Juan Pablo Montoya passed his Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud and off-strategy Conor Daly to take the lead and never look back in today’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The Colombian crossed the line 2.3s ahead of Pagenaud, while Ryan Hunter-Reay was able to snatch third from Helio Castroneves with three laps to go to prevent a Team Penske-Chevrolet 1-2-3, and nail a podium for Andretti Autosport-Honda.
Castroneves was just able to hold off the charging Mikhail Aleshin in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-Honda.
Takuma Sato survived an off on lap 1 to clinch sixth for AJ Foyt Racing-Honda, while Scott Dixon charged from 14th to seventh after an unscheduled stop on lap 70, to clear the radiators on his Chip Ganassi Racing-Chevrolet.
Alexander Rossi finished as top IndyCar debutant, in 12th for Andretti Autosport, chased home by fellow rookies Daly (Dale Coyne Racing-Honda) and Spencer Pigot (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda).
Story of the race
With the polesitting #12 Penske starting from the back following Oriol Servia’s substitution for Will Power, Pagenaud brought the field to the green and easily held the lead ahead of Castroneves, Montoya, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal (RLLR).
In seventh was Marco Andretti after a superb start from 14th, ahead of Sebastien Bourdais (KVSH Racing), Charlie Kimball (Ganassi) and Carlos Munoz (Andretti).
Pagenaud eased into the distance as Castroneves very quickly appeared to hit tire issues until on lap 10, Montoya passed his ailing teammate, now five seconds behind Pagenaud.
Thereafter the lead stayed static, while Castroneves continued to fall down the order, and Dale Coyne hit upon a bold pit stop strategy for both Daly and Luca Filippi, stopping his drivers between laps 13 and 16.
Pagenaud retained the lead but by a reduced margin following the first round of stops and all seemed in control until he hit traffic.
The true turning point of the race came on lap 45, however, when Andretti tried to follow Hunter-Reay past off-strategy Filippi, collided with the DCR car, and spun, bringing out the first caution of the day.
As most pitted under the yellow, it left Daly and another off-strategy car, the Ganassi machine of Tony Kanaan, in front of the dueling Penskes. After a false start following more Andretti grief as he stopped at the final turn, the green flew once more and although Daly held off Kanaan, Montoya chose that moment to dive past Pagenaud as Castroneves also passed Hunter-Reay.
A multi-car shunt further around the lap, triggered by Carlos Munoz spearing into Graham Rahal, required a long yellow again, and bottled the field once more. Also halted by the crash were Servia, Sebastien Bourdais, Charlie Kimball, James Hinchcliffe and Filippi.
Munoz was assessed a stop go penalty but would eventually climb back to eighth.
Rossi amazingly managed to miss the carnage by picking the inside line, while Aleshin was also able to pick his way through.
When the green was waved again, Montoya dived down the inside of Daly into Turn 1. Daly however, on a lighter fuel load and red tires, remained within 1.5s of the #2 Penske and crucially ahead of Pagenaud’s #22 and until he finally pitted with 30 laps to go.
Unfortunately, a collision with Carlos Munoz as he left pit lane broke a wing which then fouled the radiator and sent the engine temperatures soaring, necessitating an extra stop for a new wing, dropping him down to 13th at the checkered flag.
By then, Dixon had made a pitstop for a similar reason, with leaves and litter blocking the radiator ducts, robbing him of power as the engine temperatures increased.
As the other front-runners followed Daly's lead a couple laps later and hit pitlane, Pagenaud emerged 2.5sec behind Montoya and although the lead sank as low as 1.5s at times, the Colombian controlled the gap to the flag, despite a steering issue in the final laps.
It is the 15th Indy car victory of Montoya’s career, and Penske’s eighth in 12 races here at St. Petersburg.
Filippi, like Dale Coyne teammate Daly, lost a potential top-five finish. After the collision with Andretti that caused the first caution flag, Filippi had a right-rear puncture and was then penalized for entering the pits under yellow. Later, another strike, this time by Spencer Pigot, again caused a puncture necessitating another pit stop, this time under green-flag conditions, which dropped him to 20th place at the checkered flag.
Kimball suffered a braking problem on the final lap that dropped him to 10th place.
|1||Juan Pablo Montoya||Penske (C)||2:13:28.4650|
|2||Simon Pagenaud||Penske (C)||+2.3306|
|3||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti (H)||+8.8764|
|4||Helio Castroneves||Penske (C)||+9.3237|
|5||Mikhail Aleshin||Schmidt (H)||+9.7167|
|6||Takuma Sato||Foyt (H)||+26.0373|
|7||Scott Dixon||Ganassi (C)||+40.7056|
|8||Carlos Munoz||Andretti (H)||+55.9459|
|9||Tony Kanaan||Ganassi (C)||+59.1204|
|10||Charlie Kimball||Ganassi (C)||+1 lap|
|11||Jack Hawksworth||Foyt (H)||+1 lap|
|12||Alexander Rossi||Andretti/Herta (H)||+1 lap|
|13||Conor Daly||Coyne (H)||+1 lap|
|14||Spencer Pigot||Rahal (H)||+1 lap|
|15||Marco Andretti||Andretti (H)||+1 lap|
|16||Graham Rahal||Rahal (H)||+1 lap|
|17||Max Chilton||Ganassi (C)||+1 lap|
|18||Oriol Servia||Penske (C)||+1 lap|
|19||James Hinchcliffe||Schmidt (H)||+1 lap|
|20||Luca Filippi||Coyne (H)||+2 laps|
|21||Sebastien Bourdais||KVSH (C)||+23 laps|
|22||Josef Newgarden||Carpenter (C)||+63 laps|
(C) = Chevrolet, (H) = Honda