Franchitti Takes Season Opener
March 27, 2011 | 3:15 P.M. EST
The win was the first for Target Chip Ganassi Racing on the streets of St. Petersburg. (Photo: Getty Images)
There are multiple advantages to starting on the front row on IZOD IndyCar Series road/street course. In the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, one was avoiding the six-car pile-up in Turn 1 of the first lap.
Dario Franchitti and pole sitter Will Power were among those who kept their cars' noses clean at the start and subsequent side-by-side restarts through 100 laps on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit by the bay, and that's the way they completed the season opener.
Franchitti made a strong start in his bid for a third consecutive series championship (only two others in Indy car history have accomplished it) by running away from Power and the remnants of the 24-car field to win for the first time at St. Pete.
"It is great to be here in the sunshine of St. Petersburg with the stands full and the Target car was running like a dream," Franchitti said. "I was focused on what Will Power was doing and that was a good moment when we got around him on the second restart. I thought we aren't going to win this Championship by just sitting back. There are still a lot of races to go and we are taking it one at a time. I am ready to go back to Barber after the test there earlier in the season."
The win was the first for Target Chip Ganassi Racing on the streets of St. Petersburg.
Power, the 2010 championship runner-up and Mario Andretti Road Course Championship Award winner, was 7.1612 seconds back.
"It was a very interesting start today," Power said. "Dario Franchitti got me fair and square at the beginning. When we had all of the restarts after caution periods, we got hit hard and went into neutral. We dropped to seventh position but were able to get back up to second again."
Tony Kanaan, who had four practice sessions in the No. 82 GEICO KV Racing Technology-Lotus car, finished third.
"We really drove our own race," Kanaan said. "I have to thank my sponsors and friends for stepping up at the last minute and coming through to make this happen."
Second-year racer Simona de Silvestro finished a career-best fourth in the No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/HVM Racing car.
"The team did an awesome job and my new engineer too," de Silvestro said. "We've been working together only since Friday and to finish fourth - my best result is something pretty unbelievable."
Takuma Sato finished fifth, an IndyCar Series career best. His previous best was ninth at 2010 at Edmonton.
Raphael Matos finished seventh for AFS Racing, which was making its IndyCar Series debut as a sole entrant.
JR Hildebrand was the top rookie finisher in 11th.
Damage to the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car for Dale Coyne Racing from an on-track incident in the morning warm-up session knocked Sebastian Bourdais off the starting grid for the season opener.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 10 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.