Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
DATE: March 25, 2012
EVENT: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
SERIES: IZOD IndyCar Series
LOCATION: St. Petersburg, Fla. (1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit)
START/FINISH: 19th/11th (Running, Completed 100 of 100 laps)
WINNER: Helio Castroneves of Team Penske
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Sunday, March 25, 2012 – The recipe for a successful IndyCar career includes copious amounts of hard work and even more talent, and rookie Josef Newgarden showed evidence of both in spades with an 11th-place finish in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
In his debut IZOD IndyCar Series race, Newgarden picked up eight positions in his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone car.
width="400" framed="true"] “I think we had a good day considering that it was my first race,” Newgarden said. “I made a couple of mistakes, but I’m learning and I think we’ll get stronger.”
Newgarden drove most of the race with a damaged front wing after making contact early during a congested restart. He managed numerous on-track passes despite the wing damage and worked with his team throughout the race to improve his car.
“I think we’re going to be a force all year long, and hopefully this is just the beginning for us,” Newgarden said.
Team Owner Sarah Fisher viewed Newgarden and her team’s performance as a solid building block for the rest of the IZOD IndyCar season.
“It was a great, clean race,” Fisher said. “Josef did exactly what we all wanted to do, which was to learn and to make up some ground.”
Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. His victory was punctuated with an emotional tribute to the late Dan Wheldon. Castroneves stopped his car on the victory lap near the new Dan Wheldon Way street sign recently placed by the City of St. Petersburg. He then climbed the fence and placed his hand on the street sign, pausing for a moment before ascending and obviously emotional.
Finishing second was Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, 5.5292-seconds behind Castroneves. Rounding out the top five were a pair of Andretti Autosport drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe, followed by Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe.
There were nine lead changes among seven drivers. Dixon led the most laps with 37. There were three caution periods for a total of 15 yellow flag laps.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday, April 1 in Birmingham, Ala.
More time to take care of business: Newgarden’s first IndyCar race on the streets of St. Petersburg was 55 laps longer than the Firestone Indy Lights race he won at the same track last year. “Having a breather for the yellows was nice to have because it’s a long race,” Newgarden said. “There’s just a lot more you can do with strategy, and you’ve definitely got to be patient to get through the whole thing.”
The race car driver who never pitted: Prior to Sunday, Josef Newgarden had never completed a pit stop during a race. In the Firestone Indy Lights series, race distances are short enough that no pit stops are necessary. “That’s the first time I’ve ever pitted in a race,” Newgarden said. “It’s all new. It’s something else to learn, and I had a great time with it.” Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing completed three successful pit stops together during the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.