Power Play: Will 2-for-2 in Quest for Miami Glory
Miami resident E.J. Viso appeared to have a beat on his first IndyCar Series victory before a gearbox failure ended his race while he was leading (photo courtesy: Chris Jones, IndyCar Media)
On a day filled with numerous passes on the streets of St. Petersburg, Will Power held off a hard-charging Justin Wilson to claim his second victory in a row and firmly cement himself as a contender for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Championship, which will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2. For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.
“It’s just great,” said Power, fresh from winning the season opener in Brazil. “It’s Verizon’s first year [as sponsor], and we’re out to win the Championship [at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2]. Perfect pit stops, good race. Perfect weekend—pole and a win. Can’t get much better than that.”
All three of Team Penske drivers finished in the Top 4, with Ryan Briscoe in third place and South Florida-resident Helio Castroneves—who will be seeking his own glory on his “home track” in Miami Oct. 2—finishing fourth.
“It was an awesome day for Team Penske,” Castroneves said. “Fortunately, the team looks strong, and we are on the right track. With Will winning two in a row, it shows how talented he is. It was a great effort for the whole entire team.”
Danica Patrick overcame a poor qualifying effort (21st) to finish seventh and record her best road/street course since last year at Long Beach (fourth). Motorsports’ first lady will race twice at Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall—during both IndyCar Championship Weekend (Oct. 1-2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 19-21).
“What a great finish for the GoDaddy car this weekend,” said Patrick, who intends to run Nationwide at Homestead-Miami on Nov. 20. “It was a challenging race, but we held on to the very end. The guys did a great job in the pits and they made all the right calls. We will definitely use this momentum....”
At St. Pete, Power led a field-high 50 laps to pick up three bonus points (one for the pole, two for most laps led) and takes a 44-point advantage over Wilson, South Florida-resident Ryan Hunter-Reay—who finished 11th in his second drive for Andretti Autosport—and reigning-Champion Dario Franchitti, who locked up the 2009 IndyCar title at Homestead-Miami Speedway last fall.
Franchitti, Power, Patrick, Castroneves and the rest of the IndyCar field will resume the pursuit for fall glory in Miami with Race 3 from Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on Sunday, April 11 (3:45 p.m. EST on VERSUS). The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. Both the IZOD IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights Series Championships will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway the weekend of Oct. 1-2. For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.
Open It Up: South Florida’s Indy Drivers
TK: "Overall, we just didn't have a good day at all as a team. And, nowadays you just can't afford any mistakes. The series is too competitive too afford that."
In qualifying Key Biscayne’s Tony Kanaan gave Andretti Autosport its first front-row start at St. Pete, since summer 2008, qualifying second behind Will Power. But the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car saw its string of five Top 5 finishes at St. Pete end with a 10th-place finish after tangling with South Beach-resident Marco Andretti, who led early but faded to 12th.
"The Venom car started the race really strong but then, unfortunately, we caught a cut tire,” said Andretti. “Track position is really important here and we had great position, but the cut tire caused us to lose that; that was really the turning point for us. But at the same time, I can't say we had the best-handling car on the track. We were looking good for a while. Things just didn't go our way."
South Florida-resident Helio Castroneves—who will be seeking his own glory on his “home track” in Miami Oct. 2—was the high South Florida-based finisher (fourth), but Miami resident E.J. Viso appeared to have a beat on his first IndyCar Series victory before a gearbox failure ended his race while he was leading.
“What a shame for the PDVSA-KV Racing Technology team because we ran well all weekend,” said Viso. “We definitely had the speed, pace and a good strategy in today's race….This is the tough part of racing—one second you have everything, and the next it is taken away from you. We just need to keep our spirits up and work hard."
Another South Florida resident amongst the newsmakers was Mario Moraes, who was involved in the most serious incident of the race. On Lap 46, Panther Racing’s Dan Wheldon's right rear suspension appeared to break on the approach to Turn 1. After losing control of his car, he bounced off an unsuspecting Moraes and speared into the tire barriers. Neither driver was hurt, and Moraes was credited with a 21st-place finish.
"The race was going well until I got hit from behind by first [Scott] Dixon and then by Wheldon,” said Moraes. “It's a shame for the KV Racing Technology team because the crew worked really hard all weekend, and the car was handling well. To end it like this is not a great feeling."
Miami-resident Raphael “Rafa” Matos, the reigning IndyCar Rookie of the Year, finished eighth at St. Pete on the heels of his fourth-place finish at Brazil. Matos led three laps, which marked the first time he has led since last year’s race at Long Beach.
"After starting 23rd, this was a great day for us,” said Matos. “The crew did a great job with the pit stops, I got more experience under my belt, and we collected a lot of points [toward] the Championship….Now we're looking forward to the next one."
Rookie driver Mario Romancini, who also resides in South Florida, finished 13th in just his second IndyCar Series race.
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