It had been 190 days since the IZOD IndyCar Series went dark for the long, cold winter when the engines fired once again for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to open the 2013 campaign for the series title. Will Power started from the Pole Position after winning the inaugural Verizon Pole Award on Saturday. Power set sail early leaving the field looking small in his mirrors. Things changed on lap 19 when Dario Franchitti, exiting the pits, found his way to the wall on cold black primary tires. Tires would become a central story as the race unfolded.
The ensuing restart saw Power’s Team Penske teammate grab the lead on a brilliant outside pass, a move that Power questioned Race Control about in a post-race interview. Nonetheless, Castroneves’ pass was legal and Helio set sail in clean air looking much like his teammate did in the first stint leading the most laps through the middle portions of the race. Then things got crazy.
Sebastien Saavedra brought out the caution flag when his No. 6 Dragon Racing entry found its way into the tire barrier at the exit of turn 10 bringing out the full course caution flag. The leaders ducked into pit lane for fuel and tires for the final stint of the race. The exchange of pit stops saw JR Hildebrand pass Simona de Silvestro under the caution flag putting the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car behind the Verizon machine of Will Power. Coming to the restart, Hildebrand, apparently distracted, drove over the right rear tire of the car directly in front of him which, unfortunately, all but ended the day for the race’s polesitter. Power’s car was repaired and he rejoined the fight, but he would find the tire barrier in the wining stages of the race saddling him with a disappointing 16th place result to begin his campaign.
Helio Castroneves made his only mistake of the day on the following restart when he was a fraction of a second late getting on the brakes getting into turn 1 locking the right front tire and opening the door for James Hinchcliffe to claim the lead. While Castroneves attempted to chase Hinchcliffe down, the battle behind them was the thing to watch in the closing stages of the race.
Simona de Silvestro began her final stint on a used set of the red alternate tires which, according to teams, began losing their grip after as few as four laps at speed. Chasing her first career podium, de Silvestro was holding on for dear life to keep third position but was unable to hold off a hard charging Marco Andretti who passed her coming to take the race’s white flag signalling the final lap. Teammate Tony Kanaan followed Andretti through but it was far from over for the de Silvestro as she had to try to fend off Scott Dixon and EJ Viso in a crazy three wide finish back in the pack while James Hinchcliffe captured his first win in the IZOD IndyCar Series. De Silvestro would bring it home in 6th which is a major turnaround from the 2012 she endured.
The IZOD IndyCar Series takes a week off for the Easter holiday after which they load into the Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama for the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. Will Power looks for his third consecutive win at the facility where he came from 9th place on the starting grid to win the 2012 race.
IZOD INDYCAR SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (FOLLOWING ST. PETERSBURG):
1. James Hinchcliffe (Leader)
2. Helio Castroneves (-8)
3. Marco Andretti (-16)
4. Tony Kanaan (-19)
5. Scott Dixon (-21)
6. Simona de Silvestro (-23)
7. EJ Viso (-25)
8. Takuma Sato (-27)
9. Justin Wilson (-29)
10. Alex Tagliani (-31)
14. Will Power (-35)
18. Ryan Hunter-Reay (-39)
25. Dario Franchitti (-46)
CONGRATULATIONS TO JAMES HINCHCLIFFE AND ANDRETT AUTOSPORT
WINNERS OF THE HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG