Ryan Briscoe kicked off the IndyCar Series with a hard-fought victory for Penske at St Petersburg.
The Australian grabbed the lead from Justin Wilson in the closing stages, then fended off a strong challenge from Ryan Hunter-Reay to secure his second consecutive win after taking the non-championship season closer in Surfers Paradise last October.
Reigning champion Scott Dixon crashed out, while Dario Franchitti took fourth ahead of Tony Kanaan on his return to the series.
For much of the race it looked like Wilson would take Dale Coyne Racing's first victory in 23 years of Champ Car and IndyCar competition.
Wilson had burst into the lead at the start, going three abreast with pole-sitter Graham Rahal (Newman/Haas/Lanigan) and the fast-starting Franchitti, who surged through from fifth in his Ganassi car.
As they filtered into the first corner, Rahal was tagged by Andretti Green's Kanaan, sending the young American sideways. Alex Tagliani then ran over his front wing, while Mike Conway's IndyCar debut came to an early end in the traffic jam behind this incident, as his Dreyer & Reinbold car was spat out of the pack with rear-end damage.
Franchitti shadowed Wilson at first, with the two Penske cars running third and fourth ahead of Darren Manning (Dreyer & Reinbold).
But at the first stops neared, Wilson put on a sprint, extending his lead to nearly six seconds.
A series of simultaneous incidents brought out the next caution, as Vitor Meira ran into the back of Tagliani and gave the Conquest car a puncture, Mario Moraes was punted out by Hideki Mutoh, and Raphael Matos and Danica Patrick became entangled at high-speed and slammed into the barriers.
Briscoe, Dan Wheldon (Panther), EJ Viso (HVM), Hunter-Reay, Robert Doornbos (NHLR) and Marco Andretti (AGR) had all pitted just before the yellow, so headed Wilson and Franchitti at the restart.
Wilson soon stormed forward again, charging to third in the laps after the caution, and then leaping ahead of both Briscoe and Wheldon at the final pitstops, staying out longer and squeezing out on cold tires just ahead of the Penske driver.
A pair of yellows stopped Wilson getting away, as first Vision's Ed Carpenter, then reigning champion Scott Dixon ended up in the Turn 3 barriers, the latter crash thanks to damage from a tangle with Mutoh.
Dixon was already running in the midfield, having lost a lot of ground at the first stops when he was blocked by Will Power, who had missed his pit stall.
It was at the restart following this crash that Briscoe pounced on Wilson, snatching the lead into Turn 1, with Hunter-Reay capitalizing on the Coyne car's loss of momentum to take second further around the lap.
Another yellow followed immediately as Doornbos and Wheldon collided and collected Mutoh, and Hunter-Reay attacked Briscoe at the restart with eight laps to go, but was rebuffed. A final yellow (caused by Tagliani punting Andretti into a spin) set up a two lap shoot-out, which Briscoe also handled adeptly, coming home 0.4s ahead of Hunter-Reay.
Second was Vision Racing's best ever result, a remarkable achievement given that Hunter-Reay's deal was only completed a week ago.
Wilson was less than a second from victory in third, ahead of Franchitti and Kanaan, who recovered well from a first lap nose change following the start incident.
Power took sixth ahead of the recovering Rahal, Manning, Meira and Tagliani.Grand Prix of St Petersburg results
Pos Driver Team Gap
1. Ryan Briscoe Penske
2. Ryan Hunter-Reay Vision + 0.4619s
3. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne + 0.9490s
4. Dario Franchitti Ganassi + 1.5230s
5. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green + 2.3214s
6. Will Power Penske + 3.4622s
7. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 4.0672s
8. Dan Wheldon Panther + 4.7283s
9. Vitor Meira Foyt + 5.9559s
10. Alex Tagliani Conquest + 1 lap
11. Robert Doornbos Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 4 laps
12. Stanton Barrett 3G + 4 laps
Driver Team Laps
Marco Andretti Andretti Green 94
Dan Wheldon Panther 86
Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 86
Scott Dixon Ganassi 80
EJ Viso HVM 75
Ed Carpenter Vision 71
Danica Patrick Andretti Green 31
Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon 31
Mario Moraes KV 31
Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 1