Jack Hawksworth’s chances for a podium finish in his first start for A.J. Foyt Racing came up short Sunday afternoon at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Employing an alternate pit strategy, Hawksworth led five laps of today’s Verizon IndyCar Series season opener and remained a contender for a podium result, until he required a final pit stop on Lap 95, dropping him from third to an eighth-place finish.
Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay led the Honda field at the checkers, finishing seventh, with Hawksworth eighth and Marco Andretti rounding out the top 10, as Andretti come through the field following multiple contact incidents.
Several Honda-powered drivers had strong runs today, but multiple incidents and contact also hampered the runs of Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal. Starting fifth, Sato sustained damage while battling Sebastien Bourdais for position on Lap 37, and additional damage due to contact later in the race.
Rahal ran as high as fifth in today’s 110-lap event, but a “drive-through” [pit lane] penalty for avoidable contact ruined his chances for a strong result, and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver finished 11th.
The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series now heads to New Orleans Motorsports Park for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, to be televised live on the NBC Sports Network on Sunday, April 12.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (#28 Andretti Autosport Honda) started 8th, finished 7th: “I think that was the hardest seventh-place finish I’ve seen. That’s how it is sometimes, when you have bad days you have to bring home solid top 10 [results]. We fell back to like 18th or 19th after the issue at the start with Bourdais [forcing Hunter-Reay to run wide at the first corner]. We rebounded nicely, but to be honest I think that's about the car we had today — a sixth- or seventh-place car at best. We’ll take the top 10 and move ahead for New Orleans.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race in St. Petersburg: “This was a disappointing result, which did not reflect the performance of the Honda engine and chassis package. We had drivers and teams with the speed to score good results today, including Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, Jack Hawksworth, Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti. But the race was a crash- andmistake-filled affair, which seemed to affect many of our top competitors. Now we just have to put our heads down, regroup and learn so that we are better prepared for our next race, the new Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana at New Orleans Motorsports Park.”