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Champ Car converts 'can win again'

The converted Champ Car drivers can expect to fight for victory in every IndyCar road and street race this season

That is the view of Graham Rahal, who won the race at St Petersburg yesterday, and IndyCar front runners Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves.

Although Rahal was helped by the changeable conditions and a yellow flag period that played into his hands while he was trying to conserve fuel, the former Champ Car teams had the pace to fight for the win all weekend and Will Power and Justin Wilson qualified second and third respectively.

Rahal, who became the youngest ever winner of a major North American open-wheel race at 19 years and 93 days, isn't surprised to see the former Champ Car teams and drivers be so competitive in the IndyCar Series.

"There were a lot of people that wanted to see how well the Champ Car drivers were going to do this weekend," he said. "I didn't know who it was going to be, but I thought one of us would win.

"I think we've shown that there are a lot of drivers coming over that are very quick, and maybe people underestimated how good a series that really was. The drivers are some of the fastest out there. Will Power is insane on a single lap. I knew we could do well here and I expect the same at Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, and especially places like Edmonton that we're familiar with.

"The road courses are where we're going to have to do really well this year because until we can get some more development on the oval car, I don't know if we can compete with the big teams. We've only had the things a month and they've had them five years."

Kanaan, who started the St Petersburg race from pole position and finished third, says he also expected this form from the ex-Champ Car drivers.

"They didn't need to prove themselves, not to me anyway. We know these guys and have raced some of them before, and they're very capable drivers. In the past five years we've done about 14 road courses and they did that many just last season, so we felt the same here as they did on the oval.

"They're going to give us a lot of hard times, so I wish them the best and look forward to beating them in the future. I think we still have something for them and the next road course is going to be tough."

Castroneves, who finished second to Rahal at St Petersburg, added: "This is great for motor racing. It shows how the series and the quality of drivers is getting better. Good teams will always be good teams and they'll pick it up quick."

Kanaan also paid tribute to Rahal's victory: "People can say the strategy played along for him, but if I was 19 years old and doing a restart with three laps to go with Castroneves and Kanaan behind, I'd be worried. He played it cool and proved how good he is, so I'm very pleased for him."

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