IndyCar Series newcomer Graham Rahal made history at the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg by becoming the youngest winner of a major open-wheel race at the age of 19 years and 93 days.

More impressive, however, was the fact that the Florida street circuit outing was the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver's first in the IndyCar Series, Rahal having had to withdraw from last weekend's Homestead-Miami Speedway opener after damaging his car in a pre-season test the week before the race.

Rahal, who started in ninth in a rain-affected race, overcame a setback on lap 37, when he made contact with fellow Champ Car convert Will Power, to win the IndyCar Series' first temporary street course race of the season, and ousted fellow 'son of' Marco Andretti as the youngest winner. Andretti was 19 years and 167 days old when he won at Infineon Raceway in 2006.

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"It was tough," Rahal said, "After getting hit by Will in the rain and everything, it was going to be a tough start. But it doesn't get any sweeter than this - to expect a win in our first race...... We had the pace and pulled away from them, so it wasn't like we lucked into it. This is just awesome."

Rahal, the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, becomes just the fourth driver in history to win on his IndyCar Series debut and just the fourth rookie to win in their first IndyCar season. He also ensured that those teams making the switch from the near-defunct Champ Car World Series could shake the 'when will they win' monkey from their backs early in the campaign after fending off double defending race winner Helio Castroneves in the final stages.

"Obviously Helio is very successful and has won a lot of races but, at the same time, I knew we had the pace and I knew that, if I could just keep calm, we could pull away," the youngster continued, "We were pulling away before and we were aggressively fuel saving, so I knew that, if I could attack the car, we could pull away.

"On the last lap, you just don't want your focus to get off of the car and the race so, for me, I just needed to keep calm and make it through the last set of corners, especially since there was a yellow out on turn eleven. I just wanted to be cautious, but I knew we had quite the gap, so I wasn't too worried. This has just worked out so well. It's awesome."

Rahal Sr, who runs a rival team in the IRL-sanctioned series, was naturally delighted for his son, who joins Buzz Calkins - in the first ever IRL event at Walt Disney World in 1996 - Juan Montoya and Scott Dixon as first-start winners.

"Do you think he'll ever listen to any advice from me again?" he smiled, "He really thinks he knows everything now. But he drove a phenomenal race and the crew did a great job. The engineer gave him a great car, and he was fast at the end. That's the best conditions, a lot of people banging each other, and he kept it together. I'd hire him, but I can't afford him. I'm really pleased. Pleased for him and pleased for the team."

The second round of the newly-amalgamated IndyCar Series started in wet conditions after rain soaked the Florida street course minutes before the green flag dropped, and the scheduled 100-lap distance was eventually shortened to 83 laps to fit into the two-hour time limit. Castroneves finished second in the best of the Team Penske Dallara-Hondas, while polewinner Tony Kanaan finished third for race promoter Andretti Green Racing.

"It was so close," Castroneves said, "Team Penske did everything we could to get that car set up well but, in the slow section, the car was really pushing and I couldn't take a chance. I'm happy because this proves that good teams with good drivers can do well, and I'm extremely excited with the two series coming together. Second place is good - obviously I wanted to win the race, but I'll take it. In terms of the season championship, second is worth a lot."

Kanaan pointed to strategic errors for his fall from first to third by the chequered flag, but maintained his record of never finishing outside the top three in any of the four races to have been staged on the streets of St Petersburg.

"Obviously, things did not work out for us today - when you take risks, some days it works out for you, some days it doesn't," he sighed, "We're not very happy with our calls today, but I support the team 100 per cent because we win together and we lose together. Finishing third is not bad, but I think there is a curse on me here at St Pete. I've finished on the podium every time I've been here, but not in the right spot."

HVM Racing's Ernesto Viso and Conquest Racing's Enrique Bernoldi, both rookies with no IndyCar or Champ Car experience before last weekend's Homestead race, also gave the converts confidence by rounding out the top-five.

"We're very happy," Viso enthused, "We know that we have the potential to be up there at the road courses, so now we just have to work harder on the ovals. I think the rain affected everybody. It was just about trying to keep the car in one piece and be as smooth as possible. There are many races left, and now we know that we can be at the top. We were almost as quick as the rest - we need to work a little bit more on the road courses and we will be on the podium soon."

Bernoldi, meanwhile, admitted that the conditions had played into his hands and was grateful for a chance to make up for his Homestead result.

"I've been racing in the wet and the dry and changing situations my whole life, so I was used to it," the Brazilian said, "I knew that, if I could stay on the track, I could have a good race and fight for a win. I think, after last week at the oval, where I was so bad, it's a big week for the whole team to be leading the race and to finish fifth. I've been out of open-wheel racing for more than two years, so it takes a while to get back [into it], but I think this was good practice. Two hours in these conditions is a big lift for us."

Andretti Green newcomer Hideki Mutoh finished a career-best sixth, improving on his debut eighth at Chicagoland last season.

"I was glad when the race started but, soon after, I didn't really know what was happening since it was so hard to see," champion Dario Franchitti's replacement commented, "The team gave me a great car in the dry condition, so I did my best to manage the car in the rain. When it started to dry up, I was looking for an opportunity to move forward and was able to make a good pass in the end."

KV Racing Technology pairing Oriol Servia and Will Power, and Rahal's NHLR team-mate Justin Wilson, underlined the Champ Car teams' potential on road and street courses by claiming seventh, eighth and ninth, with the third AGR entry of Danica Patrick rounding out the top ten.

"We had an up and down race day, but I am proud of myself for moving up in the positions at the end of the race," Patrick commented, "I was able to hold my own when we were on the wet tyres, and I think half the battle in races like these is just to stay out of the wrecks and to stay on the lead lap. We have some work to do - we need to fine tune our pit-stops and have to start putting it all together - or we are not going to win races."

Aussie Power, meanwhile, recovered from the contact with Rahal, as well as a costly pit-stop strategy, to take his first top ten IndyCar finish, taking eighth after starting from second on the grid and spending much of the first half of the race dicing with the frontrunners.

"It was a pretty wild race because of the weather," Power said, "and to come back and finish eighth was very good considering where we were at one point. I am very happy for the whole KV Racing Technology team and the Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia crew that we bought the car back in one piece for the second race in a row."

Marty Roth did not start the race after damage to his car, suffered in the morning warm-up session, could not be repaired in time, while Ed Carpenter, Vitor Meira, Franck Perera, Townsend Bell and Ryan Briscoe all succumbed to accidents in the race, Meira, Perera and Bell all crashing out on lap 75.

"We had made all the right calls on tyres and pitting, but unfortunately I cost us a chance at a win," Briscoe said, having led the race prior to his lap 57 accident, "I was trying to set up the #24 car, but I clipped the inside wall, which took us out of the race. It's a frustrating start to the season because we've had great cars with a chance to contend for the win in both races."

Homestead winner Scott Dixon was unable to repeat his round one success, succumbing to left rear suspension problems on lap 75 and being classified 22nd in the final standings.

"I think everyone was having fun out there, but I can tell you it was tough figuring out who was on what strategy," the Kiwi, who loses his points lead to Castroneves, noted, "With the start in the wet and everything, there was a lot of jumbling around and different strategies playing out. In the end, the left rear suspension gave way and we had to come to pit lane. That was it."

The points table will receive another shake-up in two weeks' time as the field splits for two separate events on the same day, giving Rahal the chance to record back-to back wins as the Champ Car teams journey to Long Beach for the final event in the Panoz DP01 chassis introduced to the CCWS last season. The IRL regulars, meanwhile, go east to Motegi, with both events counting for equal championship points.