Round 1: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, March 10-12
The waiting and the long off season are almost over as this Sunday's 2017 season opener at St. Pete's is nearly upon us.
This will be the 14th running of the race on the current track and the 13th as an IndyCar event. The first race held at St. Petersburg was in 1985 as part of a double headliner, featuring the SCCA Can-Am and Trans-Am Series, with the Can-Am race won by Lou Sell and the Trans-Am race by Willy T. Ribbs. However, in 1990 the event was cancelled due to a combination of local residents and businesses complaining about noise and the loss of the main sponsor. It was revived briefly from 1996-1997 on a new course, around Tropicana Field. After a second hiatus, the event returned in 2003 but as a Champ Car race, using a heavily modified layout of the Bayfront course and was won by Paul Tracy, driving for Forsythe Racing, in a Lola B03/00 Ford-Cosworth. In 2004, the event was cancelled due to a dispute between the promoters but returned in 2005, this time as part of the IRL IndyCar Series, making this the first non-oval event for the Indy Racing League. It was won by the late Dan Wheldon, driving for Andretti Green Racing, in a Dallara IR-05 Honda Indy V8
Two years ago saw the introduction of aero-kits from the two engine manufacturers, Chevrolet and Honda. Unfortunately, the aero-kits proved to be rather fragile, with pieces of coming off, producing a rash of FCYs and unfortunately injuring a spectator. At last year's race both manufacturers introduced updates to their road-street/short oval aero-kits, without the issues that plagued the previous year. However, this year there are no updates as a freeze has been imposed on aero-kit development.
Last year saw Will Power qualify on pole for the second year in a row and Juan Pablo Montoya win, also for the second year in a row. However, Will Power was diagnosed with concussion shortly after qualifying finished and was forced to miss the race. Oriol Servià took his place and Simon Pagenaud inherited pole. After the race, Power was re-evaluated and instead of concussion he was diagnosed as suffering from a lingering ear infection.
The driver with most wins: 3, Hélio Castroneves, 2006, 2007, 2012.
The team with most wins: 9, Team Penske, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016.
The Bayfront course has undergone a number of significant changes over the years, from the original 1985 layout to the modified version, which was used from 1986-1990 to eventually the current layout as used from 2003.
Current Bayfront layout:
Length: 1.806 Miles (2.903 Km)
1986-1990 Bayfront layout:
2.000 miles (3.219 km)
Original Bayfront layout:
2.000 miles (3.219 km)
Will Power, March 12, 2016. 1:00.245, 107.561 Mph (173.102 Km/h). Team Penske, Dallara DW12-Chevrolet IndyCar V6. Verizon IndyCar Series.
Last year's race:
Will Power. 1:00.245, 107.561 mph (173.102 Km/h)
Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske, Dallara DW12-Chevrolet IndyCar V6
Distance 198 Miles (318.65 Km)
Race Time 2:13:28
Average Speed 89.006 Mph (143.24 Km/h)
Caution periods: 2, laps 46 to 55, laps 57 to 62.
Caution laps: 16
This year's race broadcast:
ABC 12:30pm ET.