ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The memory was even stronger than the victory.
Moments after crossing the finish line first in the Honda Indy Grand Prix ofSt. Petersburgon Sunday, Helio Castroneves ran toward the fence for his traditional climb.
When he did, he made sure to do so right near the sign on the stretch that read "Dan Wheldon Way".
As he ascended towards it, he pumped his fists and gave the sign a few taps, paying tribute to the drivers who died five months earlier the last time the Izod IndyCar Series took to the track.
That's what made the season opener for the series one of celebration and tribute during the 100 laps on the street course inSt. Petersburg, where Wheldon called home in the final years of his life.
It was Castroneves, who went winless in 2011, who really felt at home on the surface and in the newly designed machine that made its debut. The Brazilian driver got around Scott Dixon for the lead late and never gave it up in coming home with his first victory since the Japan race in 2010.
The victory was also the first for Chevrolet in the new open engine competition era of the series.
Dixon would end up finishing second with Ryan Hunter-Reay coming in third. Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe-who took over the No. 7 Go Daddy car following the death of Wheldon-came in fourth while Ryan Briscoe was fifth.