Team Penske endured a difficult 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg presented by RP Funding on Sunday.
Scott McLaughlin in the No.3 DEX Imaging Chevrolet who took victory here last year was once again challenging for victory until a collision with Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean saw his hopes of taking back to back wins disappear coming home in P13 and speaking following the action he said:
Very sorry to Romain (Grosjean). He’s a friend of mine. I know we were both going for the win there. I just made a big mistake. I tried to push on cold tires. I just didn’t have the grip on the inside (on the primary) like I did on the greens (alternate). Locked the rears. Unfortunately, we made wheel contact that time and it took us both out. Look, I don’t race like that. I apologize. I feel I had plenty of good battles with many good drivers. I just got to thank my DEX Imaging Chevy crew. The car was great. My fuel mileage was great. You have your good days, you have your bad days.”
Josef Newgarden in the No.2 Hitachi Chevrolet was working his way into the top ten throughout the race until a mechanical failure in the closing laps of the race forced him to retire meaning he was classified in 23rd and speaking following the action he said:
Pretty tough day. Just terrible ending. We had something mechanically break unfortunately on the engine side. Had a small fire. Tried to come to pit lane and shut it off, get it back to pit lane and get the fire out. It’s unfortunate because I think we were on for a top-five. I made a mistake on the last restart unfortunately with about 25 to go. We were restarting fifth and I went back to either eighth or ninth. I just got wide. I think for sure a top-10. We were capable of producing a good day which would have been a good start. Unfortunately, we just had to stop early. A real good job by the team. We had a really solid race. Everything was executed just beautifully as always. The Hitachi Chevy felt racy. We made some moves there in the middle. I was proud of everybody. It was a good first race to work together; a lot of new people on the crew. Everyone performed incredibly with really good stops. So I feel really encouraged for the next round. We’ll just get back on it and get this thing tuned up and keep going.”
Defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power in the No.12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet started the race from 10th and was caught up in an incident with Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta which saw Herta retire from the race.
Power recovered to finish the race inside the top ten in seventh and speaking following the action he said:
We (Colton Herta) banged all the way in, and I went up the inside, and I had as much luck as I could. I feel bad that it ruined his day, but I thought he for sure he knew I was there. I was up his inside, and I just understeered. It wasn’t like just a big divebomb. I was here, and he kind of hung on the outside. I hate to ruin anyone’s day, I do. I hate that. I like to race these guys clean, and he races me clean, so I feel really bad. He ended up out, and I was able to keep going. Still a very good day for us. I’m really happy to get the Verizon 5G car in the top-10. A very hectic day.”