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Briscoe wins St Pete opener.

“It's been a fantastic weekend, and the Sonny's Bar-B-Q car has been working fantastic, but, on that restart, I just got out-dragged on the front straight," Wilson reflected, "There's not much you can do. You can't block. It's just one of those things. I was just disappointed because you can't do any more.”

Hunter-Reay capitalised on the loss of momentum by passing Wilson for second in turn four, turning in the best finish ever for Vision Racing just one week after signing his deal with the team.

“It was a good, clean race for us but, late in the race, I was thinking long-term with points," RH-R admitted, "You couldn't step a foot off line without jeopardising 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 the car here deserves the credit.”

Franchitti was a factor throughout his first championship round with the Ganassi team but, having run second to Wilson early on, had to settle for fourth after losing track position in one of the pit-stop windows. The Scot came home ahead of former Andretti Green team-mate Tony Kanaan, who survived his brush with Rahal to round out the top five.

The race looked good for Britain in the opening stages, with the Power-Franchitti 1-2 being backed up by Darren Manning vaulting to fifth at the start on his debut with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The series veteran, who only signed his deal in the days before the event, eventually finished eighth, but there was worse news for rookie team-mate Mike Conway, who found himself tipped into the turn two wall as the Rahal/Kanaan melee sorted itself out. The DRR pilot was towed back to the pits, but rear suspension damage left Conway 99 laps short of full distance.

There were also disappointing ends for Mario Moraes, Danica Patrick and Raphael Matos, who all retired due to contact on lap 31. Moraes' incident was separate, but Patrick and Matos suffered a heavy impact after the reigning Indy Lights champion tried an optimistic lunge up the inside of the #7 AGR entry at one of the fastest parts of the track. Despite appearing to be almost alongside Patrick, he found the feisty female turning in to the corner and both skated off into the waiting wall.

Ed Carpenter and reigning series champion Scott Dixon both found similar sections of tyre wall later in the race, while Hideki Mutoh, Dan Wheldon and Marco Andretti were all ruled out by contact, allowing some less-fancied names to claim useful points.

Behind Kanaan, Will Power claimed sixth on his debut with Penske, while Vitor Meira and Tagliani rounded out the top ten, ahead of rookies Robert Doornbos and Stanton Barrett. EJ Viso retired with mechanical problems at three-quarter distance, having run as high as third.

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