St. Petersburg flashback: Wheldon wins historic 2005 race

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At the city that he took as his adopted hometown, Dan Wheldon helped usher in a new era for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

The 2005 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was the series’ first-ever event on a road or street course following an all-oval existence that had dated back to its on-track debut in 1996. Not many knew what events to expect in this race, but the final outcome – Wheldon and his three Andretti Green Racing (now Andretti Autosport) teammates sweeping the top four positions – may have been the most unexpected one of all.

On a restart at Lap 91 of 100, Wheldon was sitting in third behind one of those teammates, Tony Kanaan, and leader Ryan Briscoe, then with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. As the field wound its way toward Turn 10, Kanaan would attempt to pass Briscoe for the point but the two made contact that sent Briscoe into the tire barrier.

As that was happening, Wheldon passed them both coming out of Turn 10 and went on to lead the rest of the AGR camp — Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta – to the checkered flag.

“For the whole team, it’s fantastic,” Wheldon said afterwards. “I mean, forget my victory, but just to have me and my three other teammates, who are all very, very close friends, as a 1-2-3-4 is exceptional. It would be very difficult in this series for it to happen again.”

Wheldon’s victory was his second of six he would attain that year — one of which was his first of two Indianapolis 500 triumphs. He went on to clinch the series championship with one race remaining.

Since Wheldon’s death in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the city of St. Petersburg has remembered the man known as “Lionheart” and his accomplishments. Prior to last year’s race, Turn 10 was re-christened as Dan Wheldon Way (pictured), and later this afternoon, a permanent memorial to him will be unveiled at the track.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III