St. Pete Grand Prix
March 15, 2016
Juan Pablo Montoya
St. Pete Grand Prix
So the main reason for my travel to the Tampa/ St. Pete area was to attend the annual Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Indy Car race which is held each year as the season opening race through the streets of downtown St. Pete. I have attended almost every year the race has been held and it is always a really great time. Having the access of the Indy Car hard card makes it all the more enjoyable as I can roam at will through just about all areas of the track including the pits, paddock, media center and photo areas even Victory Lane which is really awesome. I walked over in the morning from the Hotel Indigo where I have stayed the past few years and was able to check out all the pre-race festivities.
Kate and Olivier
I am not sure if I prefer being on the grid prior to the start of the race, being in the pits during the actual race or being in the victory lane celebrations after the race. They are all pretty amazing opportunities and I feel so fortunate to be able to be so close to the action. The race was pretty exciting, I think the official press release describes what happened as well as I can so I have simply included it below. It was an enjoyable race with just about everything you could ask for from a street race. I was only disappointed that so many good drivers got caught out by the big pile-up that caused many to lose a lap and effectively end their chances of winning.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 13, 2016 - The 50th anniversary celebration season for Team Penske is off to a rousing start. Verizon Team Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya controlled the closing laps of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to win the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener for the second straight year. Driving the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Montoya led teammate Simon Pagenaud across the finish line by 2.3306 seconds, with Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay placing third and Team Penske's Helio Castroneves fourth on the 1.8-mile temporary street course.
Montoya's 15th career Indy car win ties him with Alex Zanardi for 31st on the career chart. It is also the 179th victory for Team Penske in Indy car racing, the most of any team in history, and eighth for Roger Penske's outfit in the 13-race St. Petersburg history. "It was good," said Montoya, who lost the 2015 series championship on a race wins tiebreaker to Scott Dixon. "The Chevy was good all day. It was exciting to have a new paint scheme (on his car) and come out and win with it. It's just awesome.
We started the year last year like this. I felt this morning we had a really good car and it paid off."
Pagenaud, in the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet, started from the pole position and led 48 laps of the 110-lap race. The Frenchman's second-place finish was his best in four starts on the St. Petersburg street course, but he lamented Montoya passing him on Lap 64 as the turning point. "Overall it was a great day," Pagenaud said. "If you compare to last year, it's been a massive improvement on the whole 22 crew. I'm super proud to represent HPE in our first race and be here on the podium in second place, leading the race for a while. "But, yeah, Montoya is an old dog. He found a little good trick on me. I made one tiny little mistake and it lost me the race."
The only thing missing from Team Penske's race domination was Will Power, who took ill after claiming the Verizon P1 Award for winning the pole position March 12. Upon re-examination by the INDYCAR medical team this morning, Power was diagnosed with a mild concussion. INDYCAR released the following statement: "Following his on-track incident on Friday, Will Power displayed no signs of injury and was evaluated and cleared by the INDYCAR medical team. Per INDYCAR protocol, we also evaluated the data collected from his ear accelerometers, which provides data specific to the impact on a driver's head, and nothing gathered from that data indicated further evaluation was required.
"After learning of Will's symptoms following qualifications Saturday, he was required to submit to another evaluation by INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows, at which point he was diagnosed with a mild concussion. Power has been entered into INDYCAR's concussion protocol and will need to be re-evaluated prior to being cleared to drive. "Power was replaced in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet by Oriol Servia, who started last in the 22-car field by rule. Servia was involved in a mid-race multi-car pileup and finished 18th.
Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Conor Daly led a career-best 15 laps midway through the event while on an alternate pit strategy. Daly, driving the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, finished 13th. The race saw just two full-course yellow conditions, tying a St. Pete record for fewest in a race. One yellow was due to a multi-car logjam triggered when the cars of Castroneves and Dixon touched but kept going. Behind them, the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda of Carlos Munoz ran into the rear of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Steak 'n Shake Honda of Graham Rahal on Lap 57. Nearly 10 cars blocked the track until the Holmatro Safety Team could clear a path for them to rejoin the action.