ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—Will Power drove the #12 Verizon Penske Dallara-Chevrolet to victory in the 2014 IndyCar season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Sunday afternoon, crossing the finish line 1.95 seconds ahead of 2012 champion Ryan Hunter Reay and fellow Penske driver Helio Castroneves.
It was Power’s 22nd IndyCar win and his second at St. Pete.
“I’m stoked to get the first win for Verizon as a series sponsor,” Power told IndyCar.com. “That’s how you want to start the season. We came into the season wanting to win a championship for (team owner) Roger [team owner Roger Penske.] The field is so tight that I’m just happy we had a good race car.
“That’s how you want to start the season. Last year was horrible, and this year it’s good to get a points lead.”
Power started fourth and passed pole-sitter Takuma Sato in Turn One on lap 31 to take the lead in a race which surprisingly didn’t see a full-course caution until lap 76 when Charlie Kimball in the #83 Novo-Nordisk Ganassi car went off in Turn One.
At the post-race press conference, power joked that he had had it done to him two years in a row and this was his turn. “I learned my lesson and finally pulled it off myself,” he joked.
The move he used is the signature overtaking maneuver atf St. Pete—the one Dario Franchitti used on to take the win away from Power in 2011. Power went side-by-side with Sato through Turn One, which put Sato on the wrong line into Turn Two. Sato had to slow, and Power took the lead which he never again surrendered aside from pit-stop rotation..
On the lap 82 restart, Will Power brake-checked the field (he swears he only lifted and never touched the brakes.) The resulting accordion caught rookie Jack Hawksworth off guard, and he rammed Marco Andretti, bringing out another full-course caution.
When the race went green again with 23 laps to go, everybody had fresh tires and enough fuel to race hard to the finish. The final couple dozen laps came down to who had saved a better set of red tires and whose car was best set up for the cooling evening conditions.
Power prevailed—Ryan Hunter-Reay in the #28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda was as quick but couldn’t go the little bit quicker he needed to close the gap.
Behind Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves in the #3 Hitachi Penske Chevrolet was driving all-out, but his tires were tired and he couldn’t challenge Hunter-Reay for third.
New Attitude Brings New Joy to Racing
St. Pete was Power’s third win in a row and his fourth in six races—but prior to that he hadn’t had w in in 26 races.
After the race Power talked about how good it was to win, and how his long drought had changed his attitude about racing.
He used to worry about winning a championship—he has been runner up three times—to the point that he changed his approach to racing. He started to focus on finishing high to earn points rather than risking a wreck to try to win a race.
“Some years I have been so conservative,” he told the press conference. “I just race now, race hard. I just want to race, race hard, and to win. I want to win a championship, but I like winning races. Hopefully the two come together.”
IndyCar will be back in action on April 13 in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Visit Indycar.com for information and tickets.