stops instead of three and that's just part of the game. It's good to get a podium under our belt. Today most of all though, we have Dan on our minds and that wound is still fresh. To the Wheldon family, we love you."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, finished fourth): "I feel really good. Obviously coming into my second year with a great team, it's a team that is used to performing. So, you want to perform. We did, as a team, a good job yesterday to lock out that second row and then today with the strategy and some good cars we were able to bring it back in 3rd (teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay) and 4th. (About the race): "A couple of little moments during the race. The biggest thing was just that last stint with the two-stop strategy, the guys behind us were doing three stops so I had to manage the tires and fuel a lot. I was learning every lap about fuel savings. I knew Briscoe was catching me in the end so I was managing that gap. I knew how many laps were left and I knew the number (fuel) I had to hit and the car ran out as I pulled into my pits. So, the guys did a perfect job. (Are you ready for next week?): "Ready to go to Barber. We keep knocking on the door. If we can start off this year with a tie for my best finish in the series, I think it is a good strong starting point."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet, finished fifth): "Definitely a successful day. We had a great turnout of fans. We put on a good show. For the first race, I thought the cars were unbelievably reliable. It was a lot of fun working with the twin-turbo Chevy engine today, especially on long stints on the tires. With the turbos coming in it was a bit of a handful. It's real racing. There is lots of tuning on the mapping to play with going to Barber. We learned a lot today about tires. We learned a lot about setups today. Any miles we get in these cars, we are learning all the time. It's good to get a top-five finish in the first race. We wanted to come out of here with points, and we certainly want to stay in the Championship hunt this year."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda, finished sixth): "I feel very happy today. It's always good to get points at the start of the season. The HP car was really good today. I damaged the front wing early on, and it forced a little push. It was a really good recovery by the team today to get us up front. I want to thank the whole Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports team. They did a fantastic job in the pits. It's because of their pitstops that we were able to gain so many positions. The strategy was fairly amazing, and I didn't make any mistakes. We have a good baseline now to go into the next race. It's a good way to start the championship. This is a good position, but we have more in the bag."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, finished seventh): "I'm very happy for Helio. He really deserves this victory and it's great for Team Penske to start the season with a win. Our Verizon car was very good today. We just got shuffled back a bit there after the first pit stop and we just couldn't make up the ground we needed. It was very tough to pass. We were able to gain some track position toward the end and it's good to finish seventh. We'll be back at it again next weekend at Barber (Motorsports Park)."

E.J. VISO (No. 5 CITGO/PDVSA - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, finished eighth): "I was very sick last night, so I had very little energy during the race. Despite that we had a pretty good event. The team gave me a good and consistent car and I was able to keep a good pace all through the race. This was the first time Jimmy (KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser) called one of my races and he was a big help. I really liked what he did. He was a key person today. I am excited how we started the season and am looking forward to next weekend at Barber."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda, finished ninth): "It was a lot of fun, the whole race really. I guess it's why they say it's a 100-lap race; we had to run the whole 100 laps to get all those spots. I learned a lot about the car, especially in the first 30 laps and from there just kept applying it. The guys did a great job on the pit strategy. I know I leap-frogged a couple of cars, but I can't give enough credit to the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing crew in the pits today. The race was pretty awesome. It's nice to get another top-10 to equal my career best in the IZOD IndyCar Series. We learned a lot about the car, the brakes, the engine, and we'll make improvements this week and head to Barber to shoot for another top-10. We'll work hard on qualifying, and it'll be a great season."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Sonny's BBQ Honda, finished 10th): "Although 10th isn't quite the result we were looking for it's a pretty good start and the whole Sonny's BBQ team did a good job today. I think we could have been right at the sharp end, but unfortunately we ran out of fuel in the pits before I could get to the box. There should have been another four laps of fuel in there, but for some reason it didn't take the full load on the previous stop and that really cost us. But we just managed to keep it on the lead lap and I caught half a lap up while they were still behind the pace car. We had to do the other half under green, but we managed to set some quick times and passed a few people and I think we showed a lot of potential. We've learned a lot this weekend, so we'll keep our heads down and hopefully get the Sonny's car on the podium at Barber."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It was a tough day for the Target Honda. We ran out of fuel leaving that last corner. You have those times where it's close and you get across the start/finish line, and sometimes you don't. We didn't have the best day in the Target Honda today overall, but we'll do some work and be back strong in Barber."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "Things were going good and then we had a bad pit stop [gun jammed] that set us back a few positions. After that we just tried to stay out of trouble. The car was pretty good on the blacks but we struggled on the red tires. Then I lost 3rd gear and then 4th so it was a struggle to stay out of people's way so I pulled in. It's too bad because everyone on the ABC Supply team did a good job this weekend. We just have to keep learning about this car and keep pushing. We'll get there."

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus): "I'm pretty disappointed in not finishing the race. We improved the car for the race, and we were doing OK lap times. We just have to keep working hard for the next race, and I think we'll get there."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "It was an exciting race. I'm very pleased to put the Rahal Letterman Lanigan car in that position for their return to INDYCAR, and it was something I never imagined would happen today; especially after struggling in the practice sessions. But we made a good improvement in the warm-up today. It was damp conditions so it was hard to know just how good the car was but it did feel good; I was comfortable. I really enjoyed racing today, battling through the field to come up to the front. Every restart there was lots of overtaking and the guys did a great job and made a good call. I am so disappointed that we had a mechanical failure and couldn't get the resulted we worked hard for. It was encouraging though."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 22 Lotus DRR Lotus): "I'm very, very happy and the happiest I've been all weekend. The TranSystems car was fantastic to drive. I was pulling away in the corners. We're lacking top speed, there's no doubt, but I'm super encouraged at the improvement that we made with the car. We had a little hiccup with the clutch and it was not engaging. Those are mechanical things that in racing you cannot avoid, especially with a new car. Apart from that I'm very happy with the team. We kept our heads down after a tough qualifying and we came up with a good racecar, which gives me confidence for the next 15 races."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "I'm a little disappointed to come home 18th because we had good pace for a lot of race. We were off on the balance in the first half of the race, but we made the car better with each stop. The last stint was very good and we set some pretty quick laps. It's good to see a Chevy in victory lane today, but I can't say I appreciated the way Helio (Castroneves) moved me out of the way when I was trying to get to the pits. Without doing much road racing last year, I think it was a good start for me. I felt we had a better car than 18th and it is the best car I have ever had at St. Pete. With the little track time we have had so far, I think this is a good start for us. I think we found something we can improve on as the year goes on. I'm really proud of the team this weekend. I'm just disappointed we lost a couple of laps due to the spin because I felt we could have finished on the lead lap. It would have shown how we ran today. Overall, we know how we ran and the improvement we gained this weekend. Now, we gather ourselves and get ready for Barber next week."

JAMES JAKES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "We had a good car today. It wasn't the start to the season that the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda team was looking for. I'm not really sure what happened, but my brakes seemed to glaze over on me going into Turn 10, and I couldn't make the turn, which left me nowhere to go, but into the tire barriers. I am looking forward to shaking this weekend off and running at Barber Motorsports Park next weekend. Hopefully we can bring home a top 10 finish."

RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC | Embrase - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "I had fun out there. Unfortunately we had a meter reading problem so I ran out of fuel at the end. However, I enjoyed the race and dicing with other cars, but would have liked to have been able to push more. It has been a good learning experince this weekend and I look forward to being back in the car in a few days for the next race."

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): "In that last stint we passed Dario (Franchitti), Marco (Andretti) and were going to be able to easily get by Will (Power) and Simon (Pagenaud) for a potential Top Five. As frustrating as it is that we don't have anything on a piece of paper to show how well we performed today, I'm really jacked up about the pace we had all race and that the National Guard car felt really good the whole time. I'm just ready to keep this moving, and the National Guard boys did so well all day in the pits, even after we had a mechanical issue on a stop that sent us all the way back to dead last. We knew our Chevy was good all through practice and we learned a lot about the racecar today because it didn't matter what tire we were on, we were fast as the leaders the entire time. This gives all of us the confidence that we can be doing this on a more regular basis on any type of track. Panther has always been known for their oval package, but I think we're here to show everybody this year that on any type of track we can get up there with the guys at the front and beat anybody."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 GEICO/Mouser Electronics/KVRT with SH Chevrolet): "From Lap 1 I started to get the low voltage alarm. I don't know if, I think it was the alternator. I could tell it was the battery because my dash went blank, and with the electronic nowadays you cannot pull out of gear, if the dash is not working. So even if the alternator or whatever they call it made the battery die. Obviously we're still investigating and I think having the in-car camera will help too, we've never had that until now, so it's important, but those problems happen and we expect it. It's a new car, new engine, unfortunately it happened to us. But we're racing, what a beautiful day, the crowd has been awesome. So, I think we have much bigger problems in life than just dropping out of a race, and I thank my crew guys and I'm thinking about them. That's all I can think about."

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Series INDYCAR
Tags castroneves, chevrolet, dixon, honda, hunter-reay, indy lights, penske