Juan Pablo Montoya won the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the second year in a row

JGS_3018-1Juan Pablo Montoya takes the twin checkers to win the 2016 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

Starting from 3rd place Car 2 Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, won the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. 2nd Place Car 22 Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, started from pole. 3rd Place Car 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, started from 5th place.

04CJ7324AThe podium of Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, and Ryan Hunter-Reay in Victory Circle following the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones

4th Place Car 3 Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, started from 2nd place followed by 5th place Car 7 Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, started from 17th place. 6th Place Car 14 Takuma Sato, Honda, started from 10th place followed by 7th place Car 9 Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, started from 4th place. 8th Place Car 26 Carlos Munoz, Honda, started from 12th place followed by 9th place Car 10 Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet,
started from 19th place. Lastly in the Top 10 Car 83 Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, lastly in 10th place, started from 13th place.

JGS_0950-1Simon Pagenaud leads the field into Turn 2 during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

The race 2 full-course Cautions for 16 laps: 1st Caution on lap 46 to 55 for Contact: Car 19 Luca Filippi, Honda & Car 27 Marco Andretti, Honda in Turn 1. 2nd Caution on lap 57 to 62 for Contact: Multiple Cars in Turn 4.

JGS_1252-1Juan Pablo Montoya and James Hinchcliffe navigate Turn 1 during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

The race had 4 Lead Changes among 4 drivers. Lap Leaders: Pagenaud 1 – 48, Daly 49 – 63, Montoya 64 – 81, Hunter-Reay 82-84, Montoya 85 – 110.

04CJ7003Oriol Servia and Helio Castroneves come in for service on pit lane during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones

Will Power did not improve from illness, so he was replaced by Oriol Servia. As it turned it was found that Will Power suffered a concussion from his crash earlier.

04CJ6879James Hinchcliffe comes in for service on pit lane during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones

Canadian Car 5 James Hinchcliffe, Honda had a bad day as he had to pit on lap 1 to change a tire & then was caught up in the big crash on lap 57. Good to see him back racing after the big crash last year.

04CJ6772AJuan Pablo Montoya streaks down the frontstretch during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones

Team Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya controlled the closing laps of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to win the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener for the second straight year.

Montoya’s 15th career Indy car win ties him with Alex Zanardi for 31st on the career chart. It is also the 179th victory for Team Penske in Indy car racing, the most of any team in history, and eighth for Roger Penske’s outfit in the 13-race St. Petersburg history.

“It was good,” said Montoya, who lost the 2015 series championship on a race wins tiebreaker to Scott Dixon. “The Chevy was good all day. It was exciting to have a new paint scheme (on his car) and come out and win with it. It’s just awesome. We started the year last year like this. I felt this morning we had a really good car and it paid off.”

04CJ7380The Montoya family celebrates in Victory Circle following his win in the 2016 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones

Pagenaud, in the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet, started from the pole position and led 48 laps of the 110-lap race. The Frenchman’s second-place finish was his best in four starts on the St. Petersburg street course, but he lamented Montoya passing him on Lap 64 as the turning point.

“Overall it was a great day,” Pagenaud said. “If you compare to last year, it’s been a massive improvement on the whole 22 crew. I’m super proud to represent HPE in our first race and be here on the podium in second place, leading the race for a while. “But, yeah, Montoya is an old dog. He found a little good trick on me. I made one tiny little mistake and it lost me the race.”

The only thing missing from Team Penske’s race domination was Will Power, who took ill after claiming the Verizon P1 Award for winning the pole position March 12. Upon re-examination by the INDYCAR medical team this morning, Power was diagnosed with a mild concussion. INDYCAR released the following statement:

“Following his on-track incident on Friday, Will Power displayed no signs of injury and was evaluated and cleared by the INDYCAR medical team. Per INDYCAR protocol, we also evaluated the data collected from his ear accelerometers, which provides data specific to the impact on a driver’s head, and nothing gathered from that data indicated further evaluation was required.

“After learning of Will’s symptoms following qualifications Saturday, he was required to submit to another evaluation by INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows, at which point he was diagnosed with a mild concussion. Power has been entered into INDYCAR’s concussion protocol and will need to be re-evaluated prior to being cleared to drive.”

Power was replaced in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet by Oriol Servia, who started last in the 22-car field by rule. Servia was involved in a mid-race multi-car pileup and finished 18th.

Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Conor Daly led a career-best 15 laps midway through the event while on an alternate pit strategy. Daly, driving the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, finished 13th.

The race saw just two full-course yellow conditions, tying a St. Pete record for fewest in a race. One yellow was due to a multi-car logjam triggered when the cars of Castroneves and Dixon touched but kept going. Behind them, the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda of Carlos Munoz ran into the rear of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Steak ‘n Shake Honda of Graham Rahal on Lap 57. Nearly 10 cars blocked the track until the Holmatro Safety Team could clear a path for them to rejoin the action.

04CJ5525The 2016 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones

The next race on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is the Phoenix Grand Prix on April 1-2. It marks the series’ return to Phoenix International Raceway following an 11-year absence with the April 2 race under the lights (NBCSN, 8:30 p.m. ET).

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Race Day Quotes

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was good. The Chevy was good all day. It was exciting to have a new paint scheme (on his car) and come out and win with it. It’s just awesome. We started the year last year like this. I felt this morning we had a really good car and it paid off.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a great day for Team Penske. With three laps to go it was very difficult because I was on black tires and everybody else was on reds. I was hanging on with my life. The Hitachi Chevy was very good but a little bit difficult in some of the corners with some understeer. Great Strategy; great work! Everybody did a heck of a
job. Ready for the next race.”

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was not very easy because of the lack of testing, but the SMP Racing car was very easy to drive. I had so much fan, especially when I almost crashed into the group of guys. I don’t know how I manage to find reverse, which is not easy, I’ll tell you. A few seconds later and the engine would have overheated.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It looked like a very promising day from the start for the Gallagher team as we were doing the same lap times as the majority of the cars around us. We were working our way forward and up to around P10 when we had an overheating problem. We had to make a long stop to clean out the radiator and get the temps back down, and then
another final stop to address the same issue.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “Unfortunately we had a radiator that was clogged and overheating and there was nothing we could do. We had to pit off sequence so the Target team could get it cleaned up. That stop took a while and put us to the back. We were fortunate that the one big incident took half the field out and let us gain some positions back. But if we didn’t have that problem early on, we were definitely looking at a podium finish.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “Not the day we wanted to have for the NTTA Data team. We fought and fought and sometimes you just have to make the best of the situation. Given the way the race played out for us, I was happy to get the car home and salvage the race with a 10th-place finish.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut Chevrolet): “Obviously, not the way we wanted to start the season. I am disappointed for our sponsors and want to thank all of them: Hydroxycut, Europa, Mouser, Molex, Plantronics, GEICO, American Racing Wheels, everyone, for their support. The good news is that we had pace and qualified eighth. Unfortunately, we got involved in that melee that
destroyed any chance we had of a solid finish. This is only the first race and we are going to have to work very hard to ensure we have a good season. Hopefully, with a couple of weeks to prepare for the next few races, that time together will help.”

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was not quite the finish we were hoping for, but it was still good to get a chance to race the No. 12 Verizon Chevy for Team Penske. I really enjoyed working with the team and the car was definitely fast. I thought we made some really good progress after starting from the back, but then we got caught up in the accident with several other cars and it was tough to come back from that. I want to thank Team Penske and Verizon for the opportunity and I hope my friend Will (Power) feels better soon and can get back to the team.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “I have good memories from St. Pete. We had a difficult time in qualifying, but the boys and the engineers did a fantastic job to bring the car back and we had a very strong race pace. The ABC Supply team did a great job in the pits and I’m happy we were able to come back twice.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “It was an interesting day overall. We struggled a little bit at the start but we started to get the Steak ‘n Shake car a little bit better mid-race, but when Munoz punted us there was nothing we could do. The race was over for us so we just tried to make the most of it and we did all right and passed four or so cars at the end, but it’s frustrating because we deserved better results. The whole team put a lot of work in and it’s a shame to have it go the way it did. If I look at our day as a whole, I think we had one of the fastest race cars, but when you get caught up in someone else’s mistake, there is just not much you can do.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 16 RLL/Andersen Interior Contracting Honda): “It was an eventful race. I had a little bit of everything. There were some good passes, we had a good pace, which is exciting. We’ve been working on the car and some things that I needed to work on over the weekend and I think they all came together in the race and I’m proud of that. There were a couple of rookie mistakes as well that hurt us and also getting caught up in a few other incidents. I’m happy to get the first one out of the way and happy with our pace. I definitely learned a lot and can’t wait to get another shot. … (On the first pit stop) “Something happened with the fuel hose but the guys had awesome stops all day after that. They were perfect and I think we definitely picked up some spots when we came in with everyone. I had a great first weekend with the team. … (On the mid-race contact:) “I was looking inside of Filippi and I wasn’t really going to pass him because I wasn’t quite far enough alongside him, but then Kanaan came flying down the inside and clobbered me and clobbered Filippi. Unfortunately that broke our front wing again, which kind of screwed us up for the second half of the race.”

CONOR DALY (No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda): “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 Hinch was a couple of laps down so I didn’t know he was going to go heavy to the inside. But then Munoz tried to go on the outside of both of us and we’re both already trying to do something, there was no room there. 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 had no idea if the suspension was broken or if anything was broken. 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. Other than that, it was fun. It was nice to be out there. We had a bit of luck to get out to P1 but, man, I thought we really nailed it on that set of Firestone reds when we got there. The Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality car was really good on the reds and I was able to kind of just establish a pace, but I got caught in traffic a little bit. I need to work on where I apply the overtake and our traction. We’re not good on traction and a lot of people were getting us and it made it hard for overtaking. I mean, there’s a lot to learn, but overall it was nice to fight up front with the Penskes. That’s the key thing is that we were fighting up front and they weren’t pulling away. We were right there and we were saving fuel. It’s a good place to start. We have to start somewhere. We had all kinds of ups and downs but these are INDYCAR races; it’s normal for that. I’m happy with it but you always want more. When we’re running up front, that’s the real feeling that we like. We just want to get back there.”

LUCA FILIPPI (No. 19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Honda): “We had the potential to finish in the top five like Hunter-Reay because I was running in front of him after he made a move in reaction to me and I had a damaged wing. Even with the damaged wing, we still did well but I wasn’t happy with his defensive reaction. Still, we were running well. We changed the wing and we got back in to the top 10 again, even if we were hit from behind. Then on the restart I just felt a big hit and I had a puncture. At that time, it didn’t go yellow and that was it for us since we had to pit under green. It’s very unfortunate because I felt there was some poor driving this weekend. It’s the first race so maybe everybody got a little too excited, but I felt that I wasn’t lucky with the moves the guys around me made. I think we deserved much more. It could have been an easy top 10, possibly a top five, so it’s a shame. I knew we had a fast car on the long runs, I knew we had a consistent car so I was very positive for the race, I wasn’t worried at all. I knew that if we had the opportunity to run for a few laps by ourselves we had a chance to get up front and we did it. We now have a good place to start for the street courses. I think it’s looking good and I feel that the Dale Coyne Racing team will do well this year.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “We didn’t have the start we wanted. We were playing the catch-up game right from the beginning, but I felt confident in what we could do to catch up and make a good day out of it. Instead, we ran into an electrical glitch and it ended up putting us out for the day. It’s a shame, we brought a first-class effort with the Fuzzy’s crew, but it just wasn’t our day. You’re going to have bumps in the road and this was one of those bumps. We just have to try to minimize
how many of these we have a year. Now we have bounce back and focus on Phoenix.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet): “Overall it was a great day. If you compare to last year, it’s been a massive improvement on the whole 22 crew. I’m super proud to represent HPE in our first race and be here on the podium in second place, leading the race for a while. But, yeah, Montoya is an old dog. He found a little good trick on me. I made one tiny little mistake and it lost me the race.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “We were looking good, but then the yellow flag came out and didn’t help us any. I ended up making a mistake trying to overtake (Charlie) Kimball, so we ended up crashing because of my move. Its racing and I apologize to all of those who were involved in that incident. We ended up getting back into the race and we finished strong in the eighth position, not the result we were looking for, but we have to take all the possible points we can get this early on.”=

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “The Snapple Honda was strong and we were really making progress early on, but it was my mistake. I wanted the win too bad and was impatient. I hurt what was a good car. Disappointed, for sure, but we’ll look ahead to Phoenix.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It was a good accomplishment today – very good car and the guys did a great job. We did everything we could today from fifth. We got a little held up behind Filippi for a bit in the middle of the race and that kind of gapped it, but good day all-in-all. I’ll take starting the year out with a podium for sure.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “We struggled for pace throughout the race but we were in the ballpark on strategy. On that one restart I lost some positions with the congestion in Turn 1, and then it stacked up in front of me in Turn 4 and I had nowhere to go. We had to replace the rear wing. but I’m glad we were able to finish 11th.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet): “It was quite an exciting day for the first race of the season. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing car was really quick when we got in clean air. Unfortunately we had a few mechanical gremlins that crept in during the last third of the race. I’m happy we were able to come away with a top-10 finish. The team today was great and really had clean pit stops so thanks again to them. A lot of credit to all the guys. We’ll figure it all out and come back stronger.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): “That was probably one of the more challenging days I’ve had in a race car in quite some time. We just didn’t have the car underneath us today for whatever reason it was quite tricky out there. I think we made the most of what we could, we stayed out of trouble and obviously the finishing position doesn’t look that bad, but considering we were a lap down, it’s a bit of an issue. We need to really look at things in the next couple weeks. It’s another set of circumstances coming up in Phoenix, but we really need to understand this with Long Beach going forward.”

Graham Rahal is introduced to the crowd during pre-race festivities for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones

Rosenqvist gets redemption with Indy Lights win

Felix Rosenqvist erased the disappointment of the prior day’s race with a wire-to-wire win in today’s second half of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader to open the 2016 season. Rosenqvist led both practices March 11, but his hopes for a win in the first race were dashed when the car was stuck in rain mode, allowing the car to only run at 70 percent power and relegating him to a seventh-place finish.

Rosenqvist’s second race was only briefly hindered on Lap 27 as he navigated lapped traffic. It allowed Kyle Kaiser to briefly close to within a second of the No. 14 Belardi Auto Racing Dallara IL-15. Rosenqvist cleared the traffic a few laps later and rebuilt his lead to a healthy 4.36 seconds by the checkered flag.

“Being new in the series, you can’t really expect too much, but when we came here this weekend, it was the first time that we could really see where we were at pace-wise and we were just right out there from the beginning,” Rosenqvist said.

“Yesterday was just a big disappointment due to a screw-up on our side, but you just learn everything in time, make sure we didn’t make any mistakes today and everything just felt perfect.”

In the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race that closed weekend race activities, Team Pelfrey completed a podium sweep with Aaron Telitz winning by 2.7788 seconds over Pato O’Ward and Weiron Tan finishing third. O’Ward won the first Pro Mazda race of the weekend on March 12.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Race Results

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Results Sunday of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.8-mile St. Petersburg street circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, Car #, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (3) Car 2 Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 110, Running
2. (1) Car 22 Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 110, Running
3. (5) Car 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 110, Running
4. (2) Car 3 Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 110, Running
5. (17) Car 7 Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 110, Running
6. (10) Car 14 Takuma Sato, Honda, 110, Running
7. (4) Car 9 Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 110, Running
8. (12) Car 26 Carlos Munoz, Honda, 110, Running
9. (19) Car 10 Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 110, Running
10. (13) Car 83 Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 109, Contact
11. (9) Car 41 Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 109, Running
12. (18) Car 98 Alexander Rossi, Honda, 109, Running
13. (20) Car 18 Conor Daly, Honda, 109, Running
14. (21) Car 16 Spencer Pigot, Honda, 109, Running
15. (14) Car 27 Marco Andretti, Honda, 109, Running
16. (6) Car 15 Graham Rahal, Honda, 109, Running
17. (16) Car 8 Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 109, Running
18. (22) Car 12 Oriol Servia, Chevrolet, 109, Running
19. (8) Car 5 James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 109, Running
20. (15) Car 19 Luca Filippi, Honda, 108, Running
21. (7) Car 11 Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 87, Contact
22. (11) Car 21 Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 47, Electrical

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 89.006 mph
Time of Race: 02:13:28.4650
Margin of victory: 2.3306 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 16 laps
Time of Race: 02:13:28.4650.
Avg Speed: 89.006 mph.
Margin of Victory: 2.3306 seconds.
Lead Changes: 4 Caution Laps: 16
Lead changes: 4 among 4 drivers

Verizon IndyCar Series Point Standings: Montoya 51, Pagenaud 43, Hunter-Reay 36, Castroneves 32, Aleshin 30, Sato 28, Dixon 26, Munoz 24, Kanaan 22, Kimball 20.



Graphics & Photos Courtesy of Indycar

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