By Allan Brewer, IndyCar correspondent
- Franchitti leads most laps
- Power finishes second
- Kanaan takes third
Franchitti Opens Title Defense with IndyCar Win in St Pete
IndyCar Series reigning champion Dario Franchitti of Ganassi Racing dominated the streets of St Petersburg on Sunday, bending the 14-turn, tightly-drawn race course into his personal waterfront playground in initial defense of his 2010 racing title.
Franchitti led all but a handful of laps over the 1.8 mile, twisty circuit alongside Tampa Bay to record his 27th IndyCar Series victory. Franchitti started the race from the outside of the front row next to Power.
"I knew if I could pull alongside him (Power) in Turn 1 I would have the apex in the next turn," said Franchitti of his outside pass at the start of the race. "Once I got a gap I could control the race from the front."
Power was frustrated in his attempt to catch Franchitti by a jammed brake bias control on his black, white and red No. 12 car. "I just couldn't hang onto Dario," he said. "I was happy to get second as he set a very fast pace today."
KV Racing Technology/Lotus veteran Tony Kanaan and youngster Simona de Silvestro of HVM Racing waged a fierce battle for the final podium spot into the final turn. Kanaan prevailed over the Swiss woman by a slight four-tenths of a second margin.
"That's not bad for an old guy in his first week with the team," said Kanaan. He was announced as the third driver for the team several days before the race after enduring nearly five months of search for a ride following his departure from Andretti Autosports.
Kanaan teammate Takumo Sato was fifth, followed by Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Alex Tagliani and AFS Racing's Rafael Matos.
Vitor Meira was eighth, Oriol Servia ninth and Justin Wilson rounded out the top ten.
Once I got a gap I could control the race from the front.
A spectacular multi-car accident at the start put Marco Andretti on the sidelines before a single lap was turned. Approaching from the rear, Andretti flipped his No. 26 car over the top of Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon before landing inverted on the asphalt deep in Turn 1.
The melee was triggered by Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves who appeared to bump Andretti going into a sharp right-hand turn at the end of the start/finish straightaway.
Dixon continued around the course to the pits with heavy damage to the rear and right side of the No. 9 car. Dixon finished sixteenth.
Castroneves' teammate Ryan Briscoe finished eighteenth, shuffled to the rear in the accident. The crash pushed Castroneves severely to the back where he remained for the day, finishing twentieth.
Andretti teammate Mike Conway, who qualified impressively on the outside of the second row, retired with damage from the incident.
None of the drivers was seriously injured.
The race marked the introduction of two-car abreast restarts. The restart zone was moved closer to the start/finish line as well. The changes came as a result of fan feedback to the series during the recent off-season.
Dale Coyne Racing's Sebastien Bourdais and James Jakes incurred damage to their cars during early morning practice. Bourdais was unable to start the race as the team had insufficient time to execute extensive repairs.
Neither driver was injured.
Power's pole-setting lap of 1:01.963 (104.579 mph) bested Franchitti's fastest time of 1:02.295 (104.021 mph) in the Fast Six portion of qualifications on Saturday.
The Indy Lights Series season-opening race preceded the IndyCar Series event. Josef Newgarden won by nearly a second over Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Conor Daly. Peter Dempsey finished third in the O2 Racing Technology machine.
Conditions at Whited Airport in St Petersburg were mild and sunny at the 1:02PM EDT green flag, with a temperature of 84 degrees F and a light southwestern breeze at 2 mph. Skies were partly cloudy to sunny throughout the 100 lap event.