Race Weekend Central

IndyCar Race Recap: 2013 Season Opener In St. Petersburg

In A Nutshell: James Hinchcliffe outdueled Helio Castroneves late in the race to deliver his first career win in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The race was marked by attrition and unusual accidents, most notably one late in the race in which JR Hildebrand flew over the top of Will Power’s car under caution. Castroneves stalked Hinchcliffe for the last 26 laps of the race but he couldn’t get close enough to make an overtake. Hinchcliffe coasted home to a 1.1 second victory while Castroneves, Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, and Scott Dixon rounded out the top 5.

Key Moment: Helio Castroneves held the lead on a late race restart with 26 laps to go after outgunning everyone on restarts for most of the day. But on that final restart, Castroneves went wide into turn 1 and opened up the inside to James Hinchcliffe. Hinchcliffe cleared Castroneves off of Turn 2 and never looked back, leading the final 26 laps en route to victory.

Highlight Reel: – After struggling with an ill-handling race car all weekend, Dario Franchitti smacked the wall on Lap 20 to bring out the first caution of the event. The wall contact ended Franchitti’s day and relegated him to a 25th place finish. – J.R. Hildebrand was tied up making in-car adjustments under a late race yellow, and wasn’t paying attention when the Will Power suddenly slowed in front of him. Hildebrand didn’t react quickly enough and sailed over the top of Power’s car. Both drivers were ok but each of their day’s were effectively ruined. – Marco Andretti and Simona De Silvestro staged a fantastic duel at the end of the race for the 3rd spot, even resulting in some casual contact courtesy of Andretti’s front wing. Andretti prevailed at the end, but not without some serious defensive effort on the part of De Silvestro.

Notable Driver: Simona De Silvestro shocked many in the IndyCar world this weekend, displaying newfound pace in all of the practices and even landing a spot in the Fast Six for qualifying. De Silvestro landed a plum ride with the up and coming KV Racing Technology outfit over the off season and that seems to be paying dividends for her so far. De Silvestro ran among the leaders for the entirety of the event on Sunday and looks to be a force to be reckoned with as the season pushes ahead.

Key Storylines: – James Hinchcliffe is clearly coming into his own as a driver. He knocked on the door of victory lane all year in 2012 and he will likely post some more victories in 2013. Considering how well teammate Marco Andretti ran to boot, its fair to say Andretti Autosport is in a good place at the moment. – On the other hand, the Ganassi cars were way off the mark all race long on Sunday. Despite a solid finish from Scott Dixon earned mostly due to sheer determination on the part of the driver, this team clearly has some work to do to catch up with the rest of the paddock. – Rookie Tristan Vautier was well on his way to a Top 6 finish before mechanical issues ended his day. He and his Schmidt Peterson powered cars already look up to snuff despite being a brand new team with a brand new driver. Expect big things out of the young Frenchman in 2013.

Quotes and Tweets:
“This is his hometown, this is his car.” James Hinchcliffe on dedicating his win to the late Dan Wheldon

“Guys just slowed up, and I ran into the back of (Power). It was totally my fault. As soon as I hit him, I couldn’t help from going anywhere.” JR Hildebrand on his late race blunder under caution

“Congrats to Mr Media Darling himself Hinchtown on his first IndyCar win! (And Go Daddy’s too!)” Jamie Little (@JamieLittleESPN) on James Hinchcliffe’s win

“Awesome race indycar and congratulations to hinchtown and godaddy.” _Former INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard (RBINDYCAR) on today’s race_

What’s Next: In two weeks, the IZOD IndyCar Series heads up North just a bit for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at picturesque Barber Motorsports Park. Will Power dominated the race last year and one would have to expect similar pace out of him given how strong he has looked so far this season already. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network at 3 PM EST.

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