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Montoya Leads Penske Parade In Season-Opening IndyCar Event

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 29 2015

Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates in Victory Lane in St. Pete. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Juan Pablo Montoya stripped the lead from Team Penske teammate Will Power during a green flag pitting sequence with just under 30 laps to go and then led the rest of the way to win the season-opening Verizon IndyCar Series race in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“Today was a good day to be honest with you,” Montoya said in Victory Lane. “The car was really good on black tires and that was the key. The tires were not falling off and right there at the end I was just running slow to look after them. When I needed to push I could push.”

The victory on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Pete street circuit was the second for the Colombian native since he joined Team Penske at the beginning of the 2014 season.

“To finish 1-2 in this race,” team owner Roger Penske said, “wow, what a day.”

Tony Kanaan of Chip Ganassi Racing finished third.

“Chip told me to bring the NTT Data car back in one piece,” Kanaan said. “He didn’t want to see a scratch apart from the marbles. We tried to stay out of trouble. The Penske guys were definitely tough today. On that last stint there, we had to save a little bit more fuel, and not having the pace, I had to drop back. But we will take third, It’s good points, and we have to work from here. ”

Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top five. Team Penske led all but five laps in the event.

Power started from the pole and led the vast majority of laps.

But the pit stop on lap 82 of 110 was slow and cost him the lead to Montoya, who had pitted the lap before.

Power, the defending series champion, dogged his teammate over the final 20 laps. With nine laps to go, Power attempted to pass for the lead in Turn 9 but Montoya slammed the door and the two cars made contact. Power came out of the shunt in worse shape as a piece of his front wing broke off.

“At the end, they’ve got to go racing,” Penske said. “Will was trying to get by and Juan didn’t want him to get by. I’m sure they understand that.”

Power called his move “optimistic” and said he figured it would be the only place he would be able to get around the former Formula One and NASCAR driver.

Montoya said, “I saw him make the move but he was way too far and I wasn’t going to give him the position. If he was beside me I would have said, ‘okay, go ahead’. When I got to the turning point he wasn’t even close. It is a shame we touched, but it’s all good, it’s racing.”

With six laps to go, the two leaders caught lapped traffic. Montoya negotiated his way past the two back markers but again, Power had trouble and lost more ground.

From there, Montoya cruised to the checkered flag.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 29 2015
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