• Wilson, Beatriz medical update
IndyCar's director of medical services Dr. Michael Olinger said that Dreyer & Reinbold drivers Justin Wilson and Ana Beatriz both suffered hand injuries during the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Beatriz will have surgery March 29 on her fractured scaphoid bone (wrist). Beatriz completed the race in the No. 24 Ipiranga/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car, advancing six positions from her starting spot to finish 14th.
Wilson, driver of the No. 22 TransSystems/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car, has a small fracture of a wrist bone and will be fitted with a special carbon fiber brace, according to Olinger. Wilson started sixth and finished 10th.
The the injuries are believed to have resulted from wheel-to-wheel contact with other cars in the incident-filled race.
• Boost in the ratings
ABC's broadcast of Sunday's race delivered its highest overnight rating in metered markets for a race since 2007. The 1.4 rating for 56 markets was surpassed only by ABC's telecast of the July 2007 race at Mid-Ohio. Final ratings for this broadcast are expected on March 31.
“I'm very encouraged by the ratings for several reasons,” said IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. “First of all, it was standalone. It wasn't in the late time slot, during which there typically is more household viewership. Second, it's our highest-rated non-Indianapolis show since 2007, but even that show had a great lead-in with the British Open (with Padraig Harrington defeating Sergio Garcia in a four-hole playoff).
“We're ecstatic with our ratings and with the double-digit percentage of growth with the live attendance at the event, and we believe IndyCar is going to continue to make substantial progress in the next couple of years.”
• De Silvestro a star of the show
Slowly navigating the sea of post-race revelers on her green and white scooter on the way to an unscheduled news conference, Simona de Silvestro smiled as wide as the Alps and waved occasionally to acknowledge the applause and congratulatory shouts.
Additional praise for her entertaining duel with veteran Tony Kanaan and subsequent career-best fourth-place finish was heaped on upon her arrival at the Mahaffey Theatre as fans mingled under the late-day canopy of shade. With such affirmation, she entered the theater. For a few minutes, the stage was hers.
Spectators stood and cheered during the spirited battle for third place in the closing laps. De Silvestro, who started 17th in the No. 78 Nuclear Clean Energy/HVM Racing car, ran as high as second to eventual race winner Dario Franchitti following a lap 13 restart. Running fourth after her final service stop, de Silvestro rode the gearbox of Kanaan's No. 82 GEICO KV Racing Technology-Lotus entry into the corners of the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit but couldn't overtake the 2004 series champion.
“I would have never thought we would have finished like we did,” said de Silvestro, whose previous best was eighth at Mid-Ohio in August.
“It's the first time really competing like that against Tony Kanaan,” the 22-year-old sophomore IZOD IndyCar Series driver from Switzerland added. “It's pretty crazy for me, because I've been watching him since I was growing up and to be right there racing him now is pretty cool.”
Taking his seat at the table, Kanaan deadpanned “Not bad for an old guy.”
“I used every single strength and experience I had to hold her off,” said Kanaan, who was making his debut with the Jimmy Vasser-led team. “I just really drove it as hard as I could. I made a mistake with three laps to go, she pulled alongside me, couldn't make the pass. At that point, I was hoping for a no-yellow because I was going to be a sitting duck (he was on primary Firestone Firehawks and de Silvestro was running the more-grip alternate tires) and I would lose third position. Simona blew my doors off on a restart before and I knew she was strong.”
If she could have utilized the Honda overtake assist more often (there were 15 pushes left of the system than responded with 12 seconds of added horsepower), the outcome might have been different, but De Silvestro said she had few regrets.
“I was running fourth and didn't want to try anything crazy,” she explained. “I tried at the end to try to get third place but I wasn't quite there. Tony was struggling at the end quite a bit and I was really pushing. I almost got inside of him in Turn 1. It was a big risk to take but I think it was the right choice. It's a lot of fun because on the street courses as a driver you can really push yourself and find the limit."
She added that while her Rookie of the Year run at last year's Indy 500 remains her favorite career highlight, this one ran it close.
“Indy was one of my highlights, because just to qualify for the Indy 500 not many drivers get that opportunity,” she said. “Definitely today is going to go right up there, too, because I think it was one of my best races. I didn't really make too many mistakes and I think we are just here to try to beat every driver.”
HVM, with owner Keith Wiggins, won six races in Champ Car (Mario Dominguez, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Nelson Philippe and Robert Doornbos) and de Silvestro could make it seven this season.
“The way this weekend started, we struggled quite a bit,” she said. “It was the first time working with my new engineer [Brent Harvey, who replaced Michael Cannon – who has moved to Kanaan's team]. We started working together and it clicked in the morning warm-up, so I'm looking forward to the rest of the season.”
• Warbird crashes before the race; minor injuries to pilot and passenger
A vintage aircraft crashed Sunday afternoon while participating in the opening ceremonies for the St. Petersburg event. The Associated Press reported city officials as saying the T-28 Trojan, a 1950s-vintage piston-engined warbird, reported mechanical difficulties and then crashed into the water off Albert Witted Airport as it attempted a landing. The pilot and a passenger were treated for minor injuries, the AP said.