There wouldn’t have been a dry eye in pitlane when Hélio Castroneves, on his slow-down lap after taking the victory, stopped on the outside of Turn 10 – the newly named Dan Wheldon Way – and combined his signature fence climb with a gentle tap on the signpost bearing the late champion’s name. It was the mark of love and respect only an Indy 500 champion could pass to another.
Amongst all the sorrow, still raw among many – such was the impact Dan Wheldon had on so many – tributes flowed through the weekend, but when it was time for racing, Hélio Castroneves took advantage of a car increasingly improving as the race wore on to make a late overtake on the outside of Scott Dixon through Turn 1 to take the lead and storm to victory.
Polesitter Will Power led away from the green flag, waved to start the race by Holly Wheldon – Dan’s sister – and after the entire field made it through Turn 1 unscathed, set about opening up a healthy lead for the first few laps before Katherine Legge stopped on the front straight. Perhaps anticipating a full-course caution, Power dove straight into the pits for tyres and fuel in the hope the field would follow.
While some did, many didn’t, which moved the defending race-winner well down the order, where he stayed for much of the race before taking advantage of late pit stops to climb back to finish seventh.
Reigning champion Dario Franchitti was also largely a non-factor for much of the race, suffering from a tyre strategy which didn’t work for him in relation to the timing of the caution periods. Starting ninth, Franchitti eventually finished last of those on the lead-lap, in thirteenth.
Dale Coyne driver James Jakes was the first to crash for the year, mistiming his braking approaching Turn 10 and carrying too much speed through the corner, burying himself in the tyres on Lap 20. Other retirees from the race were Tony Kanaan and Simona De Silvestro, who both suffered battery problems with their Chevrolet and Lotus cars respectively. Primarily due to a lack of testing, many teams are still getting to grips with their new machinery, and the number of retirements for fairly elementary reasons was a telling factor in the overall results.
High-profile new-boy Rubens Barrichello kept his nose clean through the whole race but didn’t trouble the leaders, as many expected he wouldn’t as he is still figuring out the nuances of IndyCars after a long Formula 1 career. Barrichello eventually finished two laps down in seventeenth.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Briscoe were all factors through the day, but in the end were simply outmuscled by Castroneves, who seemed to get quicker as the race wore on. The race-winner did not have an entirely clean race however, tipping Ed Carpenter into a spin halfway through following an overzealous overtaking effort while Carpenter was heading for the pits.
So it was Hélio Castroneves, Team Penske and Chevrolet getting their seasons off to the best possible start as the teams pack up and head for Birmingham, Alabama and the Barber Motorsports Park for Round 2 next weekend.
2012 Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg – Final Classification (99 laps):
Latest posts by Richard Bailey (see all)
- 2020 F1 Season Review (Blu Ray) - 27 February, 2021
- WTCR: Guerrieri outwits Muller at the Nordschleife - 26 September, 2020
- WTCR: Girolami breaks Nordschleife lap record to claim pole - 25 September, 2020
- WTCR: Hyundai withdraws from Germany round - 24 September, 2020
- WTCR: Ehrlacher leads Lynk & Co podium sweep at Zolder - 13 September, 2020