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Today's 6th Place Finish is Tomorrow's Pole Position Start.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Raphael Matos won today's race from the front of the field.  And with the unique format of the St. Petersburg weekend, tomorrow, Atlanta's Chris Festa will see if  he can do the same. 

The 2005 Star Mazda series champion gave former IndyCar Series driver Jim Guthrie his first Indy Pro Series victory as a team owner in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Matos, driving the No. 41 Guthrie Racing/Car Crafters car, held off Jeff Simmons by 0.5075 of a second in the 40-lap race on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit.

Series rookie Jay Howard, driving the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, finished third and Cheever Racing’s Nick Bussell was fourth. Another rookie, Jonathan Klein in the No. 27 Klein Tools car, was fifth, followed by Chris Festa in the No. 51 Cheever Racing car.

The top six finishers will be inverted for Race 2 at 11:30 a.m. (EDT) on April 2. Matos is the fourth driver to win in his Indy Pro Series debut (A.J. Foyt IV, Mark Taylor, Phil Giebler and Marco Andretti).

"Right now, I'm loving it, because now I can start up front where I normally like to be," Festa said. "Toward the end of the race, I had a couple of cars to pass, but even though were were a little quicker my crew told me I was in sixth place, so I just backed off a little bit and came home sixth so I could start on the pole tomorrow."
Matos made a pass for the lead as Simmons’ No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing car went wide into Turn 14, and he made it stand the final three laps. Two laps earlier, Simmons passed Matos for the lead in Turn 2 on a restart after the No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing car driven by Geoff Dodge clipped the No. 9 Ocala Grand Prix car driven by Bobby Wilson in Turn 9.
Simmons, who won the season opener on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval March 26, said he'll look to redeem himself in the second race.
"I just made a mistake," he said about the pass on the hairpinn turn. "Missed it by an inch or two -- basically did the same thing Jay did to let me by. As soon as you miss just a little bit down there in that last corner, you get out in some marbles, you're dirt-tracking for the rest of that corner. 
"It was a good race. I hate to throw it away at the end like that. Fortunately, this weekend we got a chance to redeem ourselves tomorrow." 

After having to repair the car after a practice sessions March 31, Guthrie was elated with the work of his team and, of course, the results.

“This day has been full of ups and downs, this is the best up I’ve had in a long time," said Guthrie, the 1997 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year. "This feels very, very good. Not quite as good as (my IndyCar Series win at) Phoenix, the next best thing. It’s a great day. Raphael tested with us last year and him and my son Sean were great buddies. For him to be able to run here today with us and win. It’s awesome.”