Thursday, April 19, 2018
Sports

Mechanical problems plague entries at Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — The new cars and new engine manufacturers led to early exits in Sunday's IndyCar season opener at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Seven cars failed to finish the race because of mechanical problems, ranging from stalled Lotus engines to Chevrolet's battery issues and missing gears in Mike Conway's Honda.

The battery of Tony Kanaan's Chevy failed on Lap 22, sticking him with a 25th-place finish in the 26-car field. Other Chevy drivers said they had to monitor the engine's voltage carefully to avoid similar problems under cautions.

"It's a new car, new engine," said Kanaan, the 2004 series champ. "Unfortunately it happened to us."

Three of five Lotus machines bowed out, and only Alex Tag­liani finished among the top 15. The Lotus-powered cars of Simona de Silvestro and rookie Katherine Legge died on the track. St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais rose from starting 26th to third by Lap 68, but he dropped out after 73 laps.

Car problems also ended the day for JR Hildebrand's Chevy and Takuma Sato's Honda. Sato had a lead, for 11 laps, for the fifth race of his career before finishing 22nd.

Dario down: Dario Franchitti's quest for his fourth consecutive series championship started poorly.

His No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing car ran out of gas on the last turn.

"As I said to Chip on the radio, 'That just sums up our day,' " the defending race winner said. "We have a bit of work to do, obviously."

The four-time series champ finished 13th, his second-worst finish here and only his fifth outside the top 12 in the series since 2009.

Passing problems: The new car and fuel strategy appeared to limit passing.

"It's hard to overtake," said Justin Wilson, who finished 10th.

Runnerup Scott Dixon said he saw plenty of position changes on the track.

Wilson said the car's wider wings increased the grip but made passing more difficult. Pit stop strategy also played a role as some drivers tried to conserve fuel instead of race each other aggressively.

"It's definitely tough," James Hinchcliffe said of overtaking competitors in the new Dallara DW12.

"You don't want it too easy, right? You want guys to have to work for it. I think that's where we're at."

Hinchcliffe's debut: Hinchcliffe poked fun of his role as Danica Patrick's replacement in the GoDaddy.com car by wearing a woman's wig during driver introductions.

He followed that up by placing fourth, tying the best finish of his IndyCar career.

The GoDaddy.com car hadn't finished in the top four since Patrick's runnerup finish at Homestead in the 2010 season finale.

"We can just start building on this now," Hinchcliffe said.

Remembering Wheldon: Dan Wheldon's sister, Holly, waved the green flag to start the race in his adopted hometown. Some drivers had decals on their helmets to honor Wheldon, and race officials and fans wore orange ribbons. The track showed a short video honoring the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who died in a wreck during last season's finale in Las Vegas.

Miscellany: Simon Pagenaud was the top rookie. He was docked 10 starting positions, to 16th, for switching engines before qualifying but finished sixth. He joined Dixon as the only Hondas among the top eight. … Late-night TV host David Letterman attended as the co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. … In his anticipated IndyCar debut, former Formula One star Rubens Barrichello finished 17th, two laps down.

Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

TAMPA – Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle he suffered in a car accident in Louisiana last week, putting his status for the start of the season in question.Beckwith was passenger in car driven by former L...
Updated: 17 minutes ago

High school scoreboard for April 19

Thursday’s scoreboardBaseballDixie Hollins 8, Canterbury 0Northeast 13, Lakewood 3Calvary Christian 5, Berkeley Prep 2
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Out early: Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

Out early: Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

TAMPA — How good can the Bucs be in 2018? Fans will get a good sense in the first three weeks, as Tampa Bay opens the year with three of its toughest games, all against reigning division champions.The Bucs open 2018 in New Orleans on Sept. 9 at...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

The Lightning's Victor Hedman is a finalist for the second consecutive year for the Norris Trophy, given to the top defenseman in the league. The other two finalists are Drew Doughty of the Kings and P.K. Subban of the Predators, it was announced Thu...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

TAMPA — The second period was not even four minutes old Wednesday night when Devils right wing Patrick Maroon skated all alone toward Andrei Vasilevskiy. It was a moment that could turn a game and even a series.A goal and the score would be tie...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Former UCF and Lakewood High standout Shaquem Griffin understandably has been focused on the NFL draft next week in Arlington, Tex., where he is projected as a potential second-day pick.But the Lightning's playoff run  hasn't escaped his attenti...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

The 2018 NFL schedule won't be released until 8 p.m. tonight, but the Bucs' eight home games were posted early — and presumably accidentally — on the team's site, showing what would be a daunting start to the upcoming season.Multiple outl...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

For the first time since its season commenced, the USF baseball team enters a weekend as the Bulls' feature sports attraction.Basketball ended last month, and spring football ended last Saturday, meaning would-be baseball fans no longer have reason t...
Updated: 10 hours ago
The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Mallex Smith has style.Effervescent personality. Pop culture hipness. Sense of fashion with accoutrements.Now the Rays are going to find out if he has game.More specifically, enough game to be a front-line outfielder, even an i...
Updated: 10 hours ago
NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

The NHL got it right.Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning's top scorer and best player so far in these playoffs, will play Saturday's Game 5 against New Jersey. He's not going to be suspended for his vicious hit on a Devils player in Tampa Bay's Game 4 vic...
Updated: 11 hours ago