Verizon IndyCar Series Race Report
Track: Streets of St. Petersburg
Race: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Date: March 13, 2016
No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Juan Pablo Montoya
Finish: 1st – First win of 2016
Laps Completed: 110/110
Laps Led: 2 times for 44 laps
Points Position: 1st (51 pts.)
Recap: Juan Pablo Montoya earned his second consecutive season-opening victory on the streets of St. Petersburg Sunday as he produced Team Penske’s eighth win in the last 12 Verizon IndyCar Series races in St. Pete. After qualifying fourth in the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet, Montoya took the green flag from the third position after the pole-winning car had to start from the rear of the field due to Team Penske’s Will Power being too ill to race. Montoya moved into second place by Lap 11 and he ran strong behind teammate Simon Pagenaud for most of the next 30 laps. On a Lap 63 race restart, Montoya deftly maneuvered around Conor Daly to claim the race lead and he never looked back. He gave up the point just briefly when he made his final pit stop of the day but he reclaimed the lead on Lap 85 as stops cycled through and he paced the field for the final 25 laps to earn the win. Montoya, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion who finished second in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings in 2015, even overcame a steering issue in the final stages of the race to produce his 15th series victory, tying him with Alex Zanardi for 31st on the all-time wins list. Montoya won by 2.3306 seconds over Pagenaud to give Team Penske its second-consecutive 1-2 result at St. Pete.
Quote: “It was good. Our Verizon Chevy was great and it’s exciting with this new paint scheme and to come out and win with it. I want to thank everybody on the team and all of our supporters because they do an amazing job. No, it’s all good, it’s just awesome. You know, we started the year last year like this and I thought this morning that we had a really good car and it paid off.”
No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Helio Castroneves
Laps Completed: 110/110
Laps Led: 0
Points Position (behind leader): 4th (-19 pts.)
Recap: Helio Castroneves continued his strong production on the St. Petersburg street circuit Sunday as he posted his ninth top-four finish in 11 career races at St. Pete. The three-time former St. Pete race winner started from the second spot in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevy and he held that position behind teammate Simon Pagenaud for the first 10 laps. A mechanical issue caused Castroneves to drop in the running order as he fell back as far as 14th following the first round of pit stops. But the three-time Indy 500 winner began to march back toward the front of the field and he ran inside the top 10 for the final 87 laps of the race. Castroneves moved inside the top five on Lap 46 and he passed Ryan Hunter-Reay to claim third place on Lap 80. He ran third for most of the last 30 laps of the race but Hunter-Reay was able to sneak back by Castroneves with three laps remaining to break up a Team Penske podium sweep. Castroneves finished fourth to earn his fifth-consecutive top-four result at St. Pete.
Quote: “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 (Firestone alternate) 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 and great work! Everybody did a heck of a job. Ready for the next race.”
No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Oriol Servia
Laps Completed: 109/110
Laps Led: 0
Points Position (behind leader): 18th (-38 pts.)
Recap: Pressed into action on Sunday while he filled in for the ill Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Oriol Servia did a solid job in his first start for Team Penske. If it weren’t for a being in the wrong place at the wrong time in a multi-car accident, Servia may have produced a top-10 result despite starting from the rear of the field per the INDYCAR rule book after a driver change. With Power out of action – INDYCAR announced that he was diagnosed Sunday with a mild concussion after he was involved in a hard practice crash on Friday – Servia stepped in. He drove the No. 12 Verizon Chevy for first time in the morning warmup session and then started the race in the 22nd position. He quickly improved to 18th place after the opening lap with a strong start and continued to make solid progress. Servia advanced to the 11th position before he found himself in the middle of multi-car accident during a Lap 56 race restart. After coming to pit lane for extensive repairs, Servia dropped back to the rear of the field once again. The veteran of 198 IndyCar career starts fought back to finish 18th, running one lap down to the race leaders.
Quote: “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.”
No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud
Laps Completed: 110/110
Laps Led: Once for 48 laps
Points Position (behind leader): 2nd (-8 pts.)
Recap: Simon Pagenaud led the most laps (48) in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and he produced his best finish yet for Team Penske with a runner-up result behind race winner and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya. After an impressive second-place qualifying result on Saturday in the No. 22 HP Enterprise Team Penske Chevy, Pagenaud started from the top spot Sunday when the No. 12 car had to start the race from the back of the pack due to a driver change. Pagenaud made the most of the opportunity as he ran strong at the front of the field and led the first 48 laps of the race. A pair of cars on alternate pit strategies moved ahead of Pagenaud following his second pit stop of the day on Lap 48. Pagenaud was still in position to reclaim the race lead before teammate Juan Pablo Montoya was able to get around him on a Lap 56 race restart. Pagenaud eventually settled in behind Montoya and ran second behind his teammate for the final 25 laps as the two Team Penske cars ran away from the pack to claim a 1-2 finish. Sunday’s result also represented the top finish in five career starts at St. Petersburg for Pagenaud.
Quote: “Overall it was a great day. If you compare to last year, it’s been a massive improvement on the whole No. 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. Still, we are very happy with this start to the season and a great day for Team Penske.”