St. Pete: Series race report

POWER STAYS PERFECT IN 2010 AFTER ST. PETERSBURG VICTORY ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., (Monday, March 29, 2010) - Will Power held off Justin Wilson by .8244 of a second to win the rain-delayed Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29 and remain ...

POWER STAYS PERFECT IN 2010 AFTER ST. PETERSBURG VICTORY

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., (Monday, March 29, 2010) - Will Power held off Justin Wilson by .8244 of a second to win the rain-delayed Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29 and remain perfect through the first two IZOD IndyCar Series races of 2010.

Power earned the third victory of his IZOD IndyCar Series career. The last driver to win two in a row to start a season was Sam Hornish Jr. in 2001, at Phoenix and Homestead.

Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves filled out the top four. Briscoe, last year's race winner, gained 16 positions to finish third, the longest climb to the podium in this event's history.

The sixth Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was postponed 18 hours because of more than 4 inches of rain that overwhelmed the temporary street circuit March 28 and, in conjunction with lightning, created unsafe conditions for race participants and ticket holders.

Power took the lead on Lap 73 of the 100-lap race when E.J. Viso slowed with a gearbox problem and then resisted Wilson's No. 22 Team Z-Line Designs/DRR car to the checkered flag.

There were an event-record 10 lead changes among eight drivers in the race that started on dry tires due to a rapidly drying track.

Power led a field-high 50 laps in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske entry to pick up the three bonus points (one for the pole, two for most laps led) and takes a 44-point advantage over Wilson, Ryan Hunter-Reay (finished 11th in the No. 37 IZOD car for Andretti Autosport) and Dario Franchitti heading to two more road/street course events before the first oval race.

Franchitti, the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion, jumped from 11th in the final 11 laps to finish fifth, while Alex Tagliani gave start-up team FAZZT Race team its best finish of sixth and his personal best in the series.

Danica Patrick scored her best road/street course finish of seventh since Long Beach (fourth) in '09. Raphael Matos, the third-place finisher in Brazil on March 14, checked in at eighth, and Graham Rahal advanced from the 16th starting spot to ninth in the No. 67 Dollar General car for Sarah Fisher Racing.

Tony Kanaan's string of five top-five St. Pete finishes ended, but he was 10th in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car. Marco Andretti led early but faded to 12th, and rookie Mario Romancini finished 13th in his second race in the No. 34 Conquest Racing car.

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

* This is the third career IZOD IndyCar Series victory for Will Power. He won the season-opening Sao Paulo Indy 300 on March 14 at Sao Paulo, Brazil, and in 2009 at Edmonton. All three wins came for Team Penske.

* This is the second time Will Power has won an IZOD IndyCar Series event from the pole. He also won from pole in 2009 at Edmonton.

* This is only the second time in IZOD IndyCar Series that a driver has won the first two races of the season. Sam Hornish Jr. opened the 2001 season with victories at Phoenix and Homestead en route to winning the season championship.

* This is the 37th IZOD IndyCar Series victory for Team Penske, extending its series record.

* This is the fourth victory for Team Penske in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Helio Castroneves won in 2006 and 2007. Ryan Briscoe won in 2009.

* This is the second victory from pole for Team Penske in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for Team Penske. Helio Castroneves won from pole in 2007.

* This is the first time Team Penske has won consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series races since Will Power won at Edmonton and Ryan Briscoe at Kentucky in 2009.

* Justin Wilson finished second, the best finish for a Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car since team co-owner Robbie Buhl won in 2000 at Walt Disney World Speedway.

* Ryan Briscoe finished third after starting 19th, a gain of 16 spots. It's the longest climb to the podium in this race since it became an IZOD IndyCar Series event in 2005. The previous mark was 12 spots by Ryan Hunter-Reay, who started 14th and finished second in 2009.

* Helio Castroneves finished fourth, his fourth consecutive top-four finish at this event. He won in 2006 and 2007, and was second in 2008. He did not compete in this race in 2009.

* Dario Franchitti finished fifth, his fourth top-five finish in five starts at this event. His best finish was third in 2005.

* Alex Tagliani finished sixth, an IZOD IndyCar Series career best. His previous best was ninth in 2009 in Toronto.

* Danica Patrick finished seventh, her best performance on a road-street course since finishing sixth in 2009 in Toronto.

* Mario Romancini was the top rookie finisher, 13th.

* The top 15 cars finished on the lead lap, a record for this event. The previous best was 13 in 2008.

* There were 10 lead changes, an event record. The previous best was nine lead changes in 2005.

* Eight drivers led at least one lap, tying the event record set in 2008.

***

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

WILL POWER (No. 12 Team Verizon, winner): "It's just great. It's Verizon's first year, and we're out to win the championship. Perfect pit stop, good race. Perfect weekend - pole and a win. Can't get much better than that."

(About passing E.J. Viso for lead): "I knew he had to save fuel, but he had a problem. That was close. I didn't want to nail him from behind because I knew Wilson was coming. I picked a side and went for it."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 22 Team Z-Line Designs/DRR, second): "In that last stint, we were flat out. We were pushing hard. Everyone on the Dreyer & Reinbold team did a great job on that last pit stop. From that point on, I was trying to put will under some kind of pressure. I saw him get sideways a bit, but it wasn't enough."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, third): "Qualifying was a mess for us. I think we underestimated the competition of the field. We just had the wrong tire on in qualifying. We knew we had a good car for the race. We had a plan for the race. We were going to do the opposite of the leaders, go off-sequence, and it worked beautifully for us. It was tricky there when it was damp, but we kept all four wheels on the island. After Brazil, I was just telling myself to be calm out there."

DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, 20th):
(When did you feel something break?): "Just under braking. I thought we were running very strongly, had a good strategy. These things happen in motor racing."

(Are you OK?): "Nothing too bad. It was just one of those big hits. I've got to say sorry to the KV team for hitting Mario (Moraes) on that one."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, 18th): "The car was fantastic. I had a mistake hitting Sato there (early in race). We clawed our way back. I just cut the inside wall at (Turn) 9, and it threw me into the exit there. Just two mistakes on my part."

(About ramifications of early exit on championship points): "What do you do? It's so tight now. The competition is so tough. I'll have to try to get some points at Birmingham. Great weekend and glad so many fans came back today. Tough luck, and we'll be back at Barber."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, fourth): "It was an awesome day for Team Penske. Fortunately, the team looks strong, and we are on the right track. With Will winning two in row, it shows how talented he is. It was a great effort for the whole entire team. Hopefully, in Barber, we will have a similar effort and result."

ALEX LLOYD (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America, 23rd): "The track's OK. It was a little slippery, but it picked up grip quickly. I don't know, the left front went during the warm-up. I radioed in and said the left front is just gone. I don't know what happened."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Cottonelle, fifth): "I had such a good start but made a bit of a mistake on the first lap. The car was quick enough to win this thing. We got a flat later in the race and had to come in. Between the flat tire and me screwing up, it's not a bad day to finish fifth."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing, 15th): "We looked good for a while, until the last stop. The strategy? Now it was wrong, and I was a part of it, but in order to win when you start that far back, you've got to risk it. We didn't finish good, but we raced all day long and put ourselves into position to win. We needed to be lucky, so it didn't happen. We rolled the dice, and it wasn't our turn. One day it will be."

MARIO ROMANCINI (No. 34 H2GO Ronn Motors, 13th): "I am really happy with how we finished the race today. We weren't sure how wet the track conditions would be, so we decided to run a medium setup. We had to start the race on slicks, making it a bit more difficult for me, but I stayed out of trouble and finished the race, which was most important for me."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic, 14th): "I was very patient at the beginning of the race and trying to just stay on the track because the conditions were pretty tricky. Everybody went on a different strategy, and after the pit stop we made it up to second position, which was pretty good. Just Briscoe was in front of me, and I was able to keep Helio behind me. We were in a good position after our second stop, too, and were third of those that had pit, but many had stayed out. When we were about to pit for our third stop, the yellow came out. When I pitted, I had a clutch issue and I stalled my engine and I dropped back many positions. After that I passed a couple of cars, but this track is hard to overtake on. Had the yellow not come out and I had not stalled the car, we would have been somewhere around eighth after others pit. The Formula Dream/Panasonic car was very good on primary tires. We struggled a little bit on the alternate red tires, so we need to think about how to improve on those. I'm very disappointed in the pit stop; that was totally my fault."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com, seventh): "What a great finish for the GoDaddy car this weekend. It was a challenging race, but we held on to the very end. The guys did a great job in the pits, and they made all the right calls. We will definitely use this momentum heading into Barber in a couple of weeks."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, 10th): "I don't really know what happened when Marco and I got together. He slowed down in front of me, and I hit him. I don't know what caused all that, so we'll have to sort it out. Overall, we just didn't have a good day at all as a team. And, nowadays you just can't afford any mistakes. The series is too competitive too afford that."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, 11th): "It was a really tough day for the IZOD team. Our strategy just didn't pay off for us at all. We weren't really able to pass that much on track. At one point, we got hit from behind, and I thought we had a cut tire. In the process of being a little conservative, a couple cars got by. But we lost most of our track position when Graham and Simona got together and a bunch of cars got by on the inside. It just wasn't our day."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, 12th): "The Venom car started the race really strong, but then unfortunately we caught a cut tire. Track position is really important here and we had great position, but the cut tire caused us to lose that. That was really the turning point for us, but at the same time I can't say we had the best-handling car on the track. We were looking good for a while. Things just didn't go our way."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP Luczo Dragon, eighth): "After starting 23rd, this was a great day for us. The crew did a great job with the pit stops, I got more experience under my belt, and we collected a lot of points in the championship. I believe we have the best crew in the paddock. I trust them completely, and I knew they would put me in the front. We were able to turn our situation around and had a very competitive car. Now we're looking forward to the next one."

E.J. VISO (No. 8 PDVSA-Jet Aviation-KVRT, 17th): "What a shame for the PDVSA-KV Racing Technology team because we ran well all weekend. We definitely had the speed, pace and a good strategy in today's race. I was leading the race until a shifting mechanism failed. This is the tough part of racing: One second you have everything, and the next it is taken away from you. We just need to keep our spirits up and work hard for a better race at Barber."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 Lotus-KV Racing Technology, 22nd): "I was disappointed not to finish today. I enjoyed the start of race. The conditions were very tricky, but I was able to improve a few positions, which was a great feeling. During the early part of the race, I was able to battle and make some more positions. Then I was struggling with the balance and wanted to pit, but we were trying to stretch to the fuel window. Unfortunately, while I was struggling I was trying to defend my position when I hit the wall. I have learned a lot about the car these first two races, but I still have some things to learn about this series. I am confident it will come soon."

MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology, 21st): "The race was going well until I got hit from behind by first Dixon and then by Wheldon. It's a shame for the KV Racing Technology team because the crew worked really hard all weekend, and the car was handling well. To end it like this is not a great feeling."

***

The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union on Sunday, April 11 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. Firestone Indy Lights also will race that day at Barber.

-source: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Sarah Fisher , Robbie Buhl , Helio Castroneves , Alex Tagliani , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Graham Rahal , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Will Power , A.J. Foyt , Mario Romancini , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Andretti Autosport , Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , Conquest Racing