Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Race Preview

“There’s no better place to kickoff the Verizon IndyCar Series season than the streets of St. Pete. Not only is it one of my favorite street courses, it is essentially my home race, and the perfect place to start the year. We’ve finished runner up in St. Pete on a couple of occasions, so we’re looking for that breakthrough win. This team has worked tirelessly over the offseason, but now it’s time to put all that hard work to the test. We’ll be working hard this weekend to rebound from last season and get the DHL Honda into victory lane.”

Fast Facts

Track: 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit (clockwise)

Race distance: 110 laps / 198 miles

Push-to-pass parameters: 150 seconds of total time with a max time of 15 seconds.

Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate

Twitter: @GPSTPETE, @IndyCar, #FirestoneGP, #IndyCar

Event website: www.gpstpete.com

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2016 race winner:
Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet)

2016 Verizon P1 Award winner: Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet), 1 minute, 0.2450 seconds, 107.561 mph.

Qualifying lap record: Will Power, 1:00.0658; 107.882 mph, March 12, 2016 (Set in Round 2 of qualifying).

ABC race broadcast: Sunday, March 12 (Noon 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, Dr. Jerry Punch and Jon Beekhuis.

Video Streaming:
All practice sessions for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be available on the INDYCAR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/indycar) and RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Live coverage of qualifying will also be available via live streaming.

Radio broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying is broadcast on Sirius 212, 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.

At-track schedule (all times local):

Friday, March 10
11:15 a.m.- Noon: Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com
3 – 3:45 p.m.: Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, RaceControl.IndyCar.com

Saturday, March 11
10:50 – 11:35 a.m.: Verizon IndyCar Series practice #3, RaceControl.IndyCar.com
2:55 p.m.: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg qualifying (Three rounds of knockout qualifications), RaceControl.IndyCar.com

Sunday, March 12
9 – 9:30 a.m.: Verizon IndyCar Series warm-up, RaceControl.IndyCar.com
Noon: ABC on air
12:23 p.m.: “Drivers, start your engines”
12:30 p.m.: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg green flag

Race Notes:

  • Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske begins defense of his 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship at St. Petersburg. Pagenaud captured the title in dominating fashion, winning five times, including the last Verizon IndyCar Series race, the GoPro Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway. Now he aims to be Team Penske’s first repeat champion since Gil de Ferran – a driver Pagenaud calls “his Yoda” – captured back-to-back CART championships in 2000 and 2001.
  • Scott Dixon aims for a rebound season as Chip Ganassi Racing joins Honda for 2017. Dixon’s four season championships tie him with greats Mario Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti for second on the all-time Indy car list, trailing only the seven titles collected by A.J. Foyt. Dixon is fourth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 40. He has three runner-up finishes at St. Petersburg but has never won at the circuit.
  • The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the 14th Indy car race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Juan Pablo Montoya won the last two races, but is not entered in the event. Paul Tracy won the inaugural race on Feb. 23, 2003, under CART sanction. St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais, one of two drivers entered who competed in the first race, started from the pole. With the exception of 2004, the race has been run every year since.
  • Helio Castroneves and Will Power are the only entered drivers to win at St. Petersburg more than once. Castroneves has won three times at the venue (2006, 2007, 2012), while Power has two St. Pete wins in 2010 and 2014 and Montoya in 2015 and 2016. Past winners Graham Rahal (2008) and James Hinchcliffe (2013) are also entered.
  • Team Penske has won the pole position for seven of the last 10 St. Petersburg races, including six of the last seven poles with Power, who set the track record in 2016, but sat out the race due to illness. Past pole winners Bourdais (2003), Castroneves (2007), Tony Kanaan (2008), Rahal (2009) and Takuma Sato (2014) are also entered this weekend.
  • Two drivers have won the race from the pole – Castroneves (2007) and Power (2010). The St. Petersburg winner has qualified fourth the last four seasons.
  • Team Penske has won at St. Petersburg eight times, including four of the last five races with Castroneves (2012), Power (2014) and Montoya (2015-16). Andretti Autosport has two wins at St. Petersburg with Dan Wheldon (2005) and Hinchcliffe (2013). Chip Ganassi Racing (Dario Franchitti in 2011) has won once at St. Petersburg.
  • Kanaan seeks to start his 266th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Teammate Dixon has made 207 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the third-longest streak in Indy car racing.
  • Castroneves will attempt to make his 328th career Indy car start, which ranks fourth on the all-time list. Kanaan will attempt to make his 327th Indy car start, which is fifth all-time. Both are competing in their 20th season of Indy car racing in 2017.
  • 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion Ed Jones will make his first Verizon IndyCar Series start this weekend at St. Petersburg. Jones, one of six Indy Lights champions slated to race at St. Petersburg, swept an Indy Lights doubleheader at St. Petersburg in 2015, his first two races in the series.
  • Since 2012, the Verizon IndyCar Series has averaged 8.75 different race winners per season, including a record-tying 11 winners in 2014. There were eight different winners in the 16 races of 2016 with an equally tight competition projected for the 2017 season.
  • Drivers may engage their “push to pass” for 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 2017.
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