RSEN at the Honda St. Pete Grand Prix

By on March 29, 2011

St. Petersburg Fl.

RSEN Staff Report with Rodney Meyering

THE RACE

The way the race started would make one think, [This can’t be the world’s fastest spring break party.] I mean four cautions on the first 14 laps; well a least we are getting this double file re-start down cold.

Dario Franchitti, Will Power, Tony Kanaan running a tight 1-2-3 mid-race, the way they would finish. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

The first turn of the race would be the last turn for Marco Andretti, who walked away from his mangled Team Venom Energy car after ending upside down on the track.  A five car melee on the first turn of the party, when Helio Castroneves and Andretti made contact with each other.  Andretti did walk away but his day racing would be done. Helio Castoneves would limp back in and of the other three drivers Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Mike Conway, Conway limped around once and would then make

Scott Dixon would limp to pit road after the turn 1 crash on lap 1. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

the perpetual pit. Dixon and Briscoe would continue on.  The only two drivers not affected in any way were the number 1 and 2 pole-setters Will Power and Dario Franchitti respectively as they were the only two ahead of the group at the time of the consequence.  Only viewing the wreck in their mirrors Power and Franchitti would remain in the 1 – 2 position.

For the next 14 laps it would like more like the world’s largest “demolition derby” spring break party.  Full cautions on laps 6, 12 and 13 had me pondering; let’s see the drivers meeting this morning went something like this, DRIVE AGGRESSIVE!  LET’S GIVE THEM A LOT OF DOUBLE FILE RE-STARTS!

Another disappointing finish for Danica Patrick. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

On lap 5 Danica Patrick and Ana Beatriz contacted each other in turn 1 with Patrick damaging her front wing and the altercation gave Beatriz tire issues.

On lap 12 the caution was produced when Aussie Ryan Briscoe and Spaniard Oriol Servia bump each other in turn 8. Ok the next lap back to green, can we get this caution stuff out of the way?  No way, Justin Wilson takes a short cut through the grass and Sebastian Saaverda, who started 25th due to a practice crash on Saturday, spins to avoid Wilson wrapping up the demolition derby party.

Franchitti and Kanaan battle. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

Ok after 15 laps we had just 62.5% of the cars that started this party now on the lead lap [The math for you, 15 cars].  Back to green on lap 16.

It's not how you practice, it's how you run in the race. Although Ryan Hunter-Reay finished first in practice on Friday, he struggled on Sunday when it counted. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

By lap 17 the track matured, and Dario Franchitti just grabbed the Target Chip Ganassi team car by the wheel and said through his actions – I’m taking this party.  And he did, leading 94 of the 100 laps for the race.  The pole setter Will Power finished 2nd, with Tony Kanaan finished 3rd.   The one, two, three places went to three drivers that are certainly icons of the former IRL series, but now they are stars of the IZOD Indycar Series.

4thplace however, was taken by the 22 year-old Simona DeSilvestro from Switzerland (which is a country that, since 1955, banned auto racing, that’s not very neutral).  Desilvestro’s best finish previously had been 8th last year at Mid-Ohio.  At the post race press conference she was asked what she thought of the new re-start procedure, “I think it’s pretty cool because I got to pass a lot of cars (laughing).”

Simona De Silvestro pre-race (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

On Saturday after qualifying 17th, Simona said, “I think we could’ve had a better run, but we caught a lot of traffic during the time we were having a good lap.  It’s kind of a shame because I think we’re really pushing it and we’ve could’ve gotten in the Fast Six.  It is what it is, but we’ll make it happen tomorrow in the race.”  Well RSEN thinks they certainly did!  In the post race press conference Tony Kanaan said of Simona, “…And you know I used every single strength and experience I had to hold her off. Obviously I never blocked her. I never did anything. I just really drove it as hard as I could, and I made a mistake, three laps to go, she put along side me, couldn’t make the pass, and then at that point I was hoping for no yellow because I was going to be a sitting duck and I knew I was going to lose the third position because of the choice of tire….And I’m like who is this 78 car, I didn’t know who it was…Then they said it was Simona, and I remembered because she blew my doors off in the restart before. And I knew she was strong,  you know, I used everything I could to be able to hold her off.”

De Silvestro (78) was able to get ahead of Kanaan after a re-start. (Photo by Rodney Meyering

VINNY LECAVALIER THE GRAND MARSHALL

RSEN gets a word from Grand Marshall Vinny Lecavalier on the grid at the opening ceremony. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

On Thursday of race week at the drivers’ lunch we chatted with Alex Tagilani about Vincent Lecavalierbeing chosen as the Grand Marshall and this is what Tagilani had to say, “Yea, I mean I texted him (Lecavalier) and asked him if he wanted to be the Grand

Legendary Mario Andretti visits with sucessful owner Chip Ganassi on pit road pre-race. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

Marshall.  Obviously Tim (Ramsberger, Grand Prix General Manager) and Bill Wickett (Lightning, VP of PR) you know helped me a lot when I was here promoting the race and he (Lecavalier) accepted. The thing was waiting to see if Guy (Boucher, Lightning coach) was going to put a practice on Sunday. I’m going to watch their game Friday and then they (Lightning) are going to North Carolina Saturday night.  He’s (Lecavalier) will be back on Saturday night.  So I organized a two-seater ride and that’s something he wanted to do.”

We ran into the Grand Marshall, Vincent Lecavalier on the grid before the race and asked him about Alex Tagilani, and Lecavalier said, “Well you know he came to few games the last couple weeks and he’s excited about what we’re, what we’re going through but I’m cheering for him, he’s a great driver and I have watched him through all these years.”… “I got too big to be a race car; so, well that’s what I to like tell myself.”

2010 Miss Florida Jaclyn Raulerson, the pre-race parade. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

Vinny traded a #4 Lightning sweater for one of Alex’s racing suits.

SIDE NOTES

2011 Honda St. Petersburg Grand Prix Champion, Dario Franchitti. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

Dario Franchitti tied Johnny Rutherford at 10th for all-time Indy Cars victories with 27.

Victory lane podium, L to R: Will Power 2ND, Dario Franchitti 1ST and Tony Kanaan 3RD. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

Target Chip Ganassi Racing achieved their 81stIndy car victory but first in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.



The weather was absolutley perfect.

Now that's the way to watch a race! (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

The IZOD Series IRL drivers unite to support Takuma Sato and "With You Japan" to assit victims in the wake of the recent tradegies. The drivers all donated a pair of gloves which will be auctioned off to raise funds for the victims in Japan. (Photo by Rodney Meyering)

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