After finding himself outside of the championship picture last year, Will Power is making a statement early that he plans on being part of the discussion. Power kicked off the Verizon IndyCar Series season in style, scoring the victory in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. This marks Power’s second St. Petersburg win as he won the event in 2010.
“I worked so hard in the off-season and came into this year wanting to win a championship,” Power said in victory lane. “It was disappointing last year to come so close with Helio. With the field so tight, I was glad to have a good racecar.”
Power started up front and ran inside the top three, taking the lead from pole sitter and early race leader Takuma Sato on lap 31 with an impressive move on the outside in turn one. Power would lose the lead through the pit cycle, but quickly gained it back and led the rest of the way without being challenged.
There was one questionable restart during the race with Power as the leader with just under 30 to go as Power didn’t appear to go and resulted in a check-up through the field, with both Marco Andretti and rookie Jack Hawksworth wrecking.
“I lifted a little but I didn’t touch the brake at all,” Power commented. “They can check my data. I did not brake-check or touch the brakes at all.”
“Up front, everything was fine,” Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was third at the time, commented post-race. “I got a good run on Helio and got by him so it was fine by me. I guess there was an accordion behind me. There’s always accordions with restarts so we just need to control it better.”
Andretti and Hawksworth both suffered a poor finish as a result due to not being able to continue.
“Yeah it’s hard to see because I was pretty far back, but Will just stopped,” Andretti commented. “Once you go, you gotta go. It was a bit of an accordion effect, and I just got caught up. That’s what happens when you’re in the back, so I’ve really got no one to blame but myself.”
“I don’t know what the leader was doing,” Hawksworth said. “Everybody went and then they all stopped and somebody hit me.”
Power’s race strategist Tim Cindric commented during the race that they waved the green before the leader got to the acceleration cone and that’s why everybody went before his driver. Andretti suggested that’s a good reason why they shouldn’t use the cone.
“I’m not complaining, but the leader should dictate it,” Andretti added. “He probably questioned himself because he might have gotten penalized or something, but you should penalize the leader, he can go when he wants.”
Hunter-Reay finished second after he was able to pass Castroneves on a late race restart.
“Will was doing a great job at the end,” Hunter-Reay said. “We were matching each other through there. I had a good fight with Helio and got by him. I didn’t have enough speed to catch him but we could match his pace. It’s a good start to the season and to the championship.”
Castroneves rounded out the podium for his third straight St. Petersburg podium finish.
“Unfortunately, one of the restarts was a poker game with Will. But you know its ok, its good,” Castroneves commented. “He was fast in the end and it was very difficult to push it. Plus with the tires that we had to scuffed at the end, it turned out to be a great race. I have to thank Roger for a great, great start and the Hitachi boys for great pit stops.”
2013 IZOD IndyCar Champion Scott Dixon finished fourth, followed by Simon Pagenaud. It marks Pagenaud’s first top five finish in three starts at St. Petersburg. Tony Kanaan finished sixth, followed by Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson, Josef Newgarden and Ryan Briscoe.
Juan Pablo Montoya would end up finishing 15th in his first open-wheel start since 2007 after battling with the set-up throughout the day. Last year’s race winner James Hinchcliffe finished 19th after battling mechanical issues all-day.
“At the end there, the United Fiber & Data car got even better,” Hinchcliffe commented. “We were going to be so strong at the end of this race if we had been in contention. You could see at the end there we were keeping pace with some of the guys; it’s unfortunate to see it like that. More yellows might have helped keep us on the lead lap, maybe. We could have taken advantage if some more guys have problems with their tires in the end.
“At the end of the day, that is the way it goes. I think getting to still run and know what the chassis was going to do and learn a little bit about the tires again helps. We have another street race in two weeks, so all of this stuff still applies in Long Beach, and that is what we have to look at as a positive to come from this.”
The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 13 on the Streets of Long Beach. The race will be televised live by NBCSN at 4 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, including Sirius and XM Channels 209 and the INDYCAR 14 app for most smartphones and tablets.
1. (4) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
2. (3) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
3. (10) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
4. (5) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
5. (14) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
6. (2) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
7. (1) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
8. (16) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
9. (22) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
10. (9) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
11. (11) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
12. (15) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
13. (13) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
14. (21) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
15. (18) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
16. (12) Mike Conway, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
17. (7) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
18. (17) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
19. (19) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 109, Running
20. (20) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 108, Running
21. (8) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 83, Contact
22. (6) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 82, Contact
Winners average speed: 93.572
Time of Race: 02:06:57.6288
Margin of victory: 1.9475
Cautions: 2 for 10 laps
Lead changes: 7 among four drivers
Sato 1 – 26
Castroneves 27 – 28
Sato 29 – 30
Power 31 – 52
Sato 53 – 57
Power 58 – 76
Power 78 – 110
Verizon IndyCar Series Point Standings: Power 53, Hunter-Reay 40, Castroneves 36, Dixon 32, Pagenaud 30, Kanaan 28, Sato 28, Wilson 24, Newgarden 22, Briscoe 20.