Conor Daly, Luca Filippi and team owner Dale Coyne were left frustrated by the loss of two potential top-five results in St. Petersburg.
Despite struggling to find the last vital tenths of a second to deliver a strong performance in qualifying around the 1.8-mile street/airport course, the duo moved up the order in the races.
Going off-strategy by pitting early looked set to pay off for Coyne’s drivers. However, both suffered collisions in which they appeared to be the innocent victims, and thus Daly and Filippi ended the race in 13th and 20th respectively.
Coyne told Motorsport.com: “They both made good starts, but they started a ways back, so I decided we weren’t going to beat people by going the same way as them, even though we had very good race pace.
“So I decided to roll the dice, bring them both in early, and it worked out… Or, it should have done!
“I think Conor would have been at least third and Luca was heading for the top five – even despite the first incident, actually.
“Yeah, it was very disappointing how it went in the end.”
Daly’s strategy and the extended yellows put him in the lead, and even when he was passed by eventual winner Juan Pablo Montoya, the American stayed within 1.5 -2s of the Penske driver thanks to running on red tires and a lighter fuel load, and remained ahead of Simon Pagenaud’s Penske entry.
However it all went wrong as he left the pits.
Said Daly: "We came out of the pits right in the middle of a scuffle and, obviously, we're on cold tires but the tires come in pretty quick. I thought [James] Hinchcliffe was a couple of laps down so I didn't know he was going to go heavy to the inside.
“But then [Carlos] Munoz tried to go on the outside of both of us and you can't go three wide there. I don't know what he was doing exactly and I ended up on the curb and the wheel actually flew out of my hands.
“I kept going and it felt fine and we would have been fine, but there was debris from the nose that lodged in one of the sidepods so that caused us an extra stop and that killed our race."
Although Daly had taken part in seven IndyCar races prior to yesterday's St. Petersburg event, the American admitted that there were still moments he felt like a rookie - as he is classified for this season.
“I need to work on where I apply the overtake and our traction," he admitted. "We're not good on traction and a lot of people were getting us and it made it hard for overtaking. There's a lot to learn, but overall it was nice to fight up front with the Penskes.”
Luca Filippi spun on lap 42 when he was struck by Marco Andretti, who had tried to follow his Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay at Turn 1.
Filippi had already damaged his front wing on the rear of Hunter-Reay’s car, but his pace wasn’t affected. However, Andretti’s hit punctured the Italian’s tire, necessitating a pit stop, and he was then assessed a penalty for pitting under yellow, dropping to the back of the pack.
Later, rookie Spencer Pigot also hit Filippi’s car and again caused a tire to deflate, and the subsequent stop under green-flag conditions sent him plummeting down the order.
Filippi said to Motorsport.com: “First, I need to look and see a replay of when I passed Hunter-Reay because the way I remember it, he moved in reaction to me, a block. I’m not sure yet though, I don’t remember because a lot happened after that, too...
"We had the potential to finish in the top five because I was running in front of Hunter-Reay even with a damaged wing. We changed the wing and we got back to the top 10 again, although we were hit from behind. But then I had another hit, another puncture,” he shrugged.
Filippi said the race had nonetheless boosted his hopes for the future.
“We had a fast car on the long runs, and a consistent car. I think we’re looking good for the future especially street courses. That’s what we know so far. And also we should be OK on ovals.”
Although Filippi and Coyne have not yet come to an agreement for the whole 2016 season, Coyne confirmed that the Italian will at least race the #19 car in the next race, on the Phoenix oval.