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Originally published Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 5:08 PM

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Servia doesn't get finish to cement strong run

The final result shows only that Oriol Servia finished 17th in the IndyCar season-opener.

AP Auto Racing Writer

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. —

The final result shows only that Oriol Servia finished 17th in the IndyCar season-opener.

It doesn't show how far his Panther DRR Racing team has come in a year.

Saddled with a Lotus engine for the first month of last year, Servia never had a shot at running well. A merger with Panther Racing got the team into the Chevrolet camp and the dividends showed Sunday when Servia led laps for the first time since Indianapolis in 2011.

The Spanish driver was out front for 16 laps because of pit strategy, and knew he needed luck or rain to catch the break he needed to run for the win. He got neither, though, and after pitting from the lead for fuel and tires, an issue with the clutch left Servia stranded on pit road.

Despite the end result, Servia took solace in the overall effort.

"At least we showed what we've been saying - the team has improved so much over the winter," he said. "We showed we had the pace. The car was great. I was really happy to be able to maintain and to keep (the lead). I think the race was going to play out in a way that would have had us finish in the top five the way we were running.

"It was unfortunate - we came into the pits, the clutch wouldn't disengage and we lost several laps fixing the problem. However, I am still very happy with how we ran."

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