Mike Stevens | Apr 7, 2009
Ryan Briscoe on the podium at St Petersburg. Photo by Jonathon.

Australian Indy Racing League star Ryan Briscoe has opened his 2009 campaign in stunning fashion, winning the St Petersburg event in Florida.

Passing former Jaguar F1 pilot Justin Wilson in the closing stages, Briscoe withstood a late charge from Ryan Hunter-Reay to secure victory in the 100-lap race and establish himself as a front runner for this year's crown.

Fellow Penske driver and compatriot Will Power crossed the line in sixth to cap a memorable day for the IRL's Australian contingent.

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Ryan Briscoe at St Petersburg, Florida. Photo by awinner.

Briscoe was rapt to secure his second successive race victory after emerging victorious in the final Gold Coast Indy.

He told indycar.com: "This is our first race of the season and it's such a great feeling to kick it off with a race win. The conditions were tough; it was very tricky on restarts.

“The tyres would get very cold and it would be very slippery. It was a challenge to keep it between the white lines and off the wall. I had some strong challenges from behind, but my car was very strong today and I was able to hold them off."

Starting from fourth on the grid, Briscoe drove a measured race, avoiding the chaos which unfolded around him as he strove to capitalise on the misfortune of fellow title contender Kiwi Scott Dixon, who retired on lap 80.

Deputising for Helio Castroneves who is facing tax evasion charges in Florida, Power was unable to make any progress from his sixth place effort in qualifying, although he was involved in some dramas in pit lane.

The 28-year old inadvertently helped his teammate's cause when he overshot his pit stall early in the race, blocking Dixon and forcing him into a midfield scrap which eventually claimed his race.

Despite the promising result though, Power's future remains somewhat clouded as Team Penske is committed to Castroneves.

Penske, however, has refused to rule out entering a third car if Castroneves is indeed cleared by the Florida courts.

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