Will Power and Scott Dixon lead the field to the green flag to start the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Fast Facts
Race weekend: Friday, March 9 – Sunday, March 11
Track: Streets of St. Petersburg, 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit (clockwise) through downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, including a runway of Albert Whitted Airport.
Race distance: 110 laps / 198 miles
Push-to-pass parameters: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum single duration of 15 seconds.
Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate
Twitter: @GPSTPETE, @IndyCar, #FirestoneGP, #IndyCar
Event website: http://www.gpstpete.com
INDYCAR website: http://www.IndyCar.com
2017 race winner: Sebastien Bourdais (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda)
2017 Verizon P1 Award winner: Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet), 1 minute, 1.0640 seconds, 106.118 mph
Qualifying lap record: Will Power, 1:00.0658; 107.882 mph, March 12, 2016 (Set in Round 2 of qualifying).
James Hinchcliffe comes in for a pit stop during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Joe Skibinski
ABC race broadcast: Sunday, March 11 (12:30 p.m. ET)
Allen Bestwick is the lead announcer for ABC broadcasts for the fourth consecutive year alongside analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr. Pit reporters are Rick DeBruhl and Jon Beekhuis.
Video Streaming: All practice sessions and Verizon P1 Award qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be available on the INDYCAR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/indycar) and RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Radio broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Anders Krohn. Jake Query and Nick Yeoman are the turn announcers with Dave Furst, Rob Howden and Ryan Myrehn reporting from the pits. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying is broadcast on Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions plus Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires practice, qualifying and races are on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
James Hinchcliffe slides out of his No. 5 Arrow Honda on pit lane following the final warmup for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Owens
At-track schedule (all times local):
Friday, March 9
11:20 a.m.-12:05 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com
3:10-3:55 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, RaceControl.IndyCar.com
Saturday, March 10
11:10-11:55 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #3, RaceControl.IndyCar.com
2:20 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg qualifying (Three rounds of knockout qualifications), RaceControl.IndyCar.com
Sunday, March 11
8:45-9:15 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series warm-up, RaceControl.IndyCar.com
12:30 p.m. – ABC on air
12:33 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines” by Helio Castroneves
12:40 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg green flag
• Josef Newgarden of Team Penske begins defense of his 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship at St. Petersburg. Newgarden captured his first series title in his first season with Team Penske, winning four times. Now he aims to be Team Penske’s first repeat champion since Gil de Ferran captured back-to-back CART championships in 2000 and 2001.
* Scott Dixon hopes to add to his record-setting resume in 2018. Dixon’s four season championships tie him with Indy car greats Mario Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti, trailing only the seven titles collected by A.J. Foyt. Dixon is fourth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 41 but has never won at St. Petersburg. He has three runner-up finishes at the circuit.
* The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the 15th Indy car race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Sebastien Bourdais, who makes his home in St. Petersburg, won the race last year. Paul Tracy won the inaugural race on Feb. 23, 2003, under CART sanction, while Bourdais started from the pole that year.
* The St. Petersburg Indy car race has been run every year since 2003 with the exception of 2004. No driver has competed in every St. Petersburg race, but Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan have started 13 straight races. Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay competed in the first race in 2003.
* Will Power (2010 and 2014) is the only entered drivers to win at St. Petersburg more than once. Helio Castroneves, who will serve as the race’s grand marshal, won three times (2006, 2007, 2012), while Juan Pablo Montoya won in 2015 and 2016. Past winners Graham Rahal (2008), James Hinchcliffe (2013) and Sebastien Bourdais (2017) are also entered.
* Team Penske has won the pole position for eight of the last 11 St. Petersburg races, including seven of the last eight poles with Power, who set the track record in 2016 but sat out the race due to illness. Past pole winners Sebastien Bourdais (2003), Tony Kanaan (2008), Graham Rahal (2009) and Takuma Sato (2014) are also entered this weekend.
* Two drivers have won the race from the pole – Helio Castroneves (2007) and Will Power (2010). The St. Petersburg winner has qualified fourth in four of the last five seasons.
* Team Penske has won at St. Petersburg eight times, including four of the last six races with Helio Castroneves (2012), Will Power (2014) and Juan Pablo Montoya (2015-16). Andretti Autosport has two wins at St. Petersburg with Dan Wheldon (2005) and James Hinchcliffe (2013). Chip Ganassi Racing (Dario Franchitti in 2011) and Dale Coyne Racing (Sebastien Bourdais in 2017) have won once at St. Petersburg.
* Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 283rd consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Kanaan will attempt to make his 344th Indy car start, which would tie Helio Castroneves for third on the all-time list.
* Scott Dixon has made 224 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in Indy car racing. Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti has made 200 consecutive starts, which is the fourth-longest streak in Indy car racing.
* Seven rookies are entered and four — Rene Binder, Jordan King, Matheus “Matt” Leist and Robert Wickens — will make their first Verizon IndyCar Series start this weekend at St. Petersburg. The other Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates are Zachary Claman De Melo, Zach Veach and Jack Harvey.
* Since 2012, the Verizon IndyCar Series has averaged 9.5 different race winners per season, including a record-tying 11 winners in 2014. There were 10 different winners in the 17 races of 2017 with an equally tight competition projected for the season with the introduction of the 2018 car.
* Drivers may engage their “push to pass” for a total of 150 seconds during the race, with a maximum duration of 15 seconds for any one activation. The push-to-pass is not available on the initial start or any restart unless it occurs in the final two laps or three minutes of a timed race. The feature increases the power of the engine by approximately 60 horsepower for 2018.
Will Power leads the field down the frontstretch to complete the first lap of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones
FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG PRE-EVENT QUOTES:
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “I still have to pinch myself when I think about going to St. Pete as the Verizon IndyCar Series champion. Any driver that gets an opportunity, like the one I got with Team Penske, will tell you they expect to win right away. I certainly did as well, but I think we were all surprised at how quickly we gelled together and made it happen. But that is last year. The drive for the 2018 championship starts at St. Pete, and it’s a track where I’ve never won before. That is our only thought this weekend: going to Victory Lane.”
MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Pretty excited for my first race in INDYCAR. St Pete is a track I really like. It gives me a lot of adrenaline. I’m really looking forward to the challenge. We did some good preseason testing, so I’m pretty confident for the season. I think the whole team is in good shape for the challenge. Hopefully, we’ll do well!”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “Everybody always looks forward to St. Pete, it’s such a great place to start the season. I know every year we say it feels like a long offseason, but this offseason, for us, even though it’s been busy with all the testing for Honda, it really makes you miss racing that much more. At the end of the day, we’re not test drivers, we’re race drivers, and getting to that first race weekend is always special. There’s been a lot of change, not only with the 2018 aero kit but internally at SPM personnel-wise. So we’re really anxious to get ourselves into a race weekend situation to see how we all perform and start picking out how we can improve and build this team up to be regular contenders. I’m excited for (teammate) Robbie’s (Wickens) first race, (race engineer) Leena’s (Gade) first race, first race of the 2018 kit – there’s a lot of stuff to look forward to.”
ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “I’ve been waiting for this moment for about six months now since the announcement came out that I was joining INDYCAR. We’ve worked a lot this winter getting me comfortable in the Lucas Oil car. We’ve gone testing, now what’s next is to go racing. I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far through testing, but we won’t really know for sure until we get into the first race. I’m just really eager to get started and get to St. Pete. I’ve heard the track’s great, the fans are great, and now I just want to live it for Sam (Schmidt). All around, I’m just very excited.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has been a great race for Team Penske over the years, and it’s such an awesome place to start the season as well. For us, we were able to get last year going with a Verizon P1 Pole Award at St. Pete and we are confident that we will have speed this year. It has really been a place with a lot of ups and downs for us. We’ve won here twice but we’ve had two rough races in a row. It’s time to get back in victory lane.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Back in October when we announced that I’d be racing for A.J. (Foyt) this year, I said that we had a lot of work ahead of us, and I’m glad to say that everyone from the team took the challenge and worked hard during the offseason to get us to the INDYCAR season opener in competitive form. I’m excited about starting the season with the new 2018 Indy car in St. Petersburg and to help AJ Foyt Racing get the results they deserve.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “St. Pete is one of the greats, and I am happy to get our season going there once again. With some new paving, a new car and a whole lot of new drivers around the series, it’s going to be an exciting weekend for everyone, and I can’t wait to get it started and hopefully have a great result for United Rentals. I think our team has worked incredibly hard this offseason, and I do think our guys deserve to be rewarded for that. We are all refreshed. We are all anxious and excited for what’s to come. I think this year can be something special for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and I am focused heavily on making that possible! I am really excited about this new aero kit as I do think it will equalize things. The way I think about it, if you do your job and you nail the setup, you will be right there contending for wins. Before, there were certainly cases and tracks where that wasn’t the way it was for us, and it’s nice now to feel like we can be rewarded for lots of hard work. New car, more new sponsors, re-energized focus. It’s time for us to win championships, and I think if we do so it can help our sport grow even more.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team Sealmaster Honda): “I live in St. Petersburg and am very proud to be a resident. Downtown is booming and our neighborhood is a great environment to raise a family. St. Pete is my home race and it is an honor to represent the city during race weekend. My first Indy car race was here in 2003 and I took the pole, but until last year I really didn’t have a lot of success. It took 15 years, and now I am the defending champion and that feels good. I don’t feel any additional pressure to do well, but it’s nice to be able to sleep in my own bed and have friends and family at the track.” (About the start of the season): “I am looking forward to the start of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. I want to thank Dale Coyne, Jimmy Vasser and (James) Sulli (Sullivan) for the opportunity to move forward with the program that Dale started a year ago with the support of Honda. I also want to thank Sealmaster and all of our sponsors for their support. This is a small team, but we have proven we can take poles and win races. However, I think we are now putting together what hopefully is a consistent program that can compete at the highest level and contend for a championship.”
ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 The Paysafe Car Honda): “I’m extremely excited to kick off the 2018 season in the No. 19 Paysafe Honda. I’m eager to show the world stage what I can do beginning with the season-opening race in St Petersburg. I’ve made great progress in the gym and in offseason testing, and I look forward to showing that progress on the track.”
JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “I am really excited for my first race weekend in the Verizon IndyCar Series. There has been so much build-up and anticipation, I’m interested in seeing the whole picture come together. The team have done some really good work over the winter. I’m feeling positive going into the weekend but with an open mind on my expectations. Hopefully, we can have a good weekend and take a decent result in my first race in the Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy.”
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet): “I’m really looking forward to getting back to racing again this weekend. St. Pete is always one of the best events of the year, and for me, it’s the closest race to where I grew up in Orlando. It’s nice to kick off the season where I have lots of family and friends that come to support me. It’s my first race weekend as a full-time Verizon IndyCar Series driver, which is pretty exciting. I am in a position where I’ve always wanted to be. Hopefully, we can have a good weekend in front of our new partners at Autogeek.com and get our season kicked off with a strong result.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m really looking forward to St. Petersburg. During the offseason, we did a lot of testing with the new car. We found some great speed and we feel pretty good about the package we’re bringing to St. Petersburg. Street courses are a lot of fun, and I really look forward to this one every year. We had a really strong finish there last year which helped us start our season on the right foot. Chevrolet has made a lot of progress on the engine, so I’m excited to go back and see what the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet team and I can do this year.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “I’m so ready to be heading to St. Pete for the 2018 season opener! I feel like a lifetime has passed since the checkered flag in Sonoma last year. In the span of six days back in December, we went from a real low – the Thomas Fire affecting my family’s home and ranch in California – to the high of announcing a new deal with Carlin and a 10th season partnered with Novo Nordisk. Then it was back to the reality of rebuilding from the ground up, both at and away from the track. Out in California, I was getting my hands dirty, installing irrigation equipment for the avocado orchard, and with Carlin, I was learning to work with a new group of people and of course the ins and outs of a new car. We had a few test days last week and while time is always limited, I think the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet will be in the mix once we hit the track this weekend. I’ve set high expectations for myself, and I know (team principal) Trevor (Carlin) and the team didn’t join the Verizon IndyCar Series just to make up the numbers-they want to win, too.”
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda): “The last preseason test is behind us now and I couldn’t be more excited for St.Pete. We’ve made big strides in the Group One Thousand One car over the last couple months, and I feel ready to show what we can do on the streets and start our 2018 campaign. I can’t thank everyone at Group One Thousand One, Andretti and my crew enough for the effort they put in over the winter, all in preparation for this weekend.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “Our fight for the championship starts in St. Pete, and I’m really happy to finally get the season started. We have continuity that we haven’t necessarily had going into the season opener, with my engineer, crew and strategist all being the same. We have grown to work well together and I think our chemistry will set us apart and help us rise to the top. Hopefully, we’ll have the NAPA AUTO PARTS car on the top step of the podium Sunday afternoon.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We’ve been counting down the days until we could get the DHL Honda back on track, and now we’re finally ready to get the 2018 season started. The Grand Prix of St. Pete is one of my favorite races of the year. It’s my home race and you really can’t beat the track layout or the setting. I’ve been on the podium four times at St. Pete, all second- and third-place finishes, so we really want to win this year.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Panasonic Honda): “St. Petersburg is the perfect venue to open the season because there is such a good energy there. Everyone looks forward to the warm weather in Florida and the race itself is always unpredictable because it’s a street course. We all have a brand new car with the new aero kit and I can’t wait to get out there. The car works extremely well and looks really cool. It’s more difficult to drive, which is good. For the drivers, there is definitely more action involved in the cockpit due to less downforce which makes the car slide around more and that is always good for the racing. It’s a little bit of an unknown right now because I haven’t really raced with other cars yet in the street course package, but it seems to be working really well. It’s good for the series, good for our races and we will try to have as consistent of a season as possible to try to challenge for the championship. The transition to a new team went extremely well in the offseason. Of course, I was basically returning to the team I drove for in 2012 but there are a lot of new faces to remember but it has gone very well. Testing in the offseason was very short due to the new aero kit, but I think the team did extremely well with the amount of testing we had. We already have shown good speed but there are a lot of things to learn, so hopefully we will be well prepared for St. Petersburg.”
RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “I have always loved to race on street circuits, like the ones in Monte Carlo or Singapore, so it won’t surprise you that I look forward to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. I have to admit that one single day of preseason testing in Sebring was definitely not enough, but on the other hand, there is extreme commitment and much positive energy in our team. Juncos Racing has given me full support right from the beginning, so we can only hope that there are some fans out there to support our rookie team.”
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “I’m really excited to be starting a new season in the Verizon IndyCar Series with a new team and a returning partner in Gallagher. I have 100 percent confidence in what Carlin can do as a team, and I’m just glad to be back onboard with them for the 2018 season. St. Pete is such a great street circuit that really offers top-notch racing for both the drivers and the fans, and it doesn’t hurt that the city itself is so welcoming. I’m looking forward to getting the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet back out on track in St. Pete and hopefully bringing a good result back to Carlin for their first Indy car race.”
JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM MSR w/SPM Honda): “I am really excited to be racing at the season opener of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series. St. Pete has been kind to me in the past, so hopefully we can carry that on this year. We are a new team. It’s the first race. We know our expectations and will do our best to deliver. I have all the confidence in the world in both Michael Shank Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and I am ready more than ever to kick off the season with a strong debut outing.”
GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “I was really happy to get our testing back to the track this week. Sebring is one of those places that can trick you a little bit, so you have to make sure everything you do makes sense and works. We had a very productive day and were able to check off a lot of items, we are now one step closer to being ready for St. Pete. I am so excited to get back to racing at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete, this will be my second time racing there since my Indy car debut in 2015.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Ruoff Home Mortgage / Curb Honda): “I’m really excited to get the season started. It’s the first time we’ll be racing the new car and this car is much more compatible to my racing style than the car we’ve had the past few years. St. Pete always means a fresh start, and I have complete confidence in my crew and the No. 98 Ruoff Home Mortgage / Curb Honda to give it all we’ve got and kick the year off right.”
Graphics & Photos Courtesy of Indycar