Juan Pablo Montoya Holds Off Will Power To Win Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Will Power dominated the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but Juan Pablo Montoya would get the advantage following the final set of pit stops. He then held off his Team Penske teammate throughout the final laps, scoring the victory.

“The tires were not falling off and right there at the end I was just running slow to look after them,” Montoya said. “When I needed to push I could push. Everybody with Verizon and Team Penske did an amazing job; Chevy as well.  This aero kit is amazing to drive.”

The battle for the lead did not come without contact, though, as Power dived to the inside of Montoya through the city section of the street course with approximately five laps to go. However, there wasn’t quite enough room, and contact would be made between the pair of Dallara-Chevrolets, with a piece of the nose breaking off of Power’s car.

“I saw him make the move but he was way too far and I wasn’t going to give him the position,” Montoya said. “If he was beside me I would have said, ‘OK, go ahead.’ When I got to the turning point he wasn’t even close. It is a shame we touched, but it’s all good, it’s racing.”

“If I hadn’t damaged my (front) wing, maybe I would have had another shot,” Power commented. “He was very strong on the front straight and my exits weren’t very good. That was really my only chance. I thought maybe I would catch him off-guard there. You don’t expect someone to pass there, so, yeah, I gave it a shot. I was surprised at how aggressively he turned, but he wanted to win the race and so did I.”

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Tony Kanaan would finish third after running in front solidly throughout the day.

“(Team owner) Chip (Ganassi) told me to bring the NTT Data car back in one piece. He didn’t want to see a scratch apart from the marbles,” Kanaan said. “We tried to stay out of trouble. The Penske guys were definitely tough today. On that last stint, we had to save a little bit more fuel, and not having the pace, I had to drop back. But we will take third. It’s good points, and we have to work from here.”

Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud finished fourth and fifth, to put all four Team Penske cars in the top-five. For Roger Penske, this marks his 175th career Verizon IndyCar Series victory.

“It was a fight between our two guys in front. It was just an amazing weekend,” Penske said. “To come back this year with the fast times in qualifying and win this race 1-2, and four drivers in the top six, wow, what a day.”

Sebastien Bourdais finished sixth, giving Chevrolet a sweep of the top-six spots in the first race of the season with the new aerodynamic kits. Ryan Hunter-Reay would cross the line seventh behind the wheel of his No. 27 Dallara-Honda.

“I think that was the hardest seventh-place finish I’ve seen,” he said. “That’s how it is sometimes, when you have bad days you have to bring home solid top 10s. We’ll take the top 10 and move ahead with the DHL car for New Orleans.”

Jack Hawksworth finished eighth, followed by Luca Filippi and Marco Andretti. Graham Rahal was running within the top 10, though would finish 11th following a pass-thru penalty after he made contact with Charlie Kimball, causing Kimball to hit the turn 10 wall on lap 55. Kimball would finsh 21st.

James Hinchcliffe was hoping to start off his relationship with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on a positive note, however a flat tire after contact with Gabby Chaves resulted in a 16th place finish.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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