Juan Pablo Montoya passed Conor Daly on the final restart and held off teammate Simon Pagenaud to go back to back on the streets of St. Petersburg with a win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The threat of rain never materialized over the temporary street circuit that hosts the opening round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season with the race running dry for all 110 laps. The start was clean, with Simon Pagenaud leading the field to the green followed by Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Issues plagued several cars early, with Takuma Sato and James Hinchcliffe both affected by flat tires and Josef Newgarden heading to the pits for a new front wing.
Pagenaud maintained the lead and the 22-car field settled into a predictable rhythm with the front of the field remaining consistent through the first round of pit stops.
The Dale Coyne Racing duo of Conor Daly and Luca Filippi made their way into the top five by Lap 28 after embarking on an alternate pit strategy. Josef Newgarden, driving the No. 21 Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing, experienced electronic issues during the first half of the race, necessitating several lengthy pit stops.
The first caution flag waved on Lap 47 for a spin by Marco Andretti. Pagenaud continued to lead under caution followed by Montoya, Dixon, Hunter-Reay and Castroneves.
Daly and Tony Kanaan, having fallen back in the running order due to earlier brake issues, stayed out during the caution and assumed first and second position respectively.
The initial restart following the caution was called off with Andretti again stalled on track.
The race finally restarted on Lap 57 with Daly maintaining the lead through the first few turns, holding off a charging Kanaan.
The yellow flew again when nearly half the field came to a stop in Turn 4 in an incident that began when Carlos Muñoz ran into the back of Graham Rahal, sending the American driver spinning and blocking the narrow circuit. Oriol Servia, filling in for Will Power, was unable to take evasive action and struck Rahal’s No. 15 Honda, leading to the pile-up. Muñoz was issued a penalty for avoidable contact.
The final restart came on Lap 64 with Juan Pablo Montoya easily getting around Daly for the lead. Pagenaud, Dixon, and Castroneves completed the top five.
Several drivers dealt with overheating issues due to debris caught in radiator inlets, including front-runner Dixon.
Green-flag pit stops saw Juan Pablo Montoya maintain the lead while Daly was forced to pit for a new front wing, eliminating his shot at a podium finish.
Following the final round of pit stops, Montoya, Pagenaud, Castroneves, Hunter-Reay and Aleshin made up the top five.
Lapped traffic and a steering issue for Montoya threatened to close the gap between first and second, but Montoya was able to keep Pagenaud behind him and crossed the finish line 2.3 seconds ahead of his teammate.
A late-race pass by Hunter-Reay around Castroneves moved him to third while Aleshin rounded out the top five.
Following the season-opening weekend on the tight street circuit in Florida, the Verizon IndyCar Series will head west for a visit to Phoenix International Raceway, with the return of Indy car racing at the one-mile oval set for the night of April 2.