Reigning IndyCar Series champions Team Penske were left dusting themselves off after an uncharacteristically low-key start to the season in St Petersburg.
Josef Newgarden finished highest of the team’s three cars in seventh, a six-place improvement upon where he qualified despite suffering a cut tire following contact with rookie Jack Harvey’s MSR entry.
“It was a messy P7, but for us it was a good top 10,” he said. “It’s a decent start to the year. We had a great Chevy package – it’s just sad we couldn’t take better advantage of it. We were just fighting all day to catch back up and we were on the wrong end on the fuel mileage, and getting run into and cutting the tire didn’t help us. But I think if a couple of things would’ve gone differently, a podium finish was on the cards for today.”
Will Power started on the front row alongside polesitter Robert Wickens, but his plans for the race were derailed almost immediately when an attack for the lead on the first lap resulted in contact that spun him into the wall. He pitted for a new rear wing, and spent the rest of the afternoon in recovery mode.
“”It was pretty wild at times,” said Power, who eventually finished 10th. “It was actually good racing at times, and you can get close to people. It is a good car to race.
“I was on the back foot from the very beginning. Wickens and I touched in turn one and I spun around. There wasn’t a lot of room. That set us back, and we fought the rest of the day. The field is just very, very competitive. There are good cars all through the field with many teams. But you can race close to people. You don’t get a draft, but you can almost get right behind them. [IndyCar] did a good job of making the kit with almost zero tow, so [that] makes the racing better.”
Meanwhile, Simon Pagenaud struggled to progress from his P11 grid spot and was forced to settle for 13th; his frustrations compounded by a broken air gun during a pitstop.
“It was a hard fought day,” he said. “We had a tire gun problem on the first stop. That’s a tough thing to happen and [the crew] did such a good job on the next two stops.
“Unfortunately that put us back in the pack and we just couldn’t make up ground from there. I expected more tire degradation and that might have created some opportunities, but that never happened. It’s definitely not the start to the season that we wanted but we know we know we will bounce back strong.”
Despite their struggles, Newgarden and Power were the only Chevrolet-powered drivers in the top 10.