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Opening round joy for Cristiano.

Behind Minassian in the final points-scoring position was a lacklustre Max Papis who only scored a point when Scott Dixon, Bryan Herta, Michel Jourdain Jr and Adrian Fernandez hit late race problems. Dixon led the race between laps 22 and 38 on his CART debut as he, Fernandez and Herta tried a different fuel strategy to the leaders and chose not to pit with the rest of the field on lap 21 after Moreno had brought out the caution. Both Herta and Fernandez surrendered their second and third spots to Brack shortly after the re-start on lap 29 but Dixon resolutely stuck to his guns in the PacWest Racing Reynard-Toyota until making his stop on lap 38.

The 20-year old New Zealander took the final re-start in tenth but was forced to back off in the final laps as his tank ran dry, eventually finishing 13th and one place away from a Championship point. Herta came home 16th after a precautionary late stop while Fernandez, who held almost God-like status amongst the 150,000 fans that crammed their way into the stands on race-day, sadly retired his self-owned Reynard-Honda from 12th place three laps from home when he ran out of fuel.

Fellow Mexican Jourdain Jr in the Herdez Bettenhausen Lola-Ford should have inherited what would have been a tremendously popular 12th place in the absence of Dixon, Heart and Fernandez only to find himself running out of fuel and eventually dropping to 17th, the last car on the lead lap.

Of those who failed to finish, Zanardi eventually called it a day after an uncharacteristic drive that included contact with Junqueira, Andretti and Shinji Nakano while both Player's/Forsythe Reynard-Ford's suffered engine failures while running in top ten positions.

The Fed-Ex teams now have almost a month to prepare for the next round of the series around the streets of Long Beach on April 8th and although there is still a loooong way to go, you can bet that Da Matta and the rest of the Newman-Haas team will be cherishing what is by now a rather familiar feeling, leading the points table after the opening round. The question is, can they sustain it?

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Cristiano Da Matta, Newman-Haas Racing, Lola-Toyota
JR Hildebrand, IndyCar, Ed Carpenter Racing
Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing, IndyCar [Credit: Ed Jones PR]
Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) celebrates at Laguna Seca
Kyle Kaiser - Juncos Racing
Ed Carpenter Racing crew working on the boss` car   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to victory at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to pole at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Ed Jones - Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Scott Dixon - Target Chip Ganassi Racing   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/JOE SKIBINSKI]
Josef Newgarden - Ed Carpenter Racing   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Shawn Gritzmacher]
Josef Newgarden - Ed Carpenter Racing [credit: Chris Jones]
Spencer Pigot - Ed Carpenter Racing
Sebastian Bourdais (KVSH Racing) celebrates in Detroit   [image creid: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Sebastian Bourdais - KVSH Racing   [image credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Richard Dowdy]
Ed Carpenter - Ed Carpenter Racing [credit: IndyCar Series]
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 celebrates his victory Sunday, March 13, 2016 after winning the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is the second year in a row Montoya has won this race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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