Juan Pablo Montoya has claimed his thirteenth career IndyCar Series victory – and his first non-oval win since Vancouver in his 1999 championship-winning CART season – after holding off Team Penske teammate and defending series champion Will Power at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Power dominated proceedings for much of the race, before conceding the lead to Montoya during the final round of pit stops between Laps 81 and 82 of the 110-lap race.
The Colombian tried to capitalise by opening a gap, but needed to conserve tyres and fuel, forcing him to back off. That allowed Power to close down the gap from 3.3 seconds to 0.614 seconds by lap 100 and he sized up an overtake on the #2 Team Penske entry.
The battle between the two was intense but short; Power – who broke the track record and won the Verizon P1 award the day before – made an opportunistic move entering the tight left-hand Turn 10 on lap 101. The cars made contact as Montoya shut the door (damaging Power’s front wing in the process) and then Montoya finished the job by carving his way past lapped traffic in the final run to the chequered flag.
“It was a good day,” Montoya said. “Everybody did an amazing job, I saw Power trying a move but he was way too far back and no way was I going to give him that position, If he was beside me I would have said, ‘OK, go ahead.’ When I got to the turning point he wasn’t even close.
“It’s a shame we touched, but it’s all good. Its racing,” summed up the Colombian.
Power admitted that it was an opportunistic move.
“If I hadn’t damaged my front wing maybe I would have had another shot,” the reigning series champion said. “He was very strong on the front straight and my exits weren’t very good. That was really my only chance. I thought maybe I would catch him off-guard there. You don’t expect someone to pass there so I gave it a shot.”
Target Chip Ganassi’s Tony Kanaan rounded out the podium after passing Hélio Castroneves during his second pit stop, disrupting what could have been a Penske 1-2-3-4.
Castroneves held on to fourth despite losing time on the restart, meanwhile Simon Pagenaud overcame minor damage from contact to finish his first race with the Penske outfit in fifth.
Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay recovered from an early mistake that saw him fall to seventeenth to finish seventh behind KV Racing’s Sébastien Bourdais, making him the highest placed Honda-powered driver.
Behind the leaders, the race was a very scrappy affair and was interrupted several times for cautions to remove debris from the new aero kits shedding winglets during contact.
Several cars needed to pit for new nosecones during the race, but few drivers were more in the wars than ex-Sauber associate driver Simona de Silvestro.
Her IndyCar comeback was thwarted by two collisions; the first being an incident involving Andretti team-mates Marco Andretti and Carlos Muñoz, the second being a misjudged overtaking manoeuvre which ended with her spearing into James Jakes.
It earned her a drive-through for avoidable contact; a punishment that was also handed to Graham Rahal after he hit the crippled #83 Chip Ganassi Racing entry of Charlie Kimball.
Among all the messiness, AJ Foyt’s Jack Hawksworth capitalised on an aggressive pit strategy to climb impressively from last to eighth, putting him ahead of former GP2 Series driver Luca Filippi, who spent most of his maiden outing for Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing nursing a broken front wing.
|2015 IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg (110 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske||110||02:16:58.108|
|2.||Will Power||Team Penske||110||+ 0.993|
|3.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing||110||+ 11.169|
|4.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||110||+ 11.438|
|5.||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||110||+ 12.391|
|6.||Sébastien Bourdais||KVSH Racing||110||+ 16.492|
|7.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||110||+ 27.710|
|8.||Jack Hawksworth||A.J. Foyt Racong||110||+ 34.921|
|9.||Luca Filippi||CFH Racing||110||+ 38.156|
|10.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||110||+ 38.691|
|11.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||110||+ 40.390|
|12.||Josef Newgarden||CFH Racing||110||+ 51.771|
|13.||Takuma Sato||A.J. Foyt Racing||110||+ 52.268|
|14.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport||110||+ 56.721|
|15.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||110||+ 59.661|
|16.||James Hinchcliffe||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||110||+ 1:02.458|
|17.||Gabby Chaves||Bryan Herta Autosport||110||+ 1:03.067|
|18.||Simona de Silvestro||Andretti Autosport||110||+ 1:03.142|
|19.||Sage Karam||Chip Ganassi Racing||109||– 1 lap|
|20.||Stefano Coletti||KV Racing Technology||109||– 1 lap|
|21.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||109||– 1 lap|
|22.||James Jakes||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||100||– 10 laps|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Franceso Dracone||Dale Coyne Racing||70||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Carlos Huertas||Dale Coyne Racing||19||Mechanical|
Round two of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series heads to NOLA Motorsports Park for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana from April 10-12.
Image via Motorsport.com
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