Three-time defending IZOD IndyCar Series raced to his first season-opening victory on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Chip Ganassi Racing team relied on its championship experience to reassemble the No. 10 car and refocus Franchitti on taking the checkered flag after he crashed in practice yesterday.

The 37-year-old Scotsman responded well by taking the top spot from polesitter and Penske Racing's Will Power on Lap 5 of 100 and charging forward to lead 94 of the remaining 96 circuits before crossing the finish line a convincing 7.162 seconds ahead of Power. KV Racing Technologies-Lotus driver Tony Kanaan took third, HVM Racing's Simona de Silvestro scored her first career series top-five finish with a fourth-place showing and Kanaan's teammate Takuma Sato completed the race top five. "This Target team, it keeps fighting. They told me to never give up. What a brilliant team. That was hard to do today. Anyone questioning my team's motivation to go for (the championship) again, see what we did today. This went right through the team, this will to win," Franchitti said.

Power, the defending St. Petersburg winner who captured the first series Mario Andretti Road Course Championship last season, earned his 19th career series top-five finish as well as his second straight top-five and fourth straight top-10 finish on the Florida street circuit.

"Dario was so quick, I just could not keep with him on the 'blacks' (tire compound). He was just crazy fast. It was still a solid day," Power said.

Nine-year series veteran and 2007 Kentucky Speedway race winner Kanaan wheeled to his sixth career St. Petersburg top-five and seventh consecutive top-10 finish on the track just days after signing with his new team.

"I didn't expect anything and that's a good thing. I have to thank the whole KV team and my sponsors back in Brazil that gave me a chance to race this week six days ago. I'm proud of the guys and afraid I raised the bar a little too high. We have a lot of work to do, but it's a good result for our first weekend together so I'm happy," Kanaan said.

The series will move to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for its second of 17 2011 events on April 10. Helio Castroneves, who earned his first IZOD IndyCar Series Kentucky victory last season, took last season's victory on the 2.83-mile, 17-turn road course after Power started from the pole position.

Race coverage begins at 3:00 p.m., on Versus, the IMS Radio Network, Sirius Radio 212 and XM Radio 145.

The series will visit Kentucky Speedway as part of a tripleheader Oct. 1-2 weekend. Action opens with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series "UNOH 225" Oct. 1 and continues with a Firestone Indy Lights 100-mile race and 300-mile IZOD IndyCar Series battle Oct. 2.

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Story by Mike Schmaltz

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