Juan Pablo Montoya takes the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after battling with teammate Simon Pagenaud and rookie Conor Daly. Montoya becomes the second driver alongside his Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves to win the IndyCar season opener at St. Petersburg.
With a race full of surprises the first would come before the green flag waved. Polesitter Will Power would pull out to what was thought to be a stomach virus. The diagnosis would be confirmed as a light concussion caused from contact with the wall during the first practice session.
The pole would go to Simon Pagenaud and he would fly off of the start pulling a gap for the first stints of the race. Also getting off to flying start would be Marco Andretti starting 14th and fighting up to 6th within the first 20 laps of the race. Along with first lap thrills came first lap spills. Known for a crazy carnage filled start St. Petersburg delivered yet another carbon fiber filled first corner with James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden, and Takuma Sato all getting damaged and needing to pit.
The first caution of the race came on lap 45 when Marco Andretti would attempt to pass Luca Filippi into turn 1 hitting Filippi putting Andretti into a spin. The caution wouldn’t wave until Marco would stall needing a jump from the safety crew.
The caution would allow Conor Daly and Tony Kanaan to take the first and second positions. On the restart Montoya would make his move on Pagenaud for third place which would eventually be the race winning pass.
The final caution would come after Carlos Munoz would make contact with Graham Rahal collecting multiple drivers. Oriol Servia, Sebastien Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball, and Luca Filippi would also all be involved effectively ending Bourdais race. Munoz would be given a stop and go penalty for avoidable contact.
Daly would start first on the restart with a charging Montoya behind. Montoya would make quick work of the rookie but not without Daly attempting to fight back. Scott Dixon would run into overheating issues causing him to come to pit road early ending any chance of him winning the race. Come green flag pit stops Team Penske would give Montoya and Pagenaud lighting stops with Pagenaud jumping Daly.
Daly would run into trouble by having contact with Carlos Munoz. The contact would force Daly to pit road ending his chances of a podium for the day.
Montoya would hold of Pagenaud despite a mechanical problem to collect his 15th IndyCar win and his 2nd win in a row at St. Petersburg. Ryan Hunter-Reay would round out the podium with Helio Castroneves too far behind him. Charlie Kimball would have a braking problem causing him to wreck into turn 1 relegating him into the 12th position. Despite having a not so great qualifying, Mikhail Aleshin would bounce back to finish in 5th place. Takuma Sato would also fight back after a first lap incident coming in 6th position. Alexander Rossi would be the top finishing rookie bringing his No. 98 car home in 12th place.
Featured Image Credit – www.indycar.com