New Zealand driver Scott Dixon seventh in IndyCar series-opener in Florida

New Zealand IndyCar star Scott Dixon started the defence of his title at the Grand Prix of St Petersburg in Florida.
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New Zealand IndyCar star Scott Dixon started the defence of his title at the Grand Prix of St Petersburg in Florida.

New Zealand's Scott Dixon has started the defence of his IndyCar title with a seventh-placed finish in the season-opener in Florida.

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya won the Grand Prix of St Petersburg on Monday (NZ time) for the second time in as many years.

Dixon, who won his fourth drivers' championship last year, had expressed a desire to try to get away to a fast start in 2016.

He had been right on the pace in qualifying and ended up being promoted to No 4 on the starting grid after pole-sitter Will Power withdrew from the race because of concussion problems related to a crash in practice.

Dixon started strongly and quickly moved up to second and was running in the top five over the first half of the race on the street circuit.

But his effort faded over the back half, never being able to make up much from his pitt strategy.

He did well to move up from ninth to seventh over the final four laps and snare some added points.

The race was marked by just two yellow flags - tying a St Petersburg record for the fewest in a race.

One yellow was due to a multi-car logjam triggered when the cars of Dixon and Helio Castroneves touched but kept going.

Montoya, Dixon's biggest rival from last season, watched it all unfold in his rear vision mirror and stayed clear of trouble to get a jump on the field.

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Montoya led teammate Simon Pagenaud across the finish line by 2.3306s, with Ryan Hunter-Reay third and Castroneves fourth.

The second event of the 16-race series is the Phoenix Grand Prix on April 2.

 - Stuff

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