By: Spencer Neff
March 5, 2023
2023 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Box Score
From green to checkered, the 2023 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg saw no shortage of action. In the end, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson weathered the proverbial storm and opened the season with his fourth career victory. For the Kumla, Sweden native, it is his third on a temporary street course.
Ericsson, whose previous best finish at the 1.8-mile, 14-turn Florida circuit was seventh in 2020, beat Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward by 2.4113 seconds. O’Ward’s engine briefly shut off after a plenum issue with less than four to go, allowing Ericsson to go by.
Scott Dixon, who has yet to win in 19 starts at St. Petersburg, finished third in a CGR podium bookend. It is Ganassi’s second win in this race and first since 2011 with Dario Franchitti.
Chevrolet would round out the Top Five with Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi ending the day fourth in his debut with the now three-car team. Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott notched a career-best fifth place finish. Defending series champion Will Power began his title defense with an eighth-place finish.
Topping the 2023 rookies was Ericsson’s teammate Marcus Armstrong, who finished the day in 11th. The 100-lap race was slowed by five cautions in a wild afternoon.
In a frantic start, Felix Rosenqvist made contact with Dixon and broke looser on the exit of Turn 3. Further back, a spin by Helio Castroneves following contact with Santino Ferrucci triggered a six-car crash. The incident culminated with Benjamin Pedersen getting Devlin DeFrancesco airborne. Also sustaining damage were Simon Pagenaud and Sting Ray Robb.
After the opening-lap melee, the red flag was displayed, bringing the 100-lap event to a halt. Thankfully, all drivers climbed from their cars or continued on. Rosenqvist and Robb were the only drivers able to continue on.
Following a red-flag period of nearly a half-hour, the racing continued on Lap 6. Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports’ David Malukas, who made contact that initiated the Lap 1 melee, made contact with Marcus Armstrong, giving the Chip Ganassi Racing rookie a flat tire. Malukas was assessed a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.
Up front, Grosjean continued to lead as his teammates struggled to keep pace on the alternate Firestone tires. McLaughlin would lead three laps before surrendering the lead. After making his stop, McLaughlin fended off Grosjean, bringing O”Ward closer to the No.28.
During the sequence of pit stops, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly spun in Turn 9 after contact from Kyle Kirkwood. The second caution of the afternoon flew on Lap 37 as the No. 20 waited to be re-fired.
The carnage would continue shortly after the Lap 42 restart as Rinus VeeKay made contact with Josef Newgarden. Jack Harvey of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing would be collected and the impact sent Kirkwood airborne. Despite the No.27 getting off the ground, the Andretti Autosport crew was able to repair the front wing of his Dallara-Honda and he continued on. Harvey would be sent to a local hospital in stable condition for precautionary evaluation.
The bad luck for the Andretti team continued as Colton Herta nosed his No. 26 entry into the Turn 8 wall after contact from Will Power, ending the 2021 St. Pete winner’s day. Power would be sent to the back of the field after he was given a penalty for avoidable contact.
After making his final pit stop, McLaughlin was thrust into a fight with Grosjean for the lead. In Turn 4, the leaders collided and were sent into the Turn 4 tire barrier. The fifth caution of the day was brought out as the leaders of the race had their respective chances for victory end prematurely. McLaughlin was assessed a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact while the pole sitter’s day was over.
O’Ward inherited the lead following the yellow flag and began to distance himself from Ericsson and the field. With less than six laps to go, Penske’s day continued to sour as Josef Newgarden dropped out of the race after fire began spewing from the left-rear of his No. 2 entry.
As Lap 97 was being completed, O’Ward faltered and Ericsson got by for the lead. The Swede held on for the victory.
Following three weeks off, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will make its oval debut for 2023. Practice for the PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway is set for 11 a.m. Eastern on April 1. The 250-lap event on the 1.5-mile oval is scheduled for a 12:15 p.m. start on April. NBC will have live broadcast of the race at Noon Eastern time.
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Header Image By Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR