Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud driving the No.1 PPG Automotive Refinish Chevrolet put his disappointing qualifying performance behind him at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg on Sunday.
The Frenchman worked his way from 14th place on the grid and finished on the podium in second place and speaking following the race he commented by saying:
It’s definitely a champion team for regrouping like they did, understanding the issue we had in qualifying. This morning in the warmup, I was back home in my car. It was great to get that feeling back. The race, the car was fantastic. We got very lucky at the start, I would say. We went through the chaos. I think God had something to play with it actually, because he put the car back where it needed to go. Very lucky. Then after that, we were a bit lucky with strategy. But that was actually the plan. So thanks to (strategist) Kyle Moyer and (engineer) Ben Bretzman for their work on that. They gave me some clean air. We had to save quite a bit of fuel to manage till the end. (Sebastien) Bourdais was untouchable today. It’s 1-2 French. Sorry for the French Revolution, guys. I’m very happy for him. It’s been his hometown actually. He’s been here since he moved to America. With Dale Coyne and Honda, they’ve shown a lot of strength. Fantastic for them. I wish it was P1 for me, P2 for him. Next time maybe. But very happy for him. Very happy for second. We started second last year as well. Hopefully it’s our good luck charm.
Josef Newgarden in the No.2 Verizon Chevrolet started the race, his first with ‘The Captain’ in fourth place and finished the event in eighth place and speaking following the race, Newgarden commented by saying:
It was a good day for the Team Penske Verizon Chevrolet. We were a top-five car – maybe even a podium car. The yellows just didn’t fall our way and we found ourselves caught out during that first stint. Tim (Cindric, race strategist) was going to bring me in, but we had just passed pit lane as the caution came out. I’ve been caught out by those type of yellows before and I’ve been the beneficiary of those type of yellows. That is the risk in this type of racing and sometimes it’s just the way it all plays outs. A top 10 is not ideal, but it could have been worse. We finished the race and learned a lot. I feel like it’s a good starting points for our team. It’s nice to get this first race under our belt and out of the way. It’s been a great first weekend with the team. We got what we needed out of it.
Helio Castroneves in the No.3 Hitachi Chevrolet started the race from 16th place on the grid and came through the field to finish the race in sixth place just behind Takuma Sato and speaking following the race he commented by saying:
“For someone who started 16th and finished sixth, it’s pretty darn good. The No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet boys did an excellent job. We had a little bit of luck and no luck. There was an accident that could have helped us out to finish on the podium, but we unfortunately got a piece in our nose so we had to take it off and stop again. Great job for everyone Team Penske and Hitachi Group, especially on the pit stop when we were able to beat Marco (Andretti) in the end so that we could finish in the sixth position. Well done. Now, we move on to the next.
Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg Verizon P1 Award winner Will Power in the No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet retired from the race following mechanical issues but prior to his retirement he was show the black flag for not keeping up to speed and speaking following the race he commented by saying:
We locked up the right front there on the start and that caused a big vibration. We talked about coming in during that first yellow but that would have put us in a bad situation. We were able to make it long enough to a good lap number before we came in, then we got a pit road penalty. We still came out of that OK and it was going to be a P3 or P4 kind of day. Then we just ended up having some engine issues and that took us out of contention. It was a typical St. Pete race for me for the last few years. That’s not the way we wanted to start the season in the Verizon Chevy, but that’s how it goes.