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Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Mar 30, 2014, 11:34 PM EST

IndyCar AP

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – The season-opening round of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2014 calendar is in the books, with Will Power opening the year on top.

Here are some of the other associated quotes and storylines following Sunday’s race. See Saturday and Friday’s notes and quotes linked in this sentence.

  • P2 for Ryan Hunter-Reay equaled a St. Pete best, also achieved in 2009 following a last-minute concluded with Vision Racing. In his usual No. 28 DHL Honda stead for Andretti Autosport, Sunday’s was a little more normal. “It was a good day; a little strange at times. Not really sure where we were at times but we just hung in there position wish and kept pushing 110 percent and just had a good little fight with Helio (Castroneves) there and got by him,” said the 2012 series champion.
  • Third for Helio Castroneves made it three podiums, in three different positions, in the last three Firestone Grands Prix of St. Petersburg (won in 2012, second in 2013). “I will take it. Obviously I started the race, the qualifying was a little tricky for us but I knew I had a very fast car, no question. And I was pushing as hard as I could during the race. Unfortunately, one of the restarts was a poker game with Will. But you know its ok, its good,” said the driver of the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
  • Defending series champion Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud grabbed the other top-five spots; for Dixon, it was a rather nondescript weekend filled with good points, while Pagenaud overachieved after a disappointing qualifying to grab a season-opening fifth place.
  • Polesitter Takuma Sato ended seventh, one spot better than in 2013; this after qualifying one spot better too (2nd/8th, now 1st/7th). Still, a solid points day. “The first stint I had a nice rhythm going but we struggled a bit on the blacks on the next two stints, but we tried hard. It was difficult to gain on the track today. After a great qualifying, we’re a little disappointed with the finish but we came away with some points for the ABC Supply team,” he said.
  • Your big movers on the afternoon? Justin Wilson ended eighth after starting 16th and Josef Newgarden a St. Petersburg-best ninth from 22nd and shotgun on the field. Graham Rahal had a big start too, advancing 10 positions in the early stages from 21st up to 11th; the National Guard Honda driver ended 14th.
  • Sneaky good finishes occurred for Sebastian Saavedra in 11th and rookie Mikhail Aleshin in 12th. Aleshin being top rookie in the results was a bit of a surprise considering Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth’s respective qualifying efforts of seventh and eighth, and Carlos Huertas’ near immediate adaptation despite the late call to drive Dale Coyne’s second car. Munoz ended 17th, Huertas 18th and Hawksworth 21st after being eliminated in a restart accident.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya ended only 15th, but learned a lot in his open-wheel return. “We were just burning up the rear tires with the setup that we decided to run. It was just a little too aggressive. You know, we will learn and pass some people and some people passed us. There are a few things we have to do better but I didn’t feel my pace was too bad there at the end,” said the 1999 CART and 2000 Indianapolis 500 champion.

  1. testover6370 - Mar 31, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Newgarden’s charge from last to a top-10 finish was the overlooked story of the weekend.

    I’m curious about what happened to another surprisingly low starter, Hinchcliffe. His times looked decently competitive but he just didn’t make up any positions. What was going on with his race?

    Munoz I think is better on the big speedways than the road and street courses. He was only decent in Detroit last year, which was to be fair a last minute sub job, but nothing like the hero he was at Indy and Fontana. Maybe he’ll be a contender for the Triple Crown.

    • crunge4461 - Mar 31, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      I could see Munoz be a competitor for the triple crown. However, don’t count him out on the Road and Street courses yet. IndyCars are very difficult to drive and get used to, the steer is very heavy, the tracks bumpy, a driver has to really used to hustling the car at an extreme level. I think Munoz will wind up being very fast on everything. I think Hunter-Reay’s run was pretty sweet. He was very strong.

    • Tony DiZinno - Mar 31, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      Luckily, I broke both of those two (Newgarden/Hinchcliffe) out into separate posts today.

      Newgarden: http://motorsportstalk.nbcsports.com/2014/03/31/wilson-newgarden-make-big-leaps-from-qualifying-to-race-in-st-petersburg/

      Hinchcliffe: http://motorsportstalk.nbcsports.com/2014/03/31/various-mechanical-issues-spoil-hinchcliffes-st-petersburg-title-defense/

      Thanks as always for the comments.

  2. crunge4461 - Mar 31, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    I miss the double-file restarts. I have no clue why they got rid of those for this year. The double starts were so exciting last year, every restart was like a new beginning to the race. I know it does not hold with tradition, and I tend to be a traditionalist, but the double file starts were really exciting last year and this year they get rid of em.’ I just do not understand that, it was great for these street races where passing is so hard, it increased the excitement.

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