Montoya wins IndyCar opener

There seemed little doubt that a Team Penske driver would win the IndyCar season-opening race even after Will Power was sidelined with a concussion.

Juan Pablo Montoya won on the streets of St Petersburg for the second consecutive year to continue the Team Penske dominance at this event.

The day got off to a rocky start for the Penske organisation after Australian pole-sitter Power was scratched from the race.

He wrecked during a Friday practice session but was medically cleared to drive.

Power broke his track record three times in Saturday qualifying to lead a 1-2-3-4 Penske sweep in qualifying, but he was ill every time he exited the car.

IndyCar diagnosed him with a mild concussion and he was placed in the protocol program.

He can’t race again until he’s been medically cleared by IndyCar with the next event is April 2 at Phoenix International Raceway.

“To be honest, I was surprised he qualified. He wasn’t feeling that well before qualifying,” Montoya said.

“He did an amazing job, how sick he was. He did really good.”

The win by Montoya was the eighth in 12 tries for Penske drivers.

Simon Pagenaud finished second for Penske, but Ryan Hunter-Reay spoiled the sweep by passing Helio Castroneves with three laps remaining.

“It’s nice to start the year with a win. You know what I mean?” Montoya said.

“When you’re in Team Penske, there’s always that pressure that you’ve got to win races.”

Castroneves finished fourth as Chevrolet and Penske drivers took three of the top four spots.

Oriol Servia was brought in to replace Power.

He started last in the field and made up a good bit of position but was involved in an eight-car accident that relegated him to an 18th-place finish.

Montoya, meanwhile, led the final 25 laps and beat Pagenaud by 2.3 seconds to win for the second year in a row.

Montoya led the points last year from the opening race until the finale, where he lost the championship on a tiebreaker to Scott Dixon.

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