IndyCar: Tony Kanaan breaks up Penske’s quartet with third place finish

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While attention was focused on the dual between Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power to close the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, another driver was continuing a hot streak that started last year.

Yes, Tony Kanaan’s third-place finish wasn’t very glamorous on paper, with the Brazilian finishing 11 seconds behind winner Montoya and never really sniffing the lead.

But Kanaan can claim proud ownership of the fact it was both his and his No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team’s performance that spoiled a potential 1-2-3-4 sweep by Team Penske.

Kanaan started seventh and finished as a buffer between Montoya and Will Power up front, and Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud in their fourth and fifth-place spots.

Kanaan said Penske improves every year and the addition of Montoya in 2014 only continued the trend.

“Chances are they’ll get 1-2-3-4. They’re dialed in. It’s up to us to break it up like we did today,” Kanaan said.

“We knew it would be hard to beat them … especially with four of them. We have to believe we had it. We had a couple of them. But when I saw Montoya on blacks, with how strong he was, unless a miracle happens I don’t think we’ll catch them.”

It’s Kanaan’s second-straight podium after winning the 2014 finale at Auto Club Speedway, and his seventh podium since joining Ganassi last year.

It was also the first race with the new aero kits, which resulted in a type of racing Kanaan didn’t expect, as well as multiple debris caution from clipped wings.

“The new aero kits … made the racing a lot closer, which I couldn’t believe that would happen,” Kanaan admitted. “Chances to see more pieces flying are greater. In a way it’s a good thing. We had too strong of cars. Now we have to think about what to do. It was a good weekend for us.”

Kanaan earned his third place finish during a restart he doesn’t quite remember, when the green after a restart on Lap 53.

“Sometimes you don’t remember stuff. I timed it just right and I got ahead out of Turn 1. Kind of a bit of a mess. Will took off. Then Sage (Karam) and Jack (Hawksworth) started to fight, Simon and Helio, and I had a clear view of where to go,” described Kanaan.

“By the end I knew how strong Helio was, even with that. We had a good position. I always try to take advantage on restarts.”