Franchitti Dominates St. Pete As I Go For A Ride With Mario

St. Petersburg, FL (March 27, 2011) – Dario Franchitti and the Target Chip Ganassi Team showed no signs of letting go of their No. 1 spot on top of the IZOD IndyCar standings. Franchitti easily won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Sunday. Franchitti held of Team Penske’s Will Power in winning the IndyCar opener. The talented Scotsman led most of the race at the picturesque 1.8-mile street circuit, for his first victory and fifth top-five finish in six starts at St. Pete.

Most eyes were on the Tony Kanaan and Simon deSilvestro battle late in the race for third place. Kanaan driving in his first race for KV Racing impressed many as he worried after the race whether he set to bar too high holding off the talented Swiss driver. Likewise could be said for deSilvestro and the HVM Team whose departure of engineer Michael Cannon caught them and many outside the team off guard.

I’m really happy,” she said. “I never would have thought, after starting seventeenth, that we’d finish fourth, and we were running second for quite awhile there.

About her team, de Silvestro added, “I’m happy to be working with Brent Harvey because he’s really calm on the radio, which I liked. The team also did an unbelievable job. We had a few new issues to overcome in the beginning of the weekend, but during the race, everything went according to plan. They did great pit stops and I’m really proud to be part of this team.”

I had the opportunity Thursday to take a two-seater ride with IndyCar and World Champion Mario Andretti. Certainly it is something I can check off my bucket list. For me it was like getting a ride with the Navy’s Blue Angels. Many eager riders were in line awaiting their turn, especially many National Guard members, dedicated fans and charity contest winners. Arie Luyendyk, Jr. Was also there giving rides that started promptly at 11:30am and went a bit past 2:30PM. Mario was in his drivers suit the whole time only took three breaks. I asked him if he was out of retirement and he joked “he needed the money.” As a passenger, you really get thrown around, when you think he’ll turn in, he doesn’t, waits a split second longer and then turns in and nails the apex. He came real close to the tire wall several times and really did a phenomenal job displaying the speed in IndyCar racing. It was something special to remember.

In the media center Friday I discussed with several others the IndyCar rumors page from in which Marco Andretti had ignored a couple of fans in the paddock. Interestingly perhaps the team received some feedback because on Saturday I saw Marco sign autographs (about 25-30) for about five minutes when he came out the transporter. Danica equally seem to be more fan friendly as I saw her sign more autographs throughout the weekend than I can remember. Keep it up guys.

Many drivers had concerns about the double-file restarts, but looking at the replays they need to hold their line a bit better and stop diving for the center of the apex. From the looks of it, after the first third of the race they were becoming better at it. Expect a lively drivers meeting in two weeks at Barber Motorsports Park.

Sebastien Bourdais was happy to be back in the IndyCar Series. However he told me Saturday the team and he was struggling. Unfortunately a pre-race crash on Sunday eliminated him from starting the race.

Thanks again to Sayurie Naidoo and the media staff for their hospitality this weekend.

Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg Results

Order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (2) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
2. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
3. (8) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
4. (17) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
5. (11) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
6. (10) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
7. (16) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
8. (13) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
9. (15) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
10. (6) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
11. (24) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
12. (19) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
13. (25) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Honda, 98, Running
14. (20) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 98, Running
15. (22) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 97, Running
16. (3) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 96, Running
17. (12) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 96, Running
18. (5) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 95, Running
19. (21) EJ Viso, Dallara-Honda, 94, Running
20. (9) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 85, Running
21. (14) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 58, Handling
22. (23) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 38, Contact
23. (4) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 1, Contact
24. (7) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 0, Contact

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 89.260
Time of Race: 2:00:59.6886
Margin of victory: 7.1612 seconds
Cautions: 5 for 13 laps
Lead changes: 3 among 2 drivers
Lap Leaders: Power 1-4, Franchitti 5-70, Power 71-72, Franchitti 73 – 100.

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