Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

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ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – The season-opening round of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2014 calendar is in the books, with Will Power opening the year on top.

Here are some of the other associated quotes and storylines following Sunday’s race. See Saturday and Friday’s notes and quotes linked in this sentence.

  • P2 for Ryan Hunter-Reay equaled a St. Pete best, also achieved in 2009 following a last-minute concluded with Vision Racing. In his usual No. 28 DHL Honda stead for Andretti Autosport, Sunday’s was a little more normal. “It was a good day; a little strange at times. Not really sure where we were at times but we just hung in there position wish and kept pushing 110 percent and just had a good little fight with Helio (Castroneves) there and got by him,” said the 2012 series champion.
  • Third for Helio Castroneves made it three podiums, in three different positions, in the last three Firestone Grands Prix of St. Petersburg (won in 2012, second in 2013). “I will take it. Obviously I started the race, the qualifying was a little tricky for us but I knew I had a very fast car, no question. And I was pushing as hard as I could during the race. Unfortunately, one of the restarts was a poker game with Will. But you know its ok, its good,” said the driver of the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
  • Defending series champion Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud grabbed the other top-five spots; for Dixon, it was a rather nondescript weekend filled with good points, while Pagenaud overachieved after a disappointing qualifying to grab a season-opening fifth place.
  • Polesitter Takuma Sato ended seventh, one spot better than in 2013; this after qualifying one spot better too (2nd/8th, now 1st/7th). Still, a solid points day. “The first stint I had a nice rhythm going but we struggled a bit on the blacks on the next two stints, but we tried hard. It was difficult to gain on the track today. After a great qualifying, we’re a little disappointed with the finish but we came away with some points for the ABC Supply team,” he said.
  • Your big movers on the afternoon? Justin Wilson ended eighth after starting 16th and Josef Newgarden a St. Petersburg-best ninth from 22nd and shotgun on the field. Graham Rahal had a big start too, advancing 10 positions in the early stages from 21st up to 11th; the National Guard Honda driver ended 14th.
  • Sneaky good finishes occurred for Sebastian Saavedra in 11th and rookie Mikhail Aleshin in 12th. Aleshin being top rookie in the results was a bit of a surprise considering Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth’s respective qualifying efforts of seventh and eighth, and Carlos Huertas’ near immediate adaptation despite the late call to drive Dale Coyne’s second car. Munoz ended 17th, Huertas 18th and Hawksworth 21st after being eliminated in a restart accident.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya ended only 15th, but learned a lot in his open-wheel return. “We were just burning up the rear tires with the setup that we decided to run. It was just a little too aggressive. You know, we will learn and pass some people and some people passed us. There are a few things we have to do better but I didn’t feel my pace was too bad there at the end,” said the 1999 CART and 2000 Indianapolis 500 champion.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2