Helio Castroneves has become the first three-time winner in the history of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, pulling away in the closing stages to win by 5.5 seconds over Scott Dixon and officially put a rough 2011 campaign behind him.
After crossing the finish line, Castroneves came to a stop at Turn 10, which was recently rechristened 'Dan Wheldon Way' in honor of the late two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and St. Petersburg resident. After doing his traditional fence climbing celebration to the inside of the turn, he then ran to the outside fence and climbed up to pat the 'Dan Wheldon Way' sign erected at the left-hand turn to the roar of the crowd.
"This is a great effort for everyone," said Castroneves in Victory Lane. "Certainly coming back, last year was a big struggle and now to be here in Victory Circle, it's a dream come true."
The race-changing moment came during the final pit stops of the afternoon, when Castroneves managed to pass Dixon on the outside of Turn 1 for what was second place at the time. When J.R. Hildebrand had to abandon the lead in order to go to the pits for his own last stop, Castroneves assumed the point and motored away for his first win since Twin Ring Motegi in 2010 and Chevrolet's first win as an IZOD IndyCar Series engine supplier since 2005 at Texas Motor Speedway.
But Dixon shouldn't feel too bad considering that he had finished 16th, 18th and 16th in his previous three efforts at St. Petersburg. The two-time series champion finally managed to dodge calamity in the streets of St. Pete and is off to a critical good start.
However, "The Iceman" was the lone Honda in the top five as the Chevys came out on top in the opening round. Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport came away third and fourth in steady drives, while Ryan Briscoe pulled fifth place away late from Simon Pagenaud (who still managed to make up all 10 spots he was penalized for his unapproved engine change penalty on Friday).
I'll have more on the race later tonight here on IndyRacingRevolution.com. In the meantime, here are the unofficial results from today's event:
Simona de Silvestro