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How the 2011 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg unfolded

Laps 1-25

The season's first turn of the first lap serves as a harbinger of the chaos that would ensue. Marco Andretti, on the inside of a four-wide formation, makes contact with Scott Dixon's car and overturns for the second consecutive year in a season opener. Mike Conway, Ryan Briscoe, Oriol Servia and Helio Castroneves are involved.

Particularly snakebitten is Conway, making his first start since a horrific crash on the final lap of last year's Indianapolis 500. He and Andretti are the only drivers in the initial accident not to return. Meanwhile, Andretti says Castroneves misjudged his braking point and ran up into the back of him.

The Turn 1 melee brings out the first of four cautions in the race's initial 14 laps. After one restart, pole-sitter and defending champion Will Power briefly falls to seventh after sustaining a hit and bumping into neutral.

Leaders after 25 laps

Dario Franchitti

Simona de Silvestro

Tony Kanaan

Justin Wilson

Will Power

Laps 26-50

Dario Franchitti, who took the lead on the third turn of Lap 5, builds nearly a three-second advantage on second-place Simona de Silvestro by Lap 30. De Silvestro, a second-year IndyCar driver, started the race in the 17th position.

IndyCar newcomer Charlie Kimball, the series' first licensed diabetic driver, sustains left-front damage after making contact with the wall in Turn 3 on Lap 39. "I overestimated the grip on the cold tires," says Kimball, acknowledging it as a "rookie mistake."

For the second time in the race, Danica Patrick sustains front-wing damage, this time after making contact with 2010 St. Petersburg runnerup Justin Wilson.

Leaders after 50 laps

Dario Franchitti

Will Power

Tony Kanaan

Simona de Silvestro

Alex Tagliani

Laps 51-75

By Lap 58, Dario Franchitti clinches the two series championship points for most laps led. By Lap 68, his lead over Will Power has extended to more than 4.5 seconds. He makes a clean pit stop on Lap 71 for four tires and fuel.

Power and Tony Kanaan, the latter of whom had signed on with KV Racing only six days before, take a brief lead but go to pit lane for tires (Kanaan switches from the softer reds to blacks) and fuel on Lap 72. Franchitti resumes the lead he'll never relinquish.

By Lap 74, Franchitti leads by more than six seconds. Simona de Silvestro, who never placed higher than eighth in her 2010 rookie season, is in fourth.

Leaders after 75 laps

Dario Franchitti

Will Power

Tony Kanaan

Simona de Silvestro

Takuma Sato

Laps 76-100

With Dario Franchitti's victory all but assured, Tony Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro wage an 11th-hour subplot with a fierce tussle for third place in the final laps. De Silvestro stays on Kanaan's heels but never can overtake the 36-year-old veteran. "I used every single strength and experience I had to hold her off," Kanaan says.

Franchitti, who led 94 of the 100 laps, whizzes in blissful isolation past the checkered flag, more than seven seconds ahead of Will Power.

Takuma Sato, embarking on his second IndyCar season, finishes fifth, four spots better than his previous career best. De Silvestro, who didn't begin working with new engineer Brent Harvey until Friday, has a career-best finish. "I never thought on Friday that we would be running so well during the race," she says.

Final leaders

Dario Franchitti

Will Power

Tony Kanaan

Simona de Silvestro

Takuma Sato

How the 2011 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg unfolded 03/27/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 27, 2011 10:14pm]
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