Pato O’Ward led Team Chevy in qualifying with the third place starting position, and led the Bowtie Brigade to the second step on the podium at the end of the 100-lap Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. But, it was eventful day for Chevrolet-powered drivers.
O’Ward, No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, took the lead lap 74 after battling the entire race in the top-five. Sitting third on lap 72, O’Ward missed a two-car incident between then race leader and defending race winner Scott McLaughlin, No. 3 Dex Imagine Team Penske Chevrolet, and Romain Grosjean (Honda). Grosjean retired from competition while McLaughlin was able to continue and finish in the 13th position.
O’Ward took command of the race, and appeared to be in position to score his first victory on the Streets of St. Petersburg, and start the season with a win. But, with four laps remaining, his engine suffered a plenum event that causes a momentary loss of engine power and temporarily slowed O’Ward enough that eventual winner Marcus Ericsson was able to take the lead and drop O’Ward to second. It was a race that saw five cautions for 26 laps including an almost 20 minute red flag.
On lap one, there was a six-car pile-up in turn three that resulted in the retirement of Benjamin Pedersen, No, 55 Sexton Properties AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet, Santino Ferrucci, No. 14 Sexton Properties AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet and damaged the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist that required repairs putting him 49 laps down. On lap 42, four more cars made contact in turn four that took out the No. 21 BITNILE.COM Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet driven by Rinus VeeKay.
Scott Dixon (Honda) completed the podium in third.
Next up for Team Chevy in the NTT INDYCAR Series is the PPG 375 on April 2, 2023 at Texas Motor Speedway.
TEAM CHEVY UNOFFICIAL TOP-10 RESULTS:
2nd Pato O’Ward, No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet
4th Alexander Rossi, No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet
5th Callum Ilott, No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet
7th Will Power, No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet
TOP-FIVE UNOFFICIAL RESULTS:
1st Marcus Ericsson (Honda)
2nd Pato O’Ward (Chevrolet)
3rd Scott Dixon (Honda)
4th Alexander Rossi (Chevrolet)
5th Callum Ilott (Chevrolet)
Team Chevy Notes from the Streets of St. Petersburg
- Scott McLaughlin led the most laps of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with 37.
- Pato O’Ward was the next highest Chevrolet driver to lead laps with 23.
- O’Ward earned Chevrolet’s 285th podium in INDYCAR competition, his first of the 2023 season, and 15th in his career.
- Callum Ilott worked his way through the field from the start in 22nd to finish fifth
- Conor Daly recovered from a Lap 37 brush with the wall in Turn 9 to finish the race 14th
- After qualifying 21st for his first career INDYCAR event, the Rookie of the Year candidate drove a solid race to finish in the 12th position.
PATO O’WARD, NO. 5 ARROW MCLAREN CHEVROLET
"It's always something. All the boys deserve better than that. Compared to where we were at this point last year here, it's a massive step. We just gave that one away. We can have that happen anymore. There was a flaming fire in the engine plenum. And that was just random. Yeah. That's the way it goes sometimes in racing."
ALEXANDER ROSSI, NO. 7 ARROW MCLAREN CHEVROLET
“I think we knew it was going to be pretty crazy based on practice and qualifying. The teams did a good job. It was a mistake-free race on everyone’s behalf. I think we obviously had three really strong cars. It was a shame what happened to Felix (Rosenqvist) at the start. I think the three of us had the potential to all be in the top-10. Today was just keeping your nose clean and staying out of trouble. It was a really good start for the (Arrow McLaren) organization. We struggled a little bit on Friday. All of the Arrow McLaren Chevy guys were able to put their heads together and we were able to come back.
I think we will only get stronger from here. This is a really good opportunity for us going into a pretty long break ahead of Texas, a place where this team has been pretty strong in the past. To just really understand where we’re weak and work on improving those areas, but yes, it is a fantastic way to start the season.”
CALLUM ILOTT, NO. 77 JUNCOS HOLLINGER RACING CHEVROLET
“Just time, right strategy, keeping it cool. It was not easy on those restarts. Really slow on the safety car, especially on the greens (alternates). We were picking up a lot of the rubber and that made it super slippery on those restarts. So I don’t blame anyone for making mistakes, overdoing it. I took it easy. Obviously, that cost me a couple of positions at a time. People were trying to gamble it, but when it goes wrong, it goes wrong. I was glad I kept it a little bit on the backend, and it mattered when it counted. Great race, great confidence boost for the Juncos Hollinger guys, girls back at the factory. Big thanks to them, and it’s gone really well this weekend.”
WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET
“We (Colton Herta) banged all the way in, and I went up the inside, and I had as much luck as I could. I feel bad that it ruined his day, but I thought he was for sure he knew I was there. I was up his inside, and I just understeered. It wasn’t like just a big divebomb. I was here, and he kind of hung on the outside. I hate to ruin anyone’s day, I do. I hate that. I like to race these guys clean, and he races me clean, so I feel really bad. He ended up out, and I was able to keep going. Still a very good day for us. I’m really happy to get the Verizon car in the top-10. A very hectic day.”
SCOTT MCLAUGHLIN, NO. 3 DEX IMAGING TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET
“Very sorry to Romain (Grosjean). He’s a friend of mine. I know we were both going for the win there. I just made a big mistake. I tried to push on cold tires. I just didn’t have the grip on the inside (on the primary) like I did on the greens (alternate). Locked the rears. Unfortunately, we made wheel contact that time and it took us both out. Look, I don’t race like that. I apologize. I feel I had plenty of good battles with many good drivers. I just got to thank my DEX Imaging Chevy crew. The DEX Imaging car was great. My fuel mileage was great. You have your good days, you have your bad days. I do apologize to Romain and I’ll go see him soon.”
CONOR DALY, NO. 20 BITNILE ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET
“The race was playing out how we wanted. We got really lucky to avoid that first crash, which was one of the craziest things I have ever seen in my life. I felt strong, running with Rinus (VeeKay) and Josef (Newgarden). Then we just got taken out by Kyle Kirkwood. It was such a shame to get spun like that, but we hung on and kept fighting. The BITNILE.COM Chevrolet had good pace all day. On to the next one!"
JOSEF NEWGARDEN, NO. 2 HITACHI TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET
“Pretty tough day. Just terrible ending. We had something mechanically break unfortunately on the engine side. Had a small fire. Tried to come to pit lane and shut it off, get it back to pit lane and get the fire out. It’s unfortunate because I think we were on for a top-five. I made a mistake on the last restart unfortunately with about 25 to go. We were restarting fifth and I went back to either eighth or ninth. I just got wide. I think for sure a top-10. We were capable of producing a good day which would have been a good start. Unfortunately, we just had to stop early. A real good job to the team. We had a really solid race. Everything was executed just beautifully as always. The Hitachi car felt racy. We made some moves there in the middle. I was proud of everybody. It was a good first race to work together; a lot of new people on the crew. Everyone performed incredibly; really good stops. So I feel really encouraged for the next round. We’ll just get back on it and get this thing tuned up and keep going.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST, NO. 6 ARROW MCLAREN CHEVROLET
”It was a tough day. We had such a good weekend, then that second corner I'm side by side with (Scott) Dixon and he didn't see me in the mirror. The wall just appeared in front of me and I had nowhere to go, and that was it. It's unfortunate. But we actually got back out there. The team did a hell of a job to put the car back together. I think we did 30 to 40 laps and got us up in P19. It's not much, but it's actually a lot considering we were back in the garage for half an hour. We'll take it, put the rest in the trash, and move on."
RINUS VEEKAY, NO. 21 BITNILE ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET
"It’s so tricky out there. I am okay and I just hope that Jack Harvey will be okay, too. Josef (Newgarden) was a little on the inside and I was an inch into the marbles and you just run out of grip. We want to finish the first race of the year to be able to carry the momentum. I am really bummed for the guys and for BITNILE.COM. We had the pace and were doing very well. Time to focus on Texas next."
SANTINO FERRUCCI, No. 14 SEXTON PROPERTIES AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET
“It’s one of those things where you have an accordion effect like that, there’s nothing you can really do unless you’re on a speedway where you have spotters where when everyone’s checking up, you're relying on what you see in front of you. Everybody checked up, and I’m on the primary tire compared to everybody in front of me on the alternate. I just smoked brakes straight into the back of Helio (Castroneves). Funny enough, we were actually going to be okay coming to, because it was just a front wing, but when we came out of the corner, the way he spun or something happened, it hit my right rear and that’s kind of what killed our race. Just really upset for the boys. We’ve been working really hard and had a fantastic qualifying. Would love to log some laps, get some time on our dampers and our program, and see where we can improve from there.”
BENJAMIN PEDERSON, NO. 55 SEXTON PROPERTIES AJ FOYT RACING CHEVROLET
“Unfortunately, not the start for to my first INDYCAR race I was hoping for. Coming through Turn 1, everything was very textbook. We were looking pretty decent, to be honest, to make progress. Coming through Turn 3, I noticed some there was a little bit of your typical race flow traffic. As soon as I came through Turn 3, which is a blind corner, there was just a pile of cars. Cars were horizontal. Slammed on the brakes to do my best possible job to not be involved. Looked for a gap, but there were no gaps or holes to squeeze my car into. Unfortunately, I hit Devlin (DeFrancesco) straight on at a pretty high speed. It was definitely a big hit. I’m totally fine; got my hands off the wheel. Devasted for the team. I feel like we really didn’t get a chance today. We caught out, and honestly, the car felt really good in warm up. We were doing really well on fuel mileage. We definitely had a very good potential for the race. Can’t wait to get back to work with the whole team and go testing at Barber soon for another Rookie test. Honestly, I wish we could go tonight or tomorrow, and go testing already. We will have to wait a little bit, but very enthusiastic to get back to work and go racing again.”