Kanaan plays spoiler role at Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Published March 30 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon are frequent contenders at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

They're the only drivers to compete in all 11 IndyCar races here and account for a combined four runnerup finishes on the downtown streets.

What they lack, still, is a victory in St. Petersburg.

Kanaan finished third Sunday behind Team Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power. It was Kanaan's sixth podium (top-three run) in St. Petersburg.

"You've got to keep knocking to win the race," said Kanaan, 40, whose start Sunday was his 295th in CART and IndyCar combined. "I can tell by experience just doing 13 Indianapolis 500s and winning it on the 12th time (in 2013). We'll keep trying."

His best finish here was second in 2005, when Dan Wheldon won in a 1-2-3-4 finish for Andretti Green Racing, still the only one ever for any team in an Indy-style event.

After occupying the top four spots in Saturday's qualifying, Team Penske seemed a threat to match the feat, so Kanaan was glad to prevent that.

"For us it was great, it made everybody else mad," Kanaan said of the 2005 finish. "That came up in my mind today, and I said, 'You know what, that was so great with Dan that we shouldn't allow that to happen (again) yet.' "

Dixon, a runnerup here in 2006, '07 and '12, finished 15th and said the air jacks failed, which affected pit stops.

"The efficiency is way off, you're adding 5-10 seconds to each stop," Dixon said.

Dixon said he also nearly hit a truck doing cleanup work during a caution period.

Penalty: Charlie Kimball's car was damaged in an incident with Simon Pagenaud in Turn 5 on Lap 54. But the point of controversy came a few corners later.

Heading into Turn 10 Kimball's car, already with a smoking left rear tire from rear wing damage, was tapped by Graham Rahal's car. Kimball spun into the runoff area and IndyCar assessed Rahal a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact. Rahal, who ran as high as sixth before serving the penalty, finished 11th in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

"It just ticks me off because we genuinely had a car that could have won today," Rahal said. "Is a guy allowed to run around with a broken car and just block you? I'm not saying I didn't touch him, but I'd like to understand it better because if that's what (the rule) is, then I'm going to run around with a broken car a lot more and just block people."

Kimball had to get a new rear wing from the initial contact and finished 21st in his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. "I was really disappointed with the 15's contact," Kimball said. "Frankly, it was pretty obvious that I was coming into pit lane."

Other notables: St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais was sixth, where he started, for his best finish in five starts in the Grand Prix, including the inaugural 2003 CART event. … Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport was seventh, best among Honda engines. … James Hinchcliffe, whose first series win came here in 2013, finished 16th in his debut with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Quote of the day: "The neck is going to slowly grow. The ladies love it, but I'm married so it doesn't matter. (She says) 'You look like a man now, you've got a bit of a neck.' " —Power, on the strain the car puts on drivers' necks, due largely to increased speed and downforce.