In just 24 days Indycars will take to the track in St. Petersburg for the first practice of the 2022 season. The process of building the track began this morning with the ceremonial first block set into place along Dan Wheldon Way.
The race retains Firestone sponsorship and has added RP Funding as presenting sponsor.
Speakers at today’s event included Ken Welch, new mayor of St. Petersburg, who touted the $40 million impact the race has for the city, and the race’s 29% attendance increase from 2017-2019. The growth was interrupted by the pandemic and attendance restrictions. 2022 marks the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg’s return to its traditional spot as the opening race of the NTT Indycar Series season.
It appears attendance will grow again this year. All the spots in the marina have been sold.
Indycar rookie Kyle Kirkwood noted that he is not a rookie at St. Pete since he has driven here on each step of the Road to Indy. He said St. Pete is his favorite track. Kirkwood compared the setting to Monaco with the backstretch running alongside the water.
The best line of the day belongs to Selin Rollan, a Mazda MX-5 Cup driver. Rollin is a commercial pilot as well as a race car driver. He said he flew in this morning to Albert Whitted Airport next to the track.
“This track doubles as my favorite racetrack and my favorite airport.”
Mark Miles, President of Penske Entertainment, who talked about the promotions for the race NBC will present during the Olympics and the Super Bowl. Miles is happy to have the Indycar schedule back to its normal order.
Kevin Savoree of Green Savoree Promotions, owner of the event, named St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch as Grand Marshall of the race.
The track build will take about 22 days, but will be torn down in six days, Kim Green said. I noticed the scaffolding for grandstands in turn 10 and the front stretch already assembled. Some seats are in place in the turn 10 stand.