Opening Race Weekend is finally here. Gosh, it seems like it’s been a long time. The Firestone Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – green flag Sunday at 12:30 on ABC -again begins the season. This is my fifth time at this race. I have seen this event grow a lot since my first trip here, especially the last two years.
Friday’s practices may tell us how much the Hondas have improved. We will also get to see how Ganassi and Foyt cars are adjusting to their new engines and aero packages. Honda believes they will be better since the same package as last year is mandated for this year. Of course, Chevy has likely made some gains as well. Qualifying will be the main indicator of where Honda stands.
As far as the race, Penske dominates this race. The team has won eight of the twelve races here, including the last two and three of the last four. I don’t see a change in this trend. One Penske driver is particularly motivated to win this race. Will Power won the pole last year but missed the race due to what was believed to be a concussion. Sitting out probably cost him the season title. Look for Will in Victory Lane Sunday. He easily could be joined by two teammates on the podium, though I would not rule out a Honda driver sneaking in there.
I am eager to see how the new push to pass format plays out. Drivers have 150 seconds total to use as they wish. each push can last up to 15 seconds if they wish. It cannot be used at the start of the race or on restarts except for a restart with 2 laps or fewer left. I hope there isn’t ever a restart that late. Will starts be more bunched up? I’m glad I’m sitting in Turn 1.
Things that may take a while to adjust to:
Scott Dixon in a blue car
J R Hildebrand in the 21
Josef Newgarden in the 2
A number 4 Foyt car
Bourdais in the 18
Just before I began writing this piece on Wednesday, I saw a tweet from Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports called “Our Starting Lineup”. It listed the race pit crew by position, their faces placed around a car outline. These guys work hard and it’s great that their team is recognizing them in this way. I hope other teams follow this example.
I will send out reports from the track Friday and Saturday. Let me know if there is any information you’d like me to get and I’ll do my best to get it to you. If you’re going to the race, I hope to meet you if I haven’t yet.