ST. PETERSBURG — The only agreement concerning the IndyCar season's first restart is it was really slow.
And it all worked out for Will Power, who won Sunday's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Power started fourth and dominated on the downtown street circuit, leading 74 of 110 laps, including the final 53.
But the biggest talking point was a restart on Lap 82, when cars bunched up behind Power so much that a multicar collision happened in the middle of the frontstretch.
Power, who also won in St. Petersburg in 2010, defended the way he took the field to the green flag.
"Basically, the pace car pulls off, and you can set the pace you want," he said. "We weren't even in the zone that you have — the 200 yards or whatever it is — to decide for the leader to go when he wants."
Marco Andretti and rookie Jack Hawksworth took the worst of the accident as both cars were too badly damaged to continue. Andretti was left with a slight limp and told ABC his car didn't hit the inside wall hard, but at a bad angle.
Several drivers criticized Power's restart. Penske Racing teammate Helio Castroneves called it a "trick." That's notable because last year here, Power believed Castroneves passed him by jumping him on a restart.
But IndyCar officials did not penalize Power's No. 12 Chevrolet nor did they even review video. They gave Power a warning — but for his second restart, which was a tad early yet clean and incident-free.
IndyCar's new single-file restart rule was meant to reduce the chances of this kind of incident. For street and road courses, the series eliminated double-file restarts, which were often chaotic and costly. Sunday's controversial restart came after Charlie Kimball went off the track and stalled in Turn 1, bringing out a full-course yellow flag.
"It did surprise me," runnerup Ryan Hunter-Reay said of such trouble on a single-file restart. "There's always going to be some stack-up."
Hunter-Reay finished 1.947 seconds behind Power on the 1.8-mile circuit followed by three-time St. Petersburg champion Castroneves. Defending race champion James Hinchcliffe was never a factor, finishing 19th in the 22-car field.
How different were opinions regarding the restart?
"There was definitely a check-up in the front," fifth-place Simon Pagenaud said. "That was not a clean move, for sure."
But fourth-place Scott Dixon said, "They keep telling us they're going to be really hard on these restarts and people jumping. The speed was probably too slow, I think. But they purposefully moved the restart zone closer to the start/finish line (Sunday) morning. I don't think Will was doing anything wrong apart from it was maybe a little too slow."
Power said he was in first gear and never hit the brakes, Castroneves, speaking before Power arrived at the news conference, said letting off the gas in first gear is almost akin to hitting the brakes.
"He knows my tricks," Castroneves said. "I didn't quite know that trick from him, and he got me, which is good. I'm not saying that in a bad way. … Now I know when I restart behind him, I know what I need to do."
Castroneves, who started 10th, was third by Lap 22 on Firestone's red-sidewalled, soft compound tires. But he said at the end, Power made the right call on strategy and had better tires.
All that added up to Power's third straight win dating to last year and 22nd of his career and a push toward an elusive first series title.
"Will definitely hasn't skipped a beat," Hunter-Reay said. "He'll be a definite pain in the rear end this year."
"Some years I've started here and been so conservative," said Power, who gave Team Penske its sixth win in 10 IndyCar races in St. Petersburg. "I just race now, race hard."
He's certainly off to a fast start, if not a fast restart.
Monday, March 31, 2014 , Section C |