Verizon IndyCar Series Race Report

Track: Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Race: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Date: March 29, 2015

No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power
Start: 1
Finish: 2
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 110/110
Laps Led: 75
Points Position (behind leader): 2nd (-7 points)

Recap: Will Power, who established a new single-lap track record on the way to winning his fifth Verizon P1 Pole Award at St. Petersburg on Saturday afternoon, led a race-high 75 laps in the No. 1 Verizon Chevrolet during Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. After relinquishing the race lead on pit road he closed to within 0.6147 seconds of teammate Juan Pablo Montoya on Lap 100 but he was unable to catch him. In attempting to overtake Montoya’s No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet on worn tires in the left-hand Turn 10 on Lap 101, the cars made slight contact and Power’s Chevrolet suffered wing damage and fell 1.5474 seconds back. The 2014 series champion was unable to mount a final charge and finished the race in the second position for his fourth top-two finish in eight career starts at St. Pete.

Quote: “If I hadn’t damaged my wing, maybe I would have had another shot to win. It is hard to close with these cars, it really is. But it is a great day for the Verizon Chevrolet, it really is going to be a battle between teammates for the championship.” (On the attempted pass of Montoya) “It was my only chance. 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, yeah, I gave it a shot. It was tight, no doubt. I was surprised at how aggressively he turned, but he wanted to win the race and so did I.”

No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Juan Pablo Montoya
Start: 4
Finish: 1
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 110/110
Laps Led: 27
Points Position: 1st (54 points)

Recap: Juan Pablo Montoya led the final 27 laps of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, surviving late-race contact with teammate Will Power with 11 laps remaining to win. After beginning the 110-lap event from the fourth position, Montoya was a fixture in the top five all afternoon. It was Montoya’s first IndyCar victory on a road or street course since he won the CART Series race in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1999 before he went on to compete in Formula 1 and NASAR. Montoya moved past Power on Lap 82 when Power, who had led much of the race, came out of the pits behind Montoya. The two raced closely until the end of the race, but on Lap 101 of the 110-lap race, they made contact in Turn 10 when Power tried to pass Montoya on the inside. Power’s right front wing struck Montoya’s left rear bumper, but Montoya was able to pull away. It was the 13th victory of Montoya’s IndyCar career. It also was Team Penske’s seventh 1-2 finish in IndyCar racing, the last coming in August 2014 when Power led Montoya to the finish line at the Milwaukee Mile. In addition it was Team Penske’s landmark 175th IndyCar victory.

Quote: “It was a good day. I was pretty good on black tires, I think that was the key. The tires were not falling off and right there at the end I was just running slow to look after them. When I needed to push, I could push. Everybody with Verizon and Team Penske did an amazing job, Chevy as well. This aero kit is amazing to drive.” (On Power’s late pass attempt for the lead) “I saw him make the move, but he was way too far back and I wasn’t going to give him the 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 is a shame we touched, but it’s all good. It’s racing.”

No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Helio Castroneves
Start: 3
Finish: 4
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 110/110
Laps Led: 1
Points Position (behind leader): 4th (-18)

Recap: Helio Castroneves posted the 119th top-five finish of his career on Sunday afternoon by finishing fourth in the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. After starting the race from the third position, Castroneves quickly moved into second place on the first lap of the race. On Lap 20, teammate Will Power led Castroneves by 3.5957 seconds. However, after pitting on Lap 22, Castroneves remained second behind Power as pit stops cycled through. On Lap 40, Castroneves trailed Power by 1.1401 seconds. In the second round of pit stops, Castroneves came out ahead of Power but trailed both Jack Hawksworth and Sage Karam, who were on different pit strategies. On a Lap 53 restart following a caution, Castroneves got pushed to the outside in Turn 1 and fell back to sixth place. Castroneves continued to work his way back to the front and by Lap 82, he took the lead briefly when Montoya pitted. After his final pit stop on Lap 83, Castroneves continued to run inside the top five and took the checkered flag in fourth place.

Quote: “Really proud of the Hitachi Chevy guys today. They did a great job and we battled hard throughout the race. The car was fast. We didn’t end up where we would have liked to be but overall we had a good day. Really happy for Juan and congratulations to him on the win and to Will on his podium finish. Great way to start the season for Roger (Penske) with a 1-2 finish.”

No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud
Start: 2
Finish: 5
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 110/110
Laps Led: 2
Points Position (behind leader): 5th (-20)
Recap: Simon Pagenaud qualified the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet in the second position for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, his first race with Team Penske. After dropping to third place on the first lap, Pagenaud worked his way into a nice rhythm around the picturesque street circuit. Like his Team Penske brethren, Pagenaud maintained his position at the front of the field prior to making a pit stop on Lap 48 where he was blocked in his pit stall by other competitors entering pit road. As a result, he restarted the race from the eighth position at Lap 53. However, he worked his way back inside the top-five cars before the checkered flag to help Team Penske dominate the race and win for the 175th time in IndyCar racing — 97 on ovals and 78 on road/street courses. Pagenaud led briefly early in the race, for his first two laps led with Team Penske.

Quote: “The Penske Truck Rental boys did a great job today. I am happy and you have to take it step by step. You just can’t walk onto a team and push your teammates out of the way. I didn’t want create a mess at the start of the race, which I thought was a smart move but it was too cautious, which cost me a position during the race. P5 is a good start to the season and I’m excited about the next race already coming up in NOLA.”