The NTT Indycar Series begins the 2019 season Friday with the first practice sessions at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. This event has grown tremendously since I first attended in 2013. Support from the city and businesses have helped the race and activities surrounding it to flourish. It has become the place where fans from the north come to escape the winter for a while. The racing has improved the last two years.
Just ten drivers have won the 15 previous races, including three occasions where a driver has won back to back. Helio Castroneves won in 2006 and 2007. Jaun Pablo Montoya in 2015 and 2016, and Sebastien Bourdais has won the last two years. Bourdais, Will Power, James Hinccliffe, and Graham Rahal are the active former winners.
LED Panels Return
The LED panels which show a driver’s position on the cars will return this weekend. The panels, which were popular with fans when they first appeared, were absent last year due to technical issues.
As before, the panels will show race position, time pit stops, and tell the AMR safety crew whether the engine is running after a spin, crash, or stall, and what gear the car is in.
The panels are big help to fans at the race, especially the casual and first time race goers.
Talented Rookies, New Teams
This weekend will see the debut of series rookies Felix Rosenqvist, Colton Herta, and Marcus Ericsson in full time rides. Ben Hanley, driving for new entrant Dragonspeed, will drive in the first of his five races. This is quite a talented rookie class. Some are predicting a victory at some point this year for at least one of these drivers. In 2018, two rookies, Matheus Leist and Jordan King, made the Fast Six in qualifying. Their performance this weekend bears watching.
What Have Teams Learned about the UAK?
After a season of working with universal aero kit, it will be interesting to see what teams have learned and how they apply their findings. Some teams and drivers struggled last year. Will a season of experience allow them to improve? Simon Pagenaud for one seemed uncomfortable last season.
The race this year should make attendees from Indianapolis feel at home. Jim Corelison, who has sung “(Back Home Again in) Indiana at the 500 the last two years, will sing the national anthem before the race. Tony Dungy, former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts was named the Grand Marshall.
I will be covering the race for Wildfire Sports this weekend. Check them out for my preview, practice and qualifying wrap ups, and race review. The Pit Window will feature quick thoughts and other tidbits throughout the weekend.
More Indycar News
The series announced today that race morning warmups will return to Barber and Mid Ohio this season. In 2018 only street courses had the warmup, and they will continue to do so this year. The series extended practice session times on the natural road courses to compensate. Because of the later race starts for Barber and Mid Ohio and a need for track action, the warmups were reinstated.
Dreyer and Reinbold will again have Sage Karam driving car 24 in the Indianapolis 500.The team still hopes to have additional races. Karam will likely have a teammate at IMS.
International TV Rights- Not Done Yet
Some international broadcast rights have yet to be announced, the most glaring omission being a Canadian arrangement. I have heard one is just about ready, but it’s getting late.
There are several deals set, with the UK rights going to Sky Sports. It is puzzling why the Canadian rights are taking so long.