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Trackside Update: Race Day from St. Pete

3.24.13 – It was a cloudy but victorious day for Andretti Autosport in St. Petersburg as GoDaddy.com driver James Hinchcliffe captured his first career victory behind the wheel of the No. 27 Chevrolet.

Hinch had a strong showing all weekend and started today’s 110-lap race from the fourth position, but didn’t stay there long. He dove to inside on Turn 1, Lap 1 for his first pass of the day capturing the third position. He continued to gain ground on each and every restart of the day, finally taking P1 and holding it for the final 26 laps of the race.

"I don't think you can get much better than winning the first one because as soon as I crossed the line I burst into tears,” said Hinch, “and I never thought that was going to happen when I won my first race. But that was a hard battle in fighting off those Penske cars because they were strong and to get the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet to victory lane and the first win in IndyCar is just so special. Everybody at Go Daddy is so incredible and everybody did such a good job. I am exhausted, but just elated at the same time."

James dedicated today’s win to former Andretti Autosport driver and fallen friend Dan Wheldon, “This one I’m throwing out to Dan (Wheldon) this is his hometown; this is his car and knowing that my face is going to be on that memorial that is really special.”

Teammate Marco Andretti had a productive day starting seventh position in the No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet.  While Andretti stayed consistent and patient through the majority of today’s race, he never dropped lower than 10th. During the closing laps of the race, Andretti capped off the day by carefully maneuvering around fierce competitors for a third place finish.

Andretti said, “It’s always been tough because even though we usually do well here, I have always been on the outside looking in. Not being in the Fast Six actually benefited me today, because I had that fresh set in the end for the RC Cola car. Finishing third is nice, but a couple places higher would have been better. You can’t get greedy about days like this, because we do this week in and week out. It feels good to finally see the rewards from the amount of hard work you put in… Congratulations to James (Hinchcliffe) the whole Andretti Autosport team is gelling so well. We’ve got to keep this momentum going. Also, credit to Simona (de Silvestro) she drove a hell of a race.”

E.J. Viso’s unfortunate start to the season opener weekend was redeemed when the Venezuelan finished today’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the top 10 after starting 22nd. Bringing the No. 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA CITGO Chevrolet to the twin checkers in seventh was a great start to the season for the newest driver in the Andretti stable.

“I am extremely happy finishing seventh after a very difficult beginning of the weekend with so many mechanical issues in the practice and qualifying,” the newest Andretti Autosport driver said. “It’s been tough to survive and make it to here, but the team did a great job to get me a very competitive car and give me all the tools to stay battling in the field. I’m feeling good about this year; I think we will be able to achieve good positions. Congratulations to my teammate, James (Hinchcliffe), on his first win in the IZOD IndyCar Series.”

Reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay had a difficult day and was forced to retire the No. 1 Chevy early from today’s race due to mechanical issues after starting from the eighth position.

"It wasn't a great day for the DHL car,” said Ryan. “We couldn't get our car into first gear on a pit stop for whatever reason. I don't know if that had anything to do with the stuck throttle that we ended up having, but that's what sidelined us in the end… That's racing. You can be on the highest high and then next weekend you can be on the lowest low. We just have to ride it and we'll come out swinging next week; it's all a part of it. It's a great win for James Hinchcliffe and Andretti Autosport."

Team owner Michael Andretti commented on the team’s St. Pete performance and 44th victory, “What a great weekend. James just did a hell of a job all weekend and Marco had a great race there and I feel bad for Ryan because he had tough luck with a sticking throttle and E.J. did a great job of coming back up through there so, aside from Ryan, all-in-all it was a great day and so, so happy for Go Daddy as they have been such a great supporter of ours and to finally get them to victory lane… I am just ecstatic about that as well as for RC Cola to get on the podium as well.”

The dynamic duo of Matthew Brabham and Shelby Blackstock conquered the streets of St. Petersburg once again. Andretti Autosport’s Pro Mazda Championship drivers came away with the win and second place during Round Two at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Starting on pole position for the second race in a row, Blackstock drove to his career best finish in P2. Teammate Brabham went from fifth to first to celebrate his third consecutive win in the Pro Mazda Championship.

After overcoming a frustrating Round One, Garett Grist and Austin Cindric rallied in Round Two. Grist started in 13th and found his footing on the 14-turn temporary street circuit coming to the checkered flag in sixth.  Cindric wasn’t as lucky. Becoming involved in a racing incident on Lap 18, the 14-year-old was forced to retire from the race early.

The IZOD IndyCar Series will head to the scenic Barber Motorsport Park in Leeds, Alabama for the next round of competition on April 7. The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series, in addition to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series will come together again at Lucas Oil Raceway on May 25 for the Night Before the 500. In the meantime keep up to date on all things Andretti Autosport by joining us on Twitter (@FollowAndretti) and don't forget to 'Like' us on Facebook where you can enter to be our featured Fan of the Week.

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