Power gets by Sato, cruises to win at St. Pete
30 March 2014 – Will Power was denied a fifth straight pole position at this weekend's Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but he could not be denied the victory, winning the 110-lap event ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves.
Power took the lead on Lap 31 after slowly reeling in polesitter Takuma Sato, who led all of the first 30 laps. After Sato's pit-stop, Power dove to the inside heading into Turn 1, going wheel-to-wheel with the Japanese driver before pulling in front. Immediately the Aussie built up a ten second lead and never looked back, winning by two seconds.
The 22nd win of Power's IndyCar career was not without incident, though. The race remained caution free for the first 74 laps until Charlie Kimball understeered through Turn 1 and stalled his car next to the tyre wall. After an extended yellow period, the pace car left the track, but Power did not accelerate on the frontstretch. The rest of the field streamed around the final corner at racing speed only to accordion into one another behind the slowing Power. Jack Hawksworth, taking evasive action, made contact and lost control, collecting Marco Andretti before hitting the inside wall. Hawksworth was fine, but Andretti left his car with a slight limp and a sore wrist.
Power later explained that the green flag had been shown before the designated acceleration zone, meaning he was not allowed to speed up yet. The explanation was little consolation for the rookie Hawksworth, especially, who had been running a clean race in the middle of the pack.
In the bulk of the green flag stretch before the first caution, it looked as though pole-sitter Sato would run away from the field. He was unchallenged at the start and was consistently holding a few seconds' gap until the first round of pit-stops. Switching to the harder black tyres, he emerged from the pits 0.4 seconds in front of Power's Penske machine, which was also clad in blacks.
Castroneves started the race in tenth but soon worked his way into third – a benefactor of a good start and quick pit work by his Penske Racing crew. After the first round of stops he began to pester Sato for second place, but he would have to make his move later in the pit lane, servicing his car off-strategy to Sato's A.J. Foyt crew. During this time, Sato regained the lead but continued to drop after each successive pit stop. He would finish P7.
In the meantime, late-race pushes by Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud set them up for second- and fifth-place finishes, respectively. Helio nearly collided with Power in pit lane in the final round of stops but eventually settled for P3 ahead of defending IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. The man who started second, Tony Kanaan, wrestled with fuel mixture issues throughout the race and finished P6.
Many eyes were on the four rookies in the field for today's race, and they certainly didn't disappoint. Hawksworth's day was cut short in the aforementioned restart incident, but he had been running in the top ten at one point (he would end up classified P21, only ahead of Andretti). Mikhail Aleshin became the top-finishing rookie in P12, whereas Carlos Munoz and Carlos Huertas finished in P17 and P18.
Juan Pablo Montoya, in his first IndyCar race since his time in Formula 1 and NASCAR, had a relatively safe day, staying out of trouble and finishing 41 seconds behind Power in P15. Defending race winner James Hinchcliffe suffered electronic problems the whole day and finished as the last running car.
The IndyCar season continues in two weeks for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach where Power (a two-time winner) and Penske will look to continue their strong start.