IRL: St. Pete: Honda Racing race report

Castroneves Caps Perfect Penske Day Starting from the pole, Team Penske's Helio Castroneves held off Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon by just six tenths of a second to win his second consecutive Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Castroneves Caps Perfect Penske Day

Starting from the pole, Team Penske's Helio Castroneves held off Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon by just six tenths of a second to win his second consecutive Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Castroneves led all but five laps on the day and avoided the many dramas taking place behind him on the waterfront temporary street circuit, that led to five caution flags for a total of 20 laps. Castroneves also had to contend with a balky transmission in the closing laps, but still fended off all attempts by Dixon to claim the victory.

It was another successful day for the new 3.5-liter Honda HI7R IndyCar Series engine, which races on 100 per cent fuel-grade ethanol in all IndyCar Series events in 2007. The 18 drivers and teams competing in St. Petersburg completed 3,159 laps of practice, qualifying and racing this weekend -- a total of 5,686 miles in 80-degree temperatures and high humidity -- without a single engine-related failure.

"Comeback of the Race" honors, meanwhile, were shared by Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti, who tangled on the opening lap, sending Kanaan to the rear of the field after a spin and Franchitti to pit lane for front suspension repairs. Kanaan resumed at the tail end of the lead lap, and tigered his way back to third at the finish, while clever pit strategy and bold passing through the field saw Franchitti come from two laps down on the field to finish fifth.

Other performers of note on Sunday included Darren Manning and Buddy Rice. Driving for the single-car A.J. Foyt team, Manning ran as high as third behind Castroneves and Dixon in the middle portion of the 100-lap contest, the strongest run for a Foyt entry in the past three seasons. Locking rear brakes led to a spin on Lap 75, but Manning recovered to finish 12th, just one lap down on the leaders.

Rice started 13th after a disappointing qualifying run, but quickly improved, moving into the top 10 almost immediately and battling with former teammate Danica Patrick during the middle stages. Even after a link in the right rear suspension failed with more than half the race remaining, Rice battled on as part of an entertaining multi-car scrap for sixth place that also included Andretti, Patrick, Franchitti and Tomas Scheckter. A last lap stop for a splash of fuel dropped Rice from eighth to tenth at the checker, but it was still a noteworthy performance for the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team.

After opening the 2007 season with an oval race and street course on back-to-back weekends in Florida, the IndyCar Series now heads to Japan for Honda's "home" race at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, a 1.5-mile oval located northeast of Tokyo, on April 21st.

Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda) Started 1st, finished 1st, his 12th career IndyCar Series victory and second consecutive win at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: "It's just incredible. I tell you what, you have to be so focused on this race track, and make sure you don't mess anything up. And it seemed like every time I managed to build up a bit of a lead, the caution flag would come out and it would be gone! But I just kept focused, focused, focused, all day long, getting every corner perfect. Honda did a great job as always with the engine, and my crew was great at all the pit stops. Toward the end of the race, the [transmission] gears weren't able to come in and I had to hold on make sure I didn't make any mistakes. But hey, we got the win, and it was great day for Team Penske."

Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 2nd, takes over the early season drivers' championship lead with 80 points: "It was a tough day. Our car was definitely faster than Helio's on cold tries, but we didn't have anything for him on the longer runs. Our best bet was to get them in the pits or on a restart, but we couldn't get it done today. It's good to have a pair of strong finishes early in the season and be leading the championship going to Japan."

-credit: honda racing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing