Race Weekend Central

Juan Pablo Montoya Saves Steering for St. Petersburg IndyCar Win

If the Verizon IndyCar Series field wants to beat Team Penske in St. Petersburg, they’re going to have to wait another year.

Juan Pablo Montoya got the better of teammate Simon Pagenaud on a mid-race restart and held the Frenchman off through lapped traffic down the stretch to claim the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The win marks the eighth victory for Team Penske in the event in the last 11 races, and begins the organization’s 50th anniversary.

Early on, it appeared the race would go to Pagenaud. Beginning his second year with Penske, Pagenaud quickly jumped to the lead at the start of the race courtesy of teammate Will Power’s pole being vacated. Power was forced to miss the event with a concussion sustained in a practice crash on Friday. Oriol Servia served as Power’s replacement driver, but was forced to come from the tail end of the field.

Pagenaud held the lead until the midway point of the race, when a spin from Marco Andretti forced one of the day’s two full-course yellows.

Playing a different pit strategy, Conor Daly moved to the lead after the field came into the pits. Behind him, Montoya began to make his move.

Montoya used a bold move to jump alongside of Pagenaud on the ensuing restart, and won what turned into a high-stakes game of chicken to take the positions a few corners later.

Moments later, a wild crash would set Montoya up to take the lead.

Midway through lap 57 of the 110-lap event, Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Muñoz was making a move under 2015 breakout star Graham Rahal when the two made contact. Rahal was sent spinning, forcing a multi-car logjam and involved at least nine machines.

Montoya would make quick work of Daly on the race’s final restart laps later, and hold serve from there despite sustaining a broken steering arm to claim his 15th-career IndyCar victory by 2.330 seconds over Pagenaud.

Ryan Hunter-Reay parlayed a late overtake of Helio Castroneves to claim the final podium position for Andretti Autosport and Honda. Castroneves and Mikhail Aleshin rounded out the top five.

Takuma Sato overcame an early flat tire to finish sixth, with Scott Dixon, Muñoz, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball finishing out the top 10, despite Kimball’s spin on the final lap.

Despite running in the top five for most of the event, Dale Coyne Racing’s Daly was relegated to a 13th-place result.

The IndyCar Series will return to action at Phoenix International Raceway on April 2.

Unofficial Results

  1. Juan Pablo Montoya
  2. Simon Pagenaud
  3. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  4. Helio Castroneves
  5. Mikhail Aleshin
  6. Takuma Sato
  7. Scott Dixon
  8. Carlos Muñoz
  9. Tony Kanaan
  10. Charlie Kimball
  11. Jack Hawksworth
  12. Alexander Rossi
  13. Conor Daly
  14. Spencer Pigot
  15. Marco Andretti
  16. Graham Rahal
  17. Max Chilton
  18. Oriol Servia
  19. James Hinchcliffe
  20. Luca Filippi
  21. Sebastien Bourdais
  22. Josef Newgarden

About the author

A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.

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