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ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Sunday, March 30, 2014) - Will Power made a statement in the Verizon IndyCar Series opening race that will resound throughout the season.
Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the second time since 2010. He's also won the past three races bridging seasons, and has led at least 16 laps in the past six races. He has registered 22 victories in 122 Indy car starts, but has yet to win a series championship.
"I'm stoked to get the first win for Verizon as a series sponsor," said Power, who started fourth after earning the pole the previous four years. "That's how you want to start the season. Last year was horrible, and this year it's good to get a points lead."
Power held off Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 driver champion, in a 22-lap sprint following a restart to prevail by 1.9475 seconds. Hunter-Reay overtook Power's teammate, Helio Castroneves, in Turn 1 on Lap 88 for second. Castroneves, a three-time winner on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit and the runner-up in 2013, placed third.
Scott Dixon, the reigning series champion, finished fourth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car and Simon Pagenaud garnered a top five in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports car.
Takuma Sato, the pole sitter who led the first 30 laps of the 110-lap race under a cloudless sky, finished one place behind sixth-place Tony Kanaan.
The race was caution-free under the yellow flag flew for the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing car driven by Charlie Kimball sliding off course in Turn 1. On the Lap 82 single-file restart, the cars of Marco Andretti and Jack Hawksworth made contact, bringing out a second full-course caution.
Seven different teams were represented in the top 10.
FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG POST-RACE NOTES
Will Power won his first race of 2014 and the 22nd race of his Indy car career. He has won the last three Indy car races after winning at Houston-2 and Auto Club Speedway in 2013.
It is Power's second win at St. Petersburg, winning here in 2010
Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second -matching his best finish at St. Petersburg (2009).
Helio Castroneves finished third, his third-straight podium finish here in St. Petersburg, after winning in 2012, finishing
Scott Dixon finished fourth, his fifth top-five finish in 10 starts at St. Petersburg.
Simon Pagenaud finished fifth, his first top-five finish in three starts at St. Petersburg.
FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG QUOTES:
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Man, I'm mentally tired. That was physical and hard, but pretty stoked to get the first win for Verizon as the series sponsor with the Verizon car. It's a great day, a great stop there when we all pitted at the same time, the boys got me out there. Really happy with that and we executed well. I worked so hard in the offseason. We came into the season wanting to win a championship for Roger, and the way it went down last year was really disappointing for Helio (Castroneves) not to win. Between the three of us - Juan (Montoya), Helio and myself- we've been working really hard to get the car right. The field is so tight that I'm just happy we had a good race car today. Didn't quite have the pace in qualifying. That's how you want to start the season. Last year was horrible, and this year it's good to get a points lead. (About the controversial restart on Lap 82): "They threw the green early, I thought we were meant to go in that zone. So that was - I was surprised. I don't really know what happened behind me, what happened?" (Did he brake check Helio): "I left it a little, I didn't touch the brake at all. They can look at my data, I did not touch the brake."
ROGER PENSKE (Owner, Team Penske): "It was just a great run by Team Penske. Obviously, Will (Power) had the car under control all day and Helio. Great to see Chevrolet come in 1-2. Also for Verizon, who just took over as series sponsor. It couldn't be a better day."