Skip to main content

Montoya Triumphs in 2016 Verizon IndyCar Season Opener in St. Petersburg

Photo Credit: Chris Jones



St. Petersburg, Florida once again serves as the launching pad for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2016 campaign. The 1.8-mile street course in the vibrant tourist hot spot provided the first opportunity for open wheel drivers in the North American-based series to compete with a clean slate.

The first race of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series would be contested by 22 drivers (18 returning veterans and 4 rookies to the Series) for a 110-lap main event on Sunday. Two drivers for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Canada’s James Hinchcliffe and Russian driver Mikhail Aleshin made competitive returns to the cockpit for a full season. Hinchcliffe’s 2015 season came to an end at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway following a severe crash in practice for the Indy 500. Aleshin’s suffered injuries in a practice crash in the 2014 race at Auto Club Speedway that took the driver out of the car for a year. Mikhail Aleshin was back in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car for IndyCar’s last 2015 race at Sonoma.

While the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg returned the return of two drivers from long-standing injuries, the race started without the presence of the pole-winning driver Will Power. Having suffered an on-track impact on Friday, Power initially cleared IndyCar’s medical examination. Allowing him to qualify his #12 Verizon Dallara-Chevrolet on the pole, Will Power would later report symptoms of a mild concussion. Unable to run the season opening race, Oriol Servia was recruited by the team as a replacement driver of the #12 machine that started in the rear of the racing grid.

Photo Credit: Chris Owens

Lacking their pole-winning driver in the season opener, Team Penske still maintained a strong field of entrants for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Promoted to the pole by Power’s withdrawal, Penske’s #22 Hewlett Packard car driven by Simon Pagenaud capitalized right from the start of the race. Holding onto the lead for the initial 48 laps, Pagenaud’s early advantage came with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves in hot pursuit.

Deeper in the field at the start of street race, James Hinchcliffe’s celebrated return was disrupted when contact made on the first lap with another vehicle. Losing a lap right at the start of the 110-lap main event, James Hinchcliffe and his #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team would gain the lap back when the race’s first caution fell on lap 46. A collision between the #19 of Luca Flippi and the #27 of Marco Andretti slowed the field.

By the time the caution period concluded, Simon Pagenaud gave up the lead to IndyCar rookie driver Conor Daly as the field retook the green. The restart would be short-lived as a turn 4 incident involving Carlos Munoz and Graham Rahal caused a massive jam-up causing many drivers to stop within the section with some requiring their cars to be restarted after stalling. Part of the accident that would bring out the race’s second and final caution was James Hinchcliffe. With minor damage and a cut tire, Hinchcliffe’s #5 car would return to the team pit stall and lose the lap it had regained. Unable to regain the lap back a second time, James Hinchcliffe’s first race back in IndyCar since the Indianapolis Motor Speedway crash resulted in a 19th place finish. Rahal finished a few positions ahead of Hinchcliffe crossing the line in 16th place. Carlos Munoz received a stop and go penalty for avoidable contact but was still able to collect an 8th place finish.

When the race resumed on lap 63, Color Daly surrendered the lead to the #2 Verizon-sponsored Team Penske machine of Juan-Pablo Montoya. Excluding a 3-lap period where Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay led, Montoya would spend the rest of the race in the top spot. Winning the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for a second year in a row, Juan-Pablo Montoya’s margin of victory was 2.33 seconds over teammate Simon Pagenaud. Roger Penske’s race team celebrated the 1-2 finish as a fine way to kick-off the team’s 50th anniversary. Team Penske’s opportunity of clinching the top-3 places was dashed in the late laps as Helio Castroneves was overtaken by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Montoya joins teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves as the only multiple time winners of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.


Photo Credit: Chris Jones


Behind the 4th place car of Helio Castroneves, Mikhail Aleshin posted a strong 5th place run. The AJ Foyt Racing’s driver Takuma Sato was another driver picking up a respectable result following the IndyCar season opener with 6th at the line.

The next round for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season is major open wheel racing's return to the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway oval set for April 2nd.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Canadian International AutoShow Revisited: 2011 Edition

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada Theme of the Show: Discover Connect Experience The 2011 Canadian International AutoShow left me with the thought of how much could change between a 12-month span (perhaps that is more apparent in 2021). After a somewhat subdued 2010 car show in Toronto, the last year brought a deep sense of excitement in many forms. Design, performance and innovation were all part of an auto show that started with an aerobatic display part of Ford’s media presentation unveiling the C-Max and the Focus Electric.  Along with the welcoming presence of new vehicles from major automakers, the 2011 Canadian International AutoShow was the first to feature a dedicated display of some of the most opulent vehicles to be found in the country.  Notable Vehicles: Ford Focus Electric Photo Credit: Chris Nagy/Car FYI Canada The auto company that played a huge role in directing the automobile to gasoline propulsion, Ford Motor Company sought a manner to begin the conversio

Car FYI Canada 2021 Vehicle Guide: Acura

  Photo Credit: American Honda Motor Inc./ Acura Entering its 35th year as Honda’s luxury brand in the United States and Canada, Acura appears with 2021 lineup containing five vehicles ranging from their strong-selling RDX crossover to the NSX supercar. Acura has discontinued sales of their RLX Sedan following the 2020 model year promoting the all-new TLX to the position of the luxury brand’s flagship sedan. Skipping the 2021 model year, the Acura MDX three-row premium crossover vehicle is based on an all-new larger 2022 counterpart arriving in February. In this latest anniversary year for the premium marque , the focus remains on blending comfort with precision engineering and sport holding.   Acura ILX Photo Credit: American Honda Motor Inc./ Acura Despite being based on the same platform as the Honda Civic, the Acura ILX’s design and content makes it a tempting choice for drivers seeking a modestly-sized sedan with premium comfort. Available in four trim levels, the 2020 Acura IL

Logano Seals Dirty Deal at NASCAR Cup Series' First Bristol Dirt Race

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images The first dirt race on NASCAR’s top series since 1970 (known as the Grand National Series at the time), The 2021 Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway brought in 2,300 truckloads of dirt to create a spring race unlike any seen prior at the 0.533-mile oval. At the completion of an event that involved several multi-car wrecks and surprises, Joey Logano motored to a clean victory leading the final 60 laps in his #22 Shell Pennzoil-sponsored Ford Mustang.  Providing a challenge for every competitor and team as they attempt to discover the speed secrets for setting up a 3,400-pound race car on the new surface, the first modern NASCAR Cup Series race on dirt did manage to deliver an untidy yet thrilling experience. NASCAR was required to make several adjustments to the original plan for the race weekend with uncertainty of the Goodyear dirt tire changing the stage format for the Food City Dirt Race. Originally intended to consist a pair o