story edited by Tim Hailey, with photos and text from Chevrolet, Honda, etc
Eventual Martinsville winner Kurt Busch (right) rubs shoulders with Jimmy Johnson
It was a big Sunday for Chevrolet, as the brand won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville and the IndyCar opener at St. Petersburg.
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Racing Chevrolet SS, won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. Chevrolet finished first, second and third in the race. Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, finished second. Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS, raced to a third-place finish.
Will Power struck back for Tim Cindric and Roger Penske in St. Petersburg
Will Power, No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, won today’s Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – the series’ season-opening race. It is the third consecutive year that a driver powered by the Chevrolet IndyCar V6 engine has started the season on the Streets of St. Petersburg with a win. Honda driver Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second. Joining Power and Hunter-Reay on the podium was Penskedriver Helio Castroneves.
Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion, Scott Dixon, No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet finished fourth. His teammates Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Target Chevrolet and Ryan Briscoe, No. 8 NTT Data Chevrolet gave Team Chevy five of the top-10 finishers with sixth and 10th place finishing positions respectively.
Honda-powered drivers claimed five of the top nine finishing positions, with Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson and Josef Newgarden all rebounding from troubled qualifying runs to join Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato in the top 10 at the finish of 110 laps around the 1.8-mile coastal Florida street circuit.
Sato took command at the race start, eventually opening up a six-second lead over the 22-car field through the first segment of the race in his A.J. Foyt Racing Honda Dallara. But the popular Japanese driver lost ground after the first round of pit stops to finish seventh.
Meanwhile, Hunter-Reay’s performance improved throughout the race, as he battled Helio Castoneves for second place during the middle-third of the contest, then captured the position shortly after a Lap 84 restart. For the last 20 laps, Hunter-Reay traded quick lap times with leader Power, but was unable to mount a successful challenge for the victory.
After “missing the setup” and starting a disappointing 14th, Pagenaud’s race also came alive in the final half, as he passed both Sato and Tony Kanaan, among others, to claim fifth at the finish. Likewise, Wilson worked his way through the field to take the checkers eighth after starting 16th, while Newgarden made the biggest gains in the race, making up 13 positions to finish a strong ninth after starting 22nd.
The 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series now heads cross-country to California for the Grand Prix of Long Beach, to be televised live on the NBC Sports Network on Sunday, April 13.