Dario Franchitti Shows How It's Done
John Oreovicz, ESPN.com
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The promoters moved up the start time for the 2011 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Evidently they forgot to inform most of the drivers in the Izod IndyCar Series.
IndyCar's new marketing slogan is "Real Drivers, Real Race Cars, Real Fast," but that was certainly debatable Sunday in the first half of the 2011 season opener. The final year for the 9-year-old Dallara-Honda spec car formula got off to an embarrassingly bad start as an opening-lap crash and a series of contact-marred double-file restarts threatened to turn the St. Pete GP into a joke.
Thankfully, cooler heads eventually prevailed and perhaps not surprisingly, three of IndyCar's most experienced veterans occupied the podium at the end of the 100-lap contest. Three-time IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti cruised to an unchallenged victory, taking his 27th career IndyCar win by 7.16 seconds over Will Power.
Tony Kanaan, who joined KV Racing Technology just six days ago, produced a savvy drive to third place, while the highlight for many was the impressive run to a career-best fourth-place finish by second-year female driver Simona De Silvestro.
Franchitti's job was made easier by the first-turn accident that appeared to be triggered by Helio Castroneves that took out five top contenders. The Scotsman passed pole winner Power on the subsequent restart and led 94 of the final 95 laps to continue his remarkable mastery of the IndyCar Series.
Franchitti has swept the last three IndyCar Series championships he contested, broken up only by a brief foray into NASCAR racing in 2008.
His 27 race wins tie him with Johnny Rutherford for 10th place in the all-time rankings.
"I didn't have the pace to keep up with Dario," admitted Power, who finished second to Franchitti in the 2010 IndyCar championship standings. "I'm just very glad to get the points today."
The main talking point after the race was the disastrous start, which eliminated Andretti Autosport's Mike Conway and Marco Andretti and put Castroneves, his Team Penske colleague Ryan Briscoe and Franchitti's Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon several laps down.
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