ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Sunday, March 24, 2013) - Drama punctuated the Honda Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season opener.
The reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion opened the season in 18th place. The Verizon P1 Award winner and 2012 championship runner-up wound up 16th. The four-time series title-holder exited early in the race because of contact.
In the end, James Hinchcliffe scored his first win on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit by holding off Helio Castroneves over the final 26 laps.
The 26-year-old Canadian overtook Castroneves in Turn 1 of a Lap 85 restart, conserved fuel in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport and held on for a 1.0982-second victory.
He's the first Canadian to win an Indy car race since Paul Tracy in 2007 at Cleveland and gave Michael Andretti his 44th Indy car victory (two more than he had as a driver).
Lincoln Electric is a proud partner of Andretti Autosport.
Castroneves, the 2012 race winner, was second and Marco Andretti overtook Simona de Silvestro in Turn 1 of the final lap to earn third place (his best road/street course finish since Toronto in 2011).
Will Power, who earned his 30th Indy car pole, led 26 laps before Castroneves made an inside move on a restart and it went downhill from there. Under caution, the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car driven by JR Hildebrand sprung over the right side of Power's No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, causing a flat rear tire and bent mirror. The team spent two pit stops to repair and check for damage. Then, while running 12th, the rear end of Power's car caught the Turn 4 tire barrier. He finished 16th.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who started and finished third at St. Pete last March on his journey to the series title, encountered issues on an early pit stop and was not in contention.
HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG POST-RACE NOTES:
This is James Hinchcliffe's first IZOD IndyCar Series win. He is the first Canadian Indy car race winner since Paul Tracy won at Cleveland in June 2007.
Hinchcliffe is the 207th driver to win an Indy car race and the second driver to win his first race at St. Petersburg, joining Graham Rahal who won here in 2008.
This is Andretti Autosport's second win at St. Petersburg. It also won with Dan Wheldon in 2005.
Helio Castroneves finished second. It is his second runner-up finish in St. Petersburg and fifth podium finish at St. Petersburg,
Marco Andretti finished third. It is best finish at St. Petersburg in eight starts. His previous best was fourth in 2007.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet, winner Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg): "First of thanks to everyone. Thanks to the fans. This race is so awesome. The people in this town are incredible. I'm glad we can open up our season here. Man, that was a tough race. Last year we qualified fourth, finished fourth. Qualified fourth again and I thought that was kind of our cursed number there for a bit and then the big thing that people were saying early on in the season is 'What is it going to take to win?' And the big thing was minimizing mistakes.. We had a good car. Not sure if we had the fastest car over a lap but I'll tell you what, we nailed the pit stops. The guys were so good. The GoDaddy car was really good on those black tires. That last restart, man, Helio Castroneves there..he's a three-time winner at this race. He's on the reds. He makes a mistake. I get by, but I'm thinking, 'He has 30 laps to get this back." And we were saving a bit of fuel, trying to save the tires and I just can't be happier. It is so awesome. Dan's hometown. Dan's car. This one's for him."