Monday, 30 March 2015

Wings fly as Penske dominate in St. Petersburg

Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya kicked off the new Verizon IndyCar season in style by holding off team mate Will Power to win the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

In a race marred by several incidents involving parts of the new-for-2015 aerokits littering the track as a result of collisions, Power dominated until the final round of pitstops when Montoya jumped ahead of the Australian after pitting a lap earlier.

Montoya showed great pace on the slower prime tyre compound to stay with Power until moving into first. Fuel conservation from the Colombian allowed Power to keep on his tale. The pair survived a late race collision to come home in first and second place, more than 10 seconds ahead of Chip Ganssi Racing's Tony Kanaan.

"I saw him make the move but he was way too far and I wasn’t going to give him the position. If he was beside me I would have said, ‘OK, go ahead,’" said Montoya after the race. "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."

Kanaan spoiled Team Penske's chance of a perfect result by finishing third ahead of Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud - who was taking part in his first race for 'The Captain' since moving from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

The Frenchman suffered with a poor pit stall position and a collision with Charlie Kimball which left him unable to challenge his team mates for the win. Castroneves meanwhile took the lead during a pit stop but a poor restart later on saw him drop back.

After dropping back during an early caution period, four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais battled back to take sixth. Last year's Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay fought back from running wide on the first lap to take seventh place ahead of Jack Hawksworth - who was the only Honda runner to lead a lap.

Luca Filippi in his first race for the newly merged CFH Racing operation came home ninth with Marco Andretti rounding out the top 10.

The win was the 175th IndyCar win for Roger Penske's team. It also capped off an impressive day for the organisation which had six cars in two races all finish in the top five after Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano finished second and third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville.

"It was a fight between our two guys in front. It was just an amazing weekend," Penske said. "To come back this year with the fast times in qualifying and win this race 1-2, and four drivers in the top six, wow, what a day."

The Verizon IndyCar series continues in two weeks time with the series' first race at NOLA Motorsports Park in Louisiana, a venue has played host to a number of test sessions so far this year.

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