Briscoe Holds Off Hunter-Reay for St. Petersburg Win

Ryan Briscoe clinched the season opener at St Petersburg on Sunday, as he held off Ryan Hunter-Reay to the chequered flag in the dying laps of the race. The Australian therefore clinched his 2nd consecutive win in the IRL, following his 1st place in the non-sanctioned event at Surfers Paradise.

Justin Wilson's move to Dale Coyne Racing seemed like a great step forward for the Englishman, as he led the Sunday race for most of the time. Although not starting from pole, Wilson powered to the lead in the opening stages and went on to build a comfortable 6-second lead up front. Nevertheless, as there's no IRL race without a caution, his lead was soon diminished following a multitude of incident forcing the safety car to be deployed.

Only 31 laps into the race and Danica Patrick, Mario Moraes and Raphael Matos were already sidelined for the remainder of the day, while Conquest's Alex Tagliani suffered a puncture following an incident with Vitor Meira.

Most of the front-runners hit the pits following the first caution of the day, which led to a new regrouping at the top. Briscoe and Dan Wheldon went on to take the lead, while Wilson had to settle for 3rd. However, the Dale Coyne Racing stormed into the lead once again following the second round of pit stops and it seemed like there was little that could happen to keep him away from winning the season opener.

However, Scot Dixon running into Will Power caused another caution on Lap 80, at the end of which Briscoe decided to pull his next move on Wilson. The Australian eventually clinched the lead following a pass on Turn 1, as followed by Hunter-Reay later on. The two drivers then battled for the win for the remainder of the race, but Briscoe was not to be denied 1st place. Wilson eventually finished 3rd overall, followed by Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan.

“I wanted to come in carrying off the experience I gained last year and try to kick the season off gaining points and trying to go for this championship. This is our first race of the season and it's such a great feeling to kick it off with a race win. The conditions were tough; it was very tricky on restarts. The tires would get very cold and it would be very slippery. It was a challenge to keep it between the white lines and off the wall. I had some strong challenges from behind, but my car was very strong today and I was able to hold them off,” said Briscoe.

Hunter-Reay was satisfied with second place, especially since he only secured his racing seat with Vision Racing four days prior to the start of the new season.

“It was a good, clean race for us. Late in the race, I was thinking long term with points. You couldn't step a foot off line without jeopardizing your car, so I kept it in line for the team. It's been a long week for everyone on the team and everyone who worked on getting it here deserves the credit,” said Hunter-Reay.
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