Montoya ekes out win in St. Petersburg season opener


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.


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. .

IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)