Will Power took a second straight victory in the postponed second round of the IZOD IndyCar Series in St. Petersburg, as Justin Wilson denied Penske a top-three sweep by securing second for Dreyer & Reinbold.
The incident-packed race, which took place in dry conditions that were in marked contrast to the storms that prevented any racing on Sunday, came down to a duel between Power and Wilson, with the leader's Penske teammates Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves close behind. But having topped every practice session and taken pole, Power had just enough speed to stay out of Wilson's race and maintain his 100 percent victory rate in 2010. It also gave him a commanding championship point lead over a three-way tie for second involving Wilson, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dario Franchitti, 103-59.
"It's just great," declared Power "This has been a fantastic start to my first full season with Penske Racing, and I'm really happy for all my guys. We won the pole, led the most race laps, and got the victory. Race weekends don't come much better than this."
The race was delayed slightly again this morning to allow the track to fully dry out after the storms that caused its postponement – although it remained slick enough for Milka Duno to spin on the formation laps, and for both Mike Conway and Franchitti to rotate on lap one, causing an immediate yellow.
Andretti Autosport's Marco Andretti had surged to third behind Power and Scott Dixon (Ganassi) at the start, and after the restart overtook them both on consecutive laps to take the lead – but only for one lap before Dixon repassed him into Turn 1, with Castroneves following suit next time around.
Power had lost momentum after Andretti's move and temporarily fell back to fourth, but kept his softer red tires in better shape than most, and overtook Andretti and Castroneves to return to second place by lap 19.
Takuma Sato prompted the next yellow on lap 24 by sliding his KV car into the wall while trying to fend off Foyt's Vitor Meira, who was one of several drivers, along with de Ferran/Luczo Dragon driver Raphael Matos and Franchitti, to emerge from the midfield into the lead briefly as the pack followed different pit stop strategies during the next stint.
Being back in the pack following the pit shuffle spoiled several leading contenders' chances – with Dixon smashing his front wing by tagging KV's Mario Moraes, and Tony Kanaan (who had dropped back from second with a poor getaway at the start) and teammate Andretti pitting for repairs after hitting debris from the incident.
The most frightening crash of the day came on lap 46, when Panther driver Dan Wheldon's right-rear suspension appeared to break on the approach to Turn 1. He bounced off Moraes and speared into the tires, but was unhurt.
Half the field made what was planned to be their penultimate stops during the resultant caution, moving Power back into the lead ahead of Wilson, EJ Viso (KV), Simona de Silvestro (HVM) and Danica Patrick (Andretti Autosport), all five among the drivers who stayed out.
The top three broke away at the restart, with Viso then the first to make his final stop on lap 64. This turned out to be sublime timing, as moments later Dreyer & Reinbold's Mike Conway bounced into the tires after a tangle with Matos and caused another yellow.
With all the other leaders having to pit during the caution, Viso moved to the front – at least once Meira, on another totally different strategy, had pitted from the lead. But just when Viso looked to be a good bet for his first win, a gearbox glitch forced him to pit for repairs.
"What a shame for the team, because we ran well all weekend," Viso said. "We definitely had the speed, pace and a good strategy in today's race. I was leading the race until a shift mechanism failed. This is the tough part of racing – one second you have everything and the next it is taken away from you. We just need to keep our spirits up and work hard for a better race at Barber."
After another brief yellow – caused by Graham Rahal (Sarah Fisher Racing) tapping de Silvestro into a spin at Turn 1, and the rapidly recovering Dixon crashing by himself at Turn 9 – the race came down to a final sprint with Power narrowly leading Wilson (left), and Briscoe and Castroneves giving chase. Despite a few minor slides from Power, Wilson was never able to get close enough, finishing just under a second behind the victorious Australian, with battling teammates Briscoe and Castroneves completing the top four.
Having been further delayed by a midrace puncture, Franchitti mounted a searing late charge to take fifth, as Alex Tagliani gave FAZZT a sixth-place finish in only its second race.
Running the soft red tires in the final stint, Patrick had to work hard to resist Matos, Rahal, Kanaan, Hunter-Reay and Andretti to secure seventh at the flag – her best finish on a road or street course since her sixt at Toronto last year.
Wilson credited his crew's superb pit work with putting him in position to challenge for the win in the closing stages.
"Everyone at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing did a great job throughout the weekend, but I've really got to complement my guys on that final pit stop," said the Briton. "It put us in great position to challenge for the win. I pressured Will as much as I could, and I saw him get a bit sideways a couple of times, but I could never get quite close enough to pull alongside. But this is a great start to the season for us and if we keep it up, the wins will come."
Franchitti accepted blame for the incident at the start, but the Target Ganassi driver overcame that and another delay at half-distance to salvage somme useful points with a top five.
"I messed up on the first lap and that cost us a lot, as did the cut tire and unscheduled pit stop around mid-race," said Franchitti. "But we never gave up and I had a great car that was fast all day. The racing was hard, but fair, and it was a lot of fun out there. I'm glad so many fans came back today to watch.”
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Will Power Penske 2h07m05.7900s
2. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold + 0.8244s
3. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 4.7290s
4. Helio Castroneves Penske + 5.1699s
5. Dario Franchitti Ganassi + 22.2172s
6. Alex Tagliani FAZZT + 29.3224s
7. Danica Patrick Andretti + 30.3360s
8. Raphael Matos de Ferran Luczo Dragon + 30.6695s
9. Graham Rahal Sarah Fisher + 30.8426s
10. Tony Kanaan Andretti + 31.3508s
11. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti + 31.6286s
12. Marco Andretti Andretti + 32.1703s
13. Mario Romancini Conquest + 39.8086s
14. Hideki Mutoh Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 39.9949s
15. Vitor Meira Foyt + 56.0593s
16. Simona de Silvestro HVM + 1 lap
17. EJ Viso KV + 3 laps
Scott Dixon Ganassi 73 laps
Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 64 laps
Dan Wheldon Panther 46 laps
Mario Moraes KV 45 laps
Takuma Sato KV 21 laps
Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne 10 laps
Milka Duno Dale Coyne 7 laps