ST. PETERSBURG, FL, March 30, 2015 – Juan Pablo Montoya held off Team Penske teammate and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power over the final 27 laps to win the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg by.9930 of a second.
Montoya held a 3.3-second advantage over Power following an exchange of final pit stops on Laps 81 and 82, but Power closed to .6147 of a second on Lap 100 and was sizing up his best opportunity to attempt a pass of the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Power, who set the track record on the way to winning the Verizon P1 Award for the 110-lap race on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course, made his move entering the tight left-hand Turn 10 on Lap 101. The cars made slight contact and Power’s No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet fell 1.5474 seconds back at the start/finish line.
“If I hadn’t damaged my wing, maybe I would have had another shot,” Power said. “He was very strong on the front straight and my exits weren’t very good. I thought maybe I would catch him off-guard there. You don’t expect someone to pass there, so, yeah, I gave it a shot.
“I was surprised at how aggressively he turned, but he wanted to win the race and so did I.”
Said Montoya, who recorded his second victory since returning full time to IndyCar racing in 2014 and the first on a road or street course since Vancouver in his 1999 CART championship season: “I saw him make the move but he was way too far and I wasn’t going to give him the position. If he was beside me I would have said, ‘OK, go ahead. When I got to the turning point he wasn’t even close. It is a shame we touched, but it’s all good, it’s racing.”
The last Team Penske 1-2 finish was August 2014 at Milwaukee, with Power beating Montoya by 2.7 seconds. It was the 175th Indy car victory for the team (78 on road or street courses).
“It was a fight between our two guys in front. It was just an amazing weekend,” team owner Roger Penske said. “To come back this year with the fast times in qualifying and win this race 1-2, and four drivers in the top six, wow, what a day.”
Tony Kanaan, driving the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, finished third and Helio Castroneves, the only three-time winner at St. Petersburg, placed fourth in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Simon Pagenaud finished fifth in the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished seventh in the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport car, was the highest-placing Honda entry. Last year at St. Petersburg, Power held Hunter-Reay at bay on Laps 78-110 to make an opening-round statement on the way to earning his first series title.