Montoya ekes out win in St. Petersburg season opener

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ST. PETERSBURG – On a day when “new” was all the rage for the Verizon IndyCar Series as it opened its 2015 season, an old hand stole the show with a move reminiscent of his open-wheel heyday in 1999 and 2000.

Juan Pablo Montoya pitted earlier than his Team Penske teammate Will Power, who led the majority of the 110-lap season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, on the third and final pit stop sequence of the race.

But with Power suffering a slower pit stop on Lap 82 due to a slow air jack release and Montoya nailing both his in and out laps a lap earlier – the latter on cold Firestone red alternate tires after switching from the primary blacks – Montoya took the lead and seized the momentum heading into the dramatic final stages of the race.

Power began a dogged charge to catch his teammate, but was unable to pass the Colombian.

The battle between the two came to a head on Lap 99, following contact between Power’s left front and Montoya’s right rear quarter panels at Turn 10. Power got a monster run to Montoya’s inside, got into Montoya’s sidepod, but both continued.

It expanded the gap between the two to more than 1.5 seconds after it was mere tenths of seconds prior to that. Power made one final charge but was interrupted by lapped traffic, stuck for too long behind rookie Sage Karam on Lap 105.

Montoya held on to win his second race in his open-wheel return, his first street course race since the 2003 Monaco Grand Prix and his first street course race in IndyCar since 1999 at Vancouver, by 0.9930 of a second over Power.

“It was a good day. I was really good on blacks. I could push and open a gap to Will,” Montoya told ABC’s Dr. Jerry Punch in victory lane.

Of the contact with Power, Montoya added, “He was too far back. I wasn’t gonna give up the position. When I got to the turn he wasn’t even close. It’s all good. It’s racing.”

Power, who led a race-high 75 laps, told ABC’s Rick DeBruhl, “Yeah that was a place I could kinda get a run on him. Only chance I had. I think he saw me. It was kind of optimistic but it was possible. He didn’t give me anything. It was kind of my only chance.”

The ending saved the day in the debut of manufacturer aero kits after five full-course cautions – three for debris and two for additional accidents – peppered the first half of the race.

Tony Kanaan drove a solid race from seventh up to third, aboard the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Meanwhile the Penske party continued with Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud completing the top five.

Kanaan’s interruption left Penske one spot shy of a top-four sweep, a feat the team achieved in qualifying and a feat Kanaan’s then-team, Andretti Green Racing, did at St. Petersburg in 2005.

Behind the top five, Sebastien Bourdais ended sixth, with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Jack Hawksworth, Luca Filippi and Marco Andretti in the top-10. Hawksworth made it into the top-10 on an alternate strategy in his debut for A.J. Foyt Enterprises while Filippi scored an IndyCar career-best finish to date of ninth.

RESULTS

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Results Sunday of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.8 mile St Petersburg street circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (4) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
2. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
3. (7) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
5. (2) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
6. (6) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
7. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
8. (21) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
9. (19) Luca Filippi, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
10. (12) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
11. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
12. (10) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
13. (5) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
14. (14) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
15. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
16. (16) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
17. (22) Gabby Chaves, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
18. (11) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
19. (18) Sage Karam, Dallara-Chevy, 109, Running
20. (17) Stefano Coletti, Dallara-Chevy, 109, Running
21. (13) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 109, Running
22. (20) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
23. (23) Francesco Dracone, Dallara-Honda, 70, Mechanical
24. (24) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 19, Mechanical

Race Statistics

Winners average speed: 86.735
Time of Race: 02:16:58.1079
Margin of victory: 0.9930 of a second
Cautions: 5 for 22 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders:

Power 1 – 21
Pagenaud 22 -23
Power 24 – 48
Hawksworth 49 -53
Power 54 – 82
Castroneves 83
Montoya 84 – 110

Point Standings: Montoya 51, Power 44, Kanaan 35, Castroneves 33, Pagenaud 31, Bourdais 28, Hunter-Reay 26, Hawksworth 25, Filippi 22, Andretti 20. .

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 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


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