Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Race Report

4/7/2008 2:46:00 AM

Circuit: Honda Grand Prix (1.8-mile street circuit) St. Petersburg, FL
2007 Winner: Helio Castroneves (second consecutive victory) 89.166 mph average
Weather: Showers, humid, 78 degrees F

Race Results:

Fn. St. Driver Team Chassis Laps Average Speed/Notes
1 9 Graham Rahal-R Newman Haas Lanigan Honda Dallara 83 74.251 mph average, led 19 laps
2 4 Helio Castroneves Team Penske Honda Dallara 83 -3.5192 seconds
3 1 Tony Kanaan Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 83 -5.5134 seconds, led 15 laps
4 15 Ernesto Viso-R HVM Racing Honda Dallara 83 -8.8575 seconds, led 12 laps
5 18 Enrique Bernoldi-R Conquest Racing Honda Dallara 83 -9.6360 seconds, led 3 laps
6 14 Hideki Mutoh-R Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 83 -10.0071 seconds
7 7 Oriol Servia KV Racing Technologies Honda Dallara 83 -11.2871 seconds
8 2 Will Power-R KV Racing Technologies Honda Dallara 83 -12.8439 seconds
9 3 Justin Wilson-R Newman Hass Lanigan Honda Dallara 83 -14.3598 seconds, led 18 laps
10 19 Danica Patrick Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 83 -16.7298 seconds
11 24 A.J. Foyt IV Vision Racing Honda Dallara 83 -20.8319 seconds
12 8 Dan Wheldon Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara 83 -24.7800 seconds
13 11 Darren Manning A.J. Foyt Racing Honda Dallara 83 -45.8601 seconds
14 20 Jay Howard-R Roth Racing Honda Dallara 82 Running
15 16 Buddy Rice Roth RacingDreyer & Reinbold Honda Dallara 82 Running
16 22 Mario Moraes-R Dale Coyne Racing Honda Dallara 82 Running
17 6 Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman Racing Honda Dallara 81 Did not finish - fuel; led 4 laps
18 21 Ed Carpenter Vison Racing Honda Dallara 80 Did not finish - spin
19 17 Vitor Meira Panther Racing Honda Dallara 75 Did not finish - contact; led 1 lap
20 10 Franck Perera-R Conquest Racing Honda Dallara 75 Did not finish - contact
21 23 Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold Honda Dallara 75 Did not finish - contact
22 13 Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Honda Dallara 74 Did not finish - damage
23 5 Ryan Briscoe Team Penske Honda Dallara 56 Did not finish - contact; led 11 laps
24 26 Bruno Junqueira Dale Coyne Racing Honda Dallara 44 Did not finish - transmission
25 12 Marco Andretti Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara 41 Did not finish - drive shaft
26 25 Marty Roth Roth Racing Honda Dallara 0 Did not start - withdrawn

R - designates IndyCar Series Rookie

Rahal Breaks Records with St. Petersburg Victory

Second-generation IndyCar racer Graham Rahal became the youngest race winner in the history of North American open-wheel racing, and just the fourth IndyCar driver to win in his series debut Sunday in an action-filled Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

To score the win, the 19-year-old son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal had to recover from a mid-race spin - resulting from a tap from Will Power on a Lap 37 restart - and hold off determined advances from Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves, who was seeking his third consecutive St. Petersburg victory, over the final dozen laps.

The fourth-annual Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg started under caution, as a heavy rain shower just minutes before the scheduled green flag left standing water around much of the 1.8-mile temporary circuit. The race went green after 10 caution laps, but track conditions remained changeable throughout the two-hour timed event, as teams switched from deeply-grooved rain tires to racing slicks.

Once racing got underway, pole qualifier Tony Kanaan took the early lead, but a decision to pit under caution on Lap 17 backfired for both Kanaan and third-running Castroneves, as most of the field elected to stay on track and the early leaders emerged in 11th and 14th places, respectively. They would spend the remainder of the day fighting their way to the front, with Castoneves emerging as Rahal's final challenger and finishing second, and Kanaan finishing third for the third consecutive year.

As for Rahal, the spin dropped him from third to 23rd, but the Newman Haas Lanigan driver worked his way through the field, and pit strategy allowed him to stay on track during a caution period on Lap 57. He restarted second behind Ryan Hunter Reay, who drives for the senior Rahal's Rahal Letterman Racing team, and passed for a lead he would not relinquish on Lap 65.

Following the lead trio, former Champ Car drivers Ernesto Viso and Enrique Bernoldi rounded out the top five - as "transition" drivers and teams claimed five of the top 10 finishing positions - while Japanese rookie Hideki Mutoh gained two positions on the final lap to round out the top six finishers.The 2008 IndyCar Series now heads to Japan for the April 19 Firestone Indy 300 at Honda's Twin Ring Motegi Circuit, and the concurrent Champ Car "finale" April 20 at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

IndyCar Series Drivers' Championship Standings (after 2 of 18 races):
1. Helio Castroneves 72 points 6. Graham Rahal 50 points (1 win)
2. Scott Dixon 62 (1 win) 7. Danica Patrick 48
3. Tony Kanaan 59 8. Ernesto Viso 45
4. Marco Andretti 53 9. Oriol Servia 44
5. Dan Wheldon 53 10. Ed Carpenter 42

Graham Rahal (#06 Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Honda) Started 9th, finished 1st, his first IndyCar Series victory; fourth driver in series history to win in his debut race, youngest winner in IndyCar Series history at 19 years, 93 days: "It was a tough start for us, the spin after the tap from Will [Power] put us really back. But the team never gave up and I had a great car. From that point on everything worked perfectly. I knew we had the pace to pull away from the field if I could get to the front, and the team made great calls from the pits. At the end, I knew Helio [Castroneves] was right there, but if I kept calm we could pull away again. Everything just worked out so well, this is awesome!"

Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda) Started 4th, finished 2nd, won here in 2006 and '07, takes the early season championship points lead: "It was tough. It was so difficult at the start, I couldn't see anything and there were a lot of puddles. The officials definitely made the right call to start under caution until the conditions improved. On our pit strategy, I followed [leader] Tony [Kanaan] into the pits [under caution on Lap 17] but no one else did! That put us in the back and I have to say that everyone took good care of each other out there. There was a lot of 'give and take', even while we fought for positions. Of course you want to win, but second gives us the points lead and our goal is the championship, so that's good enough today."

Erik Berkman (President, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "Congratulations to Graham Rahal and the entire Newman Haas Lanigan Racing team. It was an outstanding performance for this young man and his team to win in his first IndyCar Series start, and just his 15th major-league open-wheel race. I think we witnessed the birth of a new racing star today, and the first of his many victories to come. The changing weather conditions certainly made this an exciting event and it appeared that all of the fans braved the weather to watch a great race."