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How the race unfolded

Laps 1-33

1. Dario Franchitti

2. Scott Dixon

3. Tony Kanaan

4. Sam Hornish Jr.

5. Helio Castroneves

17 The car number of Paul Dana who died in a warm-up lap accident at last week's Homestead race. Dana's Rahal Letterman teammates, Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice, opened their season Sunday after dropping out last week.

0 Cautions in the race's first half. There were five total caution flags last year including three before Lap 50.

14 Forget about 13, Lap 14 has been unlucky the past two years. Franchitti led through Lap 14 but his car's handling was sluggish; his race ended after he pitted on the next lap. Last year Helio Castroneves and A.J. Foyt IV were knocked out of the race after tangling on this lap.

SHOUT IT OUT LOUD!: Without his makeup or pyrotechnics, Grand Marshal Gene Simmons of KISS still treated the race like a rock 'n' roll concert as the God of Thunder called on spectators to shout, "Lady and gentlemen, start your engines!"

FINISHED BEFORE HE STARTED? Franchitti set a course IndyCar qualifying record, won the pole and led most practice runs, and led 14 laps until dropping out when the Andretti Green team decided his right-front suspension was undriveable. In a Sunday morning warm-up Franchitti and Kosuke Matsuura hit a tire barrier but Franchitti's car was reportedly undamaged.

PITTING PERILS: Roberto Moreno went to pit road on Lap 33 after bumping Vitor Meira; no caution flag was thrown. Moreno left with a damaged suspension. Meira finished fifth. Marco Andretti had an awful pit stop because his car radio became unplugged. Pit stops on Laps 32-34 gave Sam Hornish the lead as the order shuffled.

Laps 34-67

1. Scott Dixon

2. Sam Hornish Jr.

3. Helio Castroneves

4. Tomas Scheckter

5. Tony Kanaan

98.8 Average speed through the race's first half, aided by a lack of cautions and accidents. Last year's average speed for the entire race was 83.1 mph.

3 Danica Patrick climbed to No. 3, her highest position on Sunday, on Laps 56-60 and finished sixth. IRL rookie Marco Andretti left the race after breaking a drive shaft then said it was the third time he's done that in these type of open-wheel cars.

101 Speed the fastest drivers were able to complete a lap. Helio Castroneves ran the fastest leader lap at 101.047 mph, while Tony Kanaan's 101.912 on Lap 71 was the race's fastest lap speed.

BANANA PEEL? P.J. Chesson's lack of experience on street courses was apparent when the former World of Outlaws driver slipped off the track and out of the race. The brakes on Chesson's Car-melo car, owned by Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets, locked up on Lap 53. This slip caused the race's first caution.

SPIDEY SENSE: Helio Castroneves passed Scott Dixon for the lead coming out of first turn on Lap 45. Castroneves avoided a traffic jam later on when Dixon lapped Scott Sharp but Buddy Rice (chasing Tony Kanaan) was stuck behind this slower car.

WHELDON WIPEOUT: Was Dan Wheldon a victim of a communication breakdown or his aggressive tactics? Wheldon's sudden move around Sam Hornish on a caution lap took the defending race and series champion out of the race as Hornish couldn't avoid hitting Wheldon's right side. Team owner Chip Ganassi told ESPN series officials instructed them to make the move. Wheldon's highest position was eighth and he was riding a fresh set of tires before the accident.

Laps 68-100

1. Helio Castroneves

2. Scott Dixon

3. Tony Kanaan

4. Sam Hornish Jr.

5. Danica Patrick

1: The date for next year's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: April Fool's Day, 2007.

6: Positions Danica Patrick improved from last year's to this year's race. Helio Castroneves had the biggest jump (20th last year) while Dan Wheldon fell 15 places in this year's race. Sam Hornish (7) and Kosuke Matsuura (6) also moved up a few spots this year.

40: Laps Helio Castroneves led, four more than Scott Dixon. Castroneves had to take the lead from Dixon twice and Buddy Rice once.

92.3: Average speed of this year's race and a course record beating the 2003 CART race's 91.401. Last year's average speed was 83.140, seemingly snail-like compared to this year's pace.

A TALE OF TWO RACES: Rather odd that a race without cautions for 50 laps ended under yellow. Tomas Scheckter and Buddy Rice failed to make a corner together and Scheckter's car was sent flying causing the caution with three laps remaining.

KANAAN'S LUCK: Tony Kanaan finished third this year, second last year and had the day's fastest lap at 101.912, actually, at one stretch he had the day's four fastest laps. Kanaan told ESPN his Andretti Green car could not compete with teammate Franchitti's car. Nevertheless "I drove the wheels off," Kanaan said.

PANOZ POWER: Cars with Panoz chassis improved significantly this year with Scott Dixon, Danica Patrick and Scott Sharp finishing in the top-10 and Buddy Rice (13th) keeping up with the lead pack most of the race. Castroneves' Penske car has a Dallara chassis. Wheldon was the only Panoz driver to not finish. Vitor Meira's 5th place was the best Panoz finish last year as Dallara cars dominated.

- DAVID WHITEHEAD, Times staff writer

Up next:FINISH LINE

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