This weekend they returned to the States, to the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, for the second race of 2010, the Honda GP. While the Brazilian race had its fair share of bad weather, which shook up the running order and produced a lengthy red flag period, at St. Pete’s the teams could have put arks on the grid. The rainfall was biblical.
Will Power was on pole, starting this race where he ended the last one, in the number one position. Behind Power on the grid were three different teams in the next three positions, Tony Kanaan in the Team 7-Eleven Andretti Autosport car, Scott Dixon for Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Justin Wilson for Team Z-Line Designs/DRR Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The field was pretty tightly bunched in qualifying, with Kanaan’s teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay missing out on the Firestone Fast Six by just 0.0014 of a second. He wound up in seventh behind Penske’s Helio Castroneves and stablemate Marco Andretti.
It looked like another exciting race was ahead, but it would have to wait until Monday, as IndyCar decided to postpone the race because of the rain. The sun was finally shining on Monday, but the track was now washed clean of most of the rubber laid down by the World Challenge and Indy Lights support series over the weekend. The surface was also damp in many areas, the early morning sun not doing enough to dry it out completely. Fortunately, the grippy tires and extreme downforce of IndyCars do a decent job of lifting the water out of the track, little contrails forming around the rear wings as the cars moved around the 1.8-mile street course.
Qualifying had ended with Brazil’s opening round winner, Team Penske’s Will Power on pole, followed by Tony Kanaan (Andretti Autosport), Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) and Justin Wilson (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing), making it four different teams in those first four slots. Next up was Helio Castroneves (above – Penske), lining up ahead of Marco Andretti, (Andretti Autosport), Mario Moraes (KV Racing Technology), Mario Romancini (Conquest Racing), Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti), and Graham Rahal (Sarah Fisher Racing) in the top ten.
Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti, Will Power and Helio Castroneves held the front four spots for a good portion of the early going, the first three trading the lead several times. Despite the drying track, there were still a few slips and spins, including Former Formula 1 driver, Takuma Sato, who put his Lotus Racing car into the tires after telling his pit for several laps that his left front had gone. Ryan Hunter-Reay looked to be making the most of the pit stops, moving up three spots to fifth.
Coming out of the yellow following Sato’s shunt, Vitor Meira (A.J. Foyt Enterprises) inherited the race lead, although he almost blew it, mistakenly passing the pace car while following a backmarker who was waived through. No worries though as he settled back behind the pace car before they went back to green. It was great to see him out front again after his horrific crash at Indy last year. His lead was a brief one though, as he had chosen to stay on track while the others had pitted, and it was now time for him to stop as well.
There was a lot of dicing through the field as they got back up to speed, with Scott Dixon finding his vision almost completely blocked by his front wing end plate after getting clipped by Mario Moraes. Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti had to pit along with Dixon to remedy similar issues. Raphael Matos (Luczo Dragon Racing de Ferran Motorsports) took over for a bit, which was especially impressive considering he had qualified next-to-last, just behind Dario Franchitti, who now trailed him in second. Dario and Raphael were on different pit schedules than the rest of the field following their first lap spins.
Briscoe became the seventh race leader after Matos and Franchitti pitted. Marco Andretti and E.J. Viso had each led a single lap, and Power, Meira and Dixon ended up leading the rest. On lap 45, Mario Moraes was holding up traffic and when he suddenly slowed and went off line, Dan Wheldon (Panther Racing) had an untimely suspension issue that led to severe lockup. Wheldon and Moraes came together causing another yellow and ending their days. By the end of the race, contact had also claimed Scott Dixon, Mike Conway (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing), Alex Lloyd and Sato. Milka Duno retired with handling problems on lap seven.
Conway’s exit came with 35 laps to go, when he got booted into the tires trying to he slam the door on Matos. That restart saw Meira out front, with a lot of passing going on down the field. Meira stayed out front for a bit but ended up falling back to the end of the running order by the end of the day.
As the race progressed, Power found himself at the front once again, with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Justin Wilson following close behind. Further down the running order, Dario Franchitti (above, chasing Tony Kanaan) was on a tear. He had qualified near the back of the pack, had spun on the first lap, and even led the race for a bit around lap 40, but now with less than 20 laps to go, Dario was passing a car a lap, closing in on the leaders. With five to go he passed Danica Patrick (Andretti Autosport) to move into sixth, facing a sizable gap to fifth place Alex Tagliani (FAZZT Race Team). No matter, Dario ate up the distance between them and sailed past, finishing fifth behind repeat winner Will Power, Justin Wilson, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves. Behind Franchitti, it was Tagliani, Patrick, Matos, Graham Rahal, Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Mario Romancini, Hideki Mutoh, Meira, Simona De Silvestro, Viso, Dixon, Conway, Wheldon, Moraes, Sato, Lloyd and Duno.
Another rain delay, another exciting street race, and another win for Will Power (above). We’ll see if he can make it three-in-a-row when the IndyCar Series comes to Long Beach, another street course and another race with a history of rain.