ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Simon Pagenaud has dominated the opening half of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, leading 47 of the first 55 laps, however was not up front at the halfway mark.
That honor went to Conor Daly, who started 20thh and is in position to deliver a typically brilliant Dale Coyne Racing strategic masterstroke in his No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda if he can get enough yellow laps to get back in the fuel window.
To start, Pagenaud inherited the pole position after Will Power’s pre-race illness sidelined him from the race, and fill-in driver Oriol Servia was moved to 22nd and the rear of the field.
Once up front in the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet, Pagenaud pulled away and led the opening 47 laps.
But a caution on Lap 46 occurred when Marco Andretti spun at Turn 1 trying to overtake Luca Filippi; Filippi had also contacted Andretti’s teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay earlier in the race but both continued.
Daly, who pitted for new tires and a front wing on Lap 41, was five laps outside the window to make it all the way based on projections. But with the yellow extended through Lap 57 when Andretti stopped again in Turn 14, it might help the young American.
Tony Kanaan is second, also off sequence, with Pagenaud, 2015 St. Petersburg winner Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Dixon in the top five.
Oriol Servia runs 12th in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet after filling in for Will Power, who was diagnosed with a mild concussion.