Helio Castroneves has ended a 16-month winless drought with victory in the Izod IndyCar Series’ season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion became a three-time winner on the temporary street circuit – his first win since Twin Ring Motegi in September 2010.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon finished second, coming home 5.5292 seconds behind Castroneves.
Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third ahead of his Andretti Autosport team-mate James Hinchcliffe.
For the Australians, Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske) finished fifth while pole-sitter Will Power was down in seventh place. Power was shuffled down the order after the opening pit-stop and failed to make up ground from there.
The 99-lap race was dictated by fuel economy, race strategy and reliability. With brand-new chassis and engines featuring in a new era of IndyCar racing, unreliability was expected, and seven cars failed to make the finish.
Castroneves and Dixon’s crews played the game the best. Dixon made his way to the front by quarter distance, followed closely by Castroneves. As cars pitted around them, positions changed regularly, but the leading pair remained close.
Castroneves made his race-winning move at Turn 1 of the 73rd lap, passing Dixon around the outside.
The Team Penske driver celebrated the win with his signature move, climbing the catching fencing. In honour of his late friend Dan Wheldon, Catroneves climbed the fence at Turn 10 – the corner named after Wheldon.
According to Castroneves, it wasn’t by choice that he stopped at the Dan Wheldon sign, though. He says his car stopped at Turn 10 on his cool down lap.
“You can never question God’s mysteries, and today, for me, I ended up stopping at Turn 10,” said an emotional Castroneves.
“Honestly, I did not plan it. It was just the way it happened, and there was the sign ‘Dan Wheldon Way.’ For me, and for all of us – the drivers and the fans – not having him here certainly we’ll miss.
“But we’ve got to remember him as he lived, the way he lived, and continue to pray for his family.”
The next round of the Izod IndyCar Series will be held this weekend at Barber Motorsport Park.
Results, St Petersburg
|15.||Alex Tagliani||Dallara Lotus||99||Running|
|16.||Oriol Servia||Dallara Lotus||99||Running|
|21.||Sebastien Bourdais||Dallara Lotus||73||Mechanical|
|23.||Katherine Legge||Dallara Lotus||59||Mechanical|
|24.||Simona de Silvestro||Dallara Lotus||22||Mechanical|
Check out the race highlights