Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Race Report

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Circuit:                Bayfront Park (1.8-mile street circuit) St. Petersburg, FL
2011 Winner:      Dario Franchitti (Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) 84.975 mph
Weather:             Mostly sunny, mild, 81 degrees F

Fn.St. Team Driver Laps Average Speed/Notes
1. 5.  Helio Castroneves  Team Penske Chevrolet Dallara 100 90.113 mph avg., led 28 laps
2. 6.  Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi  Honda Dallara 100 -5.5292 seconds, led 37 laps
3. 3.  Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Chevrolet Dallara 100 -7.5824 seconds
4. 4.  James Hinchcliffe Andretti Autosport Chevrolet Dallara 100  -10.6526 seconds
5. 2.  Ryan Briscoe Team Penske Chevrolet Dallara 100 -11.7851 seconds, led 9 laps
6. 16.  Simon Pagenaud-R Schmidt Hamilton Racing Honda Dallara  100 -31.2623 seconds
7. 1.  Will Power Team Penske Chevrolet Dallara 100 -34.6582 seconds, led 11 laps
8. 8.  E.J. Viso KV Racing Technology Chevrolet Dallara 100 -35.5943 seconds
9. 22.  Charlie Kimball  Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara 100 -43.1425 seconds
10. 15. Justin Wilson  Dale Coyne Racing Honda Dallara 100 -44.3141 seconds
11. 19. Josef Newgarden-R Sarah Fisher Hartman Honda Dallara 100 -44.8275 seconds
12. 10. Graham Rahal Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara 100 45.1080 seconds
13. 9.  Dario Franchitti Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara 100 -45.8468 seconds, led 1 lap
Other Honda-Powered Results:
20. 11.  Mike Conway A.J. Foyt Racing Honda Dallara 75 did not finish - transmission
22. 14.  Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan  Honda Dallara 73 did not finish - transmission
26. 20.  James Jakes Dale Coyne Racing Honda Dallara  19 did not finish – crash
R – IndyCar Series Rookie

Dixon Ushers in New Era as Runner-Up at St. Petersburg 

Manufacturer competition returned to the IZOD IndyCar Series Sunday at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, with Scott Dixon leading the way for 10 Honda-powered entries, finishing second to Helio Castroneves after 100 laps around the temporary airport/street circuit on the Florida Gulf Coast.
 
Dixon and eventual winner Castroneves were two of only a handful of racers who chose not to pit during an early-race full-course caution, and their strategic gamble paid off as both were then able to complete the race distance with only two pit stops, while the rest of the field needed three to make the finish. 

The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg featured several new Honda trackside programs, rewarding fan loyalty and enthusiasm for the brand.  The fans in the Honda Fan Section were a sea of red, cheering on Honda-powered teams and drivers. The winners of the Honda Backstage Pass were treated to an exclusive "behind-the-scenes” tour of the IndyCar paddock and garage areas, including Grand Prize winners Mike and Carson Harris from Maineville, Ohio.

Behind the leaders, Simon Pagenaud recovered from a post-qualifying, 10-position grid penalty – due to a precautionary, but unscheduled engine change on Friday – to finish sixth in his debut race for Schmidt Hamilton Racing.  The former American Le Mans Series champion for HPD now takes an early lead in the IndyCar Rookie of the Year standings. 

Charlie Kimball made the biggest move though the field in today's contest, finishing ninth after starting 22nd in his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.  Just behind Kimball, Justin Wilson recovered from a long stop after running out of fuel just before his second pit stop to round out the top-10 finishers, passing fellow Honda driver and series rookie Josef Newgarden on the last lap. 

Defending three-time series champion – and 2011 St. Petersburg race winner – Dario Franchitti ran out of fuel just a quarter mile from the finish line, dropping him to an unrepresentative 13th-place finish.

The IZOD IndyCar Series continues next week with the first permanent road course of 2012, the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama, April 1 at the scenic Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala.

IZOD IndyCar Series Drivers' Championship (after 1 of 16 races):
1. Helio Castroneves 50 points (1 win) 6. Simon Pagenaud 28
2. Scott Dixon  42 7. Will Power 27
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay 35 8. E.J. Viso  24
4. James Hinchcliffe 32 9. Charlie Kimball 22
5. Ryan Briscoe 30 10. Justin Wilson 20
Manufacturers' Championship:                         Rookie of the Year:
1. Chevrolet 9 1. Simon Pagenaud 28
2. Honda 6  2. Josef Newgarden 19
3. Lotus 4 3. Katherine Legge 12

Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) started 6th, finished  2nd:  "Today was tough.  Just the fact it was the first race since Dan [Wheldon] passed away, in his hometown, made it a sad start to the season for everyone.  But once we got underway, the race strategy played right into our hands, although at first I didn't think it would and I certainly had some choice words for the team on the radio in the early laps!  But we had a great start, and excellent restarts, and it's really good to have a strong finish in St. Petersburg after so many disappointing runs here previously.”

Simon Pagenaud (#77 Schmidt Hamilton Racing Honda) started 16th, finished 6th:  "This was a good start to the season for us, it's important to be able to surmount your difficulties over the course of a race weekend, and we certainly were able to do so today.  The team did a fantastic job in the pits, gaining positions every time.  That got us to the front, and I helped by not making any mistakes.  This was an encouraging start for our team, but there is still much more to come from us.”

Erik Berkman (President, Honda Performance Development) on today's race, his final event prior to taking on new duties as President of Honda R&D Americas: "We had a beautiful day and a great crowd, which is always good to see at one of our signature events here in St. Petersburg.  And everyone behaved themselves at the start!  There was some good racing going on throughout the field, and it was interesting to watch the different fuel strategies play out.  I'm happy Honda had a podium finish today with Scott Dixon, but the real goal we achieved is the return of manufacturer competition.  There doesn't appear to be a huge performance difference between the three manufacturers, and that bodes well for the season ahead.”

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