March 30 in Motorsports History: Will Power begins title run at St. Pete

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The 2014 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marked the first race for the IndyCar Series with Verizon as a title sponsor. Fittingly, it was the driver of the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet who won.

Will Power triumphed on the 14-turn street circuit for the second time of his career on this date in 2014. The victory was first of three for the Aussie in a season which he finally won his first championship after three consecutive runner-up points finishes in 2010-12.

Takuma Sato started from the pole position and led 28 of the first 30 laps, but Power, who started fourth, took the lead on Lap 31.

The Team Penske driver made a small error in the race’s first restart on Lap 82. Expecting the green flag to wave later than it did, Power was slow to accelerate. In fact, he was so slow that several cars behind him bunched together and made contact, causing another yellow.

Some of Power’s competitors criticized his move, believing he was attempting to brake-check his teammate and third-place finisher Helio Castroneves on the restart, which Power denied.

“They threw the green early. I thought we were meant to go in that (restart) zone,” Power told ESPN. “I was surprised. I didn’t even know what happened behind me.

“I didn’t touch my brake at all. You can look at my data. I didn’t touch it all.”

It was the first of seven podium finishes in 2014 for Power.

“(I’m) pretty stoked to get the first win for Verizon as a series sponsor with the Verizon car, so it’s a great day,” Power said.

Also on this date:

1969: George Follmer won the Jimmy Bryan 150 at Phoenix International Raceway, his lone victory in the USAC Champ Car Series. Follmer later went on to become a champion in both Can-Am and Trans-Am.

1980: Nelson Piquet led every lap from the pole to win the Grand Prix of the United States at Long Beach, his first victory in F1. However, Piquet’s victory was overshadowed by a horrific crash involving Clay Regazzoni, whose brakes failed before an impact with Ricardo Zunino’s car (which had been left abandoned in an access road). Regazzoni was paralyzed from the waist down in the accident.

2000: Colton Herta was born in Valencia, California. During Herta’s 2019 rookie season, he became IndyCar’s youngest race winner (at Circuit of The Americas) and pole winner (Road America). He also is the first driver born in the 2000s to start an IndyCar race.

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Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).