Grosjean Leads First Practice

New year, different team, but Romain Grosjean hasn’t missed a beat. The second year driver led the first practice of the season at the Firestone Grand Prix this afternoon. Grosjean’s first run for Andretti Autosport turned a quick lap of 1:01.0525. His teammate, Colton Herta, was second fastest, 0.1042 seconds behind.

Six teams finished in the top 10, including three who switched teams for 2022- Grosjean, Simon Pagenaud, and Jack Harvey. Rookie David Malukas ended the session 10th.

Among the other rookies, Kyle Kirkwood was 12th, Devlin DeFrancesco 13th, Callum Ilott 22nd, Christian Lundgaard 25, and Tataiana Calderon 26th.

Defending series champion Alex Palou ended the day 17th, Marcus Ericsson in 15 was the fastest of the Ganassi drivers.

The session was halted briefly when Jimmie Johnson went into the runoff area in Turn 10 and returned to the track with his brakes on fire.

The results:

From the Paddock

Some notes from wandering around the track this morning and some quotes from driver interviews.

The Grand Prix is back to full concessions and vendor booths. In 2021 food and vendors were fewer than normal. Sadly, Wild Bill’s Root Beer stand is still missing. The crowd came late,but is now a healthy Friday attendance. The late arrivals have may been because of the late start for the first Indycar practice.

Some photos from the paddock:

Pato O’Ward
Callum Ilott

Herta Sets Plaque

Colton Herta took his place permanently in St. Petersburg racing history as he placed his plaque on the winner’s monument just behind Dan Wheldon Way. Of the now twelve names on the stone column, six are no longer racing in the series.

Herta’s nameplate completes the front side of the winner’s stone.

I’ll be back later with some driver quotes from this morning and a practice wrapup.

Indy lights just completed their qualifying session. Hunter McElreay won the pole.

St. Pete Weekend Begins

The eighteenth Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg began late this morning with a gala luncheon. Drivers from each of the series racing on the downtown streets were present. Mayor Ken Welch, who will serve as the race’s Grand Marshall, welcomed everyone. The race expects a record crowd for the three day long event.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch

The drivers each gave brief remarks.

I chatted with Takuma Sato, David Malukas, and Kyle Kirkwood.

Sato is enjoying his new team, Dale Coyne Racing.

Takuma Sato

“I love it. Right obviously you know some nervousness but it’s a lot of excitement in a new team new boys engineers and you know, I’m happily settling. So very, very good.”

About his rookie teammate, Sato said,

“…he’s obviously the one of the upcoming young drivers, is very bright and cheerful and he’s been quick to learn so I think we have a really good opportunity to work together.”

Sato is excited for this weekend, but thinks there are a lot of unknowns.

“Well, I would say you know, re are little unknown factors but yeah, that’s how it is and in particular for the first practice for the day.”

David Malukas

Sato’s teammate, David Malukas is eager to begin his Indycar career. He ha d a lot of praise for Sato, who was on his radio during the first test day at Sebring.

“Sebring was great. I mean, the first day was amazing, I think we ended up being like P two on the time. It’s like I was always surprised. Second day, we tried many different changes, because the whole goal we’re not winning Sebring. We didn’t want to chase the car to try to get ready for today. And we found some pluses somewhere like confusing, but in the end we were exactly right. After three months off, I was like really impressed with the car. I was like, What do I do? Takuma has been a big help. Oh, of course. I mean, he has so much expertise and he helped me so incredibly. Like he helped me so much the first day; he didn’t actually drive so like he had the headset on and he was talking to me telling me some information like what I should do. He’s awesome. He’s so friendly.”

Malukas is concerned about pit stops and driving on the alternate tires. About the red tires, he said,

“So I hear rumors. I heard some rumors that like actually sometimes the car’s slower with it because it’s so much grip and it’s so hard that they don’t want you to stand on it, I don’t know. Hopefully we could see like, I mean, there’s a big jump with it. Hopefully we can figure it out and hope like I still hold on to the wheel. Because I heard it gets even heavier.”

Pit stops are totally new to Malukas, but he thinks the walls and the limiter may help him.

“Oh, that’s still very new to me. We did some practice and man I’m not gonna lie I was pretty bad. Takuma did it like perfectly every time so that’s gonna be, I think, the hard part for me is getting it right. I’ve never done that my whole life. So we’ll see how it goes. I think now you know that I like an actual wall and there’s people everywhere. I think it’d be a bit easier because you know, at Sebring we’re trying to simulate a situation with tires, everything and it just wasn’t good. So we’ll see.”

Kyle Kirkwood

Kyle Kirkwood is happy with how testing went last week and appreciates the help he has received from his A. J. Foyt Racing teammates, Dalton Kellett and Tatiana Calderon.

“Dalton has obviously a wealth of knowledge as well as engineering capabilities and Tatiana hsa a lot of experience. She n a lot of different cars, so there’s a lot of things that she’s been able to add to the team that are just like I’ve never really thought to do that.”

Kirkwood is uncertain how the alternate tires will perform.

“They changed this weekend. I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I think from my knowledge, looking at the seat they’re gonna be quicker but they’re going to go away faster. I don’t know what made you know, I’ll let you know I’ve never driven on red tire so that’s what I was wondering. Yeah, anticipation. I’ll let you know after the first practice.”

Fast Facts- Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Race weekend: Friday, Feb. 25 – Sunday, Feb. 27

Track: Streets of St. Petersburg, 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit (clockwise) through downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, including a runway of Albert Whitted Airport

Media Links: NTT INDYCAR SERIES Entry List (PDF) | Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Entry List(PDF)

Race distance: 100 laps / 180 miles (NTT INDYCAR SERIES) | 60 minute timed race (Indy Lights)

Push-to-pass parameters (NTT INDYCAR SERIES): 150 seconds of total time with a maximum single duration of 15 seconds. 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

Firestone tire allotment (NTT INDYCAR SERIES): Six sets primary, four sets alternate. One additional set is available to rookie drivers for use in the Friday afternoon practice session

Twitter: @GPSTPETE, @INDYCAR, @IndyLights #FirestoneGP, #INDYCAR

Event website: www.gpstpete.com

INDYCAR website: www.indycar.com

2021 race winner: Colton Herta, 1:51:51.4115, 96.552 mph

2021 NTT P1 Award winner: Colton Herta, 1:00.3210, 107.425 mph

Qualifying lap record: Jordan King, 1:00.0476; 107.914 mph, March 10, 2018 (set in Round 1 of qualifying)

NBC Sports telecast: Race, noon ET Sunday, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey is the play-by-play announcer for NBC’s coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, alongside analysts Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe. Marty Snider, Kevin Lee and Dave Burns are the pit reporters. Spanish-language telecast will be available on Telemundo.

Peacock Premium Live Streaming: All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying and Indy Lights races will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.

INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Nick Yeoman, Jake Query and Michael Young are the turn announcers. Ryan Myrehn and Alex Wollf are the pit reporters The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race and all NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying sessions air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 160, racecontrol.indycar.com and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA. All Indy Lights practice and qualifying sessions and races are available on racecontrol.indycar.com, the INDYCAR App and SiriusXM 160.

At-track schedule (All Times Local/Eastern Time): 

Friday, Feb. 25

3:40-4:25 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, Peacock Premium

Saturday, Feb. 26

9-9:45 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, Peacock Premium

12:30-1:45 p.m. – Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), Peacock Premium (Live)

Sunday, Feb. 27

8:45-9:15 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock Premium

Noon – NBC Sports on air

12:23 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines”

12:30 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding (100 laps / 181 miles), NBC, Telemundo and Peacock Premium (Live)

NTT INDYCAR SERIES Notes:

  • The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding will be the 19th INDYCAR SERIES race on the streets of St. Petersburg, dating to 2003. Colton Herta won the 2021 race after starting from the pole position. Paul Tracy won the inaugural race on Feb. 23, 2003, under CART sanction, while Sebastien Bourdais started from the pole that year.
  • The St. Petersburg INDYCAR race has been run every year since 2003 except for 2004. No driver has competed in every St. Petersburg race, but Scott Dixon has started 17 consecutive races.
  • Herta can continue a streak of back-to-back race winners at St. Petersburg that began in 2015. Juan Pablo Montoya won back-to-back St. Petersburg races in 2015 and 2016, while Sebastien Bourdais won in 2017 and 2018. Josef Newgarden won back-to-back in 2019 and 2020.
  • Dixon seeks his first win on the streets of St. Petersburg. Dixon’s six NTT INDYCAR SERIES championships trail only the seven INDYCAR SERIES titles collected by A.J. Foyt. Dixon is third on the all-time INDYCAR SERIES victory list with 51 wins and can tie Mario Andretti for second with his next win, but has never won at St. Petersburg. He has four runner-up finishes at the circuit.
  • Helio Castroneves (2006, 2007 and 2012), Will Power (2010 and 2014) and Josef Newgarden (2019-2020) are the only entered drivers to win at St. Petersburg more than once. Five past winners are entered: Castroneves, Power, Newgarden, Graham Rahal (2008) and Herta.
  • Team Penske has won the pole position 10 of the past 15 St. Petersburg races, including nine of the last 12 poles by Power. Along with Power, previous pole winners Rahal (2009), Takuma Sato (2014) and Herta are entered this weekend.
  • Team Penske has won at St. Petersburg 10 times, including six of the last 10 races with Castroneves (2012), Power (2014), Montoya (2015-16) and Newgarden (2019-2020).
  • Three drivers have won the race from the pole – Castroneves (2007), Power (2010) and Herta (2021). The St. Petersburg winner has qualified fourth in four of the last nine seasons.
  • Dixon has made 288 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in INDYCAR SERIES history.
  • Jack Harvey will make his 50th INDYCAR SERIES start at St. Petersburg.
  • Rookies Tatiana CalderonDevlin DeFrancescoKyle Kirkwood and David Malukas will make their NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut at St. Petersburg.

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Notes:

  • The 14-car field for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the largest Indy Lights field at St. Petersburg since 2017.
  • The 2021 season features a deep and talented field with race winners such as Linus Lundqvist and Matt Brabham joining a promising rookie class that includes Christian Rasmussen (Indy Pro 2000 champ), Hunter McElrea (Indy Pro 2000), Kyffin Simpson (Formula Regional Americas champion) and Ernie Francis Jr. (seven-time Trans Am champion/Formula Regional Americas). Other contenders include returning drivers Danial FrostSting Ray Robb and Benjamin Pedersen.
  • Three new teams have joined the series for 2022, TJ Speed Motorsports, led by Indy Lights championship-winning engineer Tim Neff, Road to Indy stalwart Abel Motorsports and African-American-led Force Indy.
  • Since 2005, the driver who won at least one of the races at St. Petersburg has gone on to win the Indy Lights title six times, including Kyle Kirkwood, who won the first race of the doubleheader in 2021.

St. Pete Schedule

It’s Race Week! The schedule for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by RP Funding has a packed Friday with four races, and one Indycar practice session. Five different series share the track with Indycar this weekend. Saturday ends with Indycar qualifying at 12:30 PM.

The on track Saturday schedule is short because there is a performance at the Mahaffey Theater that evening. The conflict is a result of the race moving from its traditional march slot on the calendar.

Race time is 12:30 PM Eastern Sunday. I like that Indycar is moving their races to earlier time slots. The race is on NBC. Practices and qualifying are on Peacock

All times Eastern

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2022 Gates Open 7:30 AM-6:00 PM

7:45AM – 8:15AM Indy Pro 2000 Qualifying
8:30AM – 8:45AM SRO GT America Qualifying 1
8:50AM – 9:05AM SRO GT America Qualifying 2
9:20AM – 9:50AM USF2000 Qualifying 1
10:05AM – 10:50AM Indy Lights Practice
11:05AM – 11:25AM Mazda MX-5 Cup Qualifying
11:40AM – 12:25PM Indy Pro 2000 Race 1
12:40PM – 1:25PM USF2000 Race 1
1:54PM – 2:10PM Indy Lights Qualifying
2:25PM – 3:25PM SRO GT America Race 1
3:40PM – 4:25PM NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 1
4:40PM – 5:25PM Mazda MX-5 Cup Race 1
5:40PM – 6:10PM Indy Lights Final Practice

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2022 Gates Open 7:45 AM-1:30 PM

8:00AM – 8:45AM Indy Pro 2000 Race 2
9:00AM – 9:45AM NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 2
10:00AM – 10:45AM Mazda MX-5 Cup Race 2
11:00AM – 12:00PM SRO GT America Race 2
12:30PM – 1:45PM NTT INDYCAR SERIES Qualifying

2:00 PM-2:30 PM Indy Lights Autograph Session Fan Village

3:00 PM- 4:00 PM Indycar Autograph Session Fan Village

4:00 PM-6:00 PM Party in the Park North Straub Park

8:00 PM Fireworks

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2022 Gates Open 8:30 AM- 2:30 PM

8:45AM – 9:15AM NTT INDYCAR SERIES Warm Up
9:30AM – 10:30AM Indy Lights Race
10:45AM – 11:25AM USF2000 Race 2
11:50AM NTT INDYCAR SERIES Driver Introductions
12:30PM Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding NTT INDYCAR SERIES Race (100 Laps)

One Step Closer-St. Pete Track Build Begins

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.

Kyle Kirkwood

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.

RP Funding- Not That RP- New Presenting Sponsor at St. Pete

The Firestone Grand prix of St. Petersburg has a new presenting sponsor, RP Funding. a full service direct mortgage lender owned by Robert Palmer.

Green Savoree released the following announcement this morning:

Public Ticket Sales Begin Tomorrow for 2022 Race Weekend

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Nov. 162021) – RP Funding has joined as the newest partner of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The Florida-based company is the event’s very first presenting sponsor which will take place Feb. 25-27, 2022, on the picturesque, waterfront street circuit in downtown St. Petersburg.

The event will now be titled as the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. An updated event logo has been developed recognizing the addition of this new presenting sponsor. Along with a strong on site brand presence through various trackside and spectator signage placements, RP Funding will have access to a number of experiential activities during the event.

“RP Funding is excited to partner with Green Savoree Racing Promotions. It is a thrill to have our name associated with this fantastic event and have it now be called the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding,” said Robert Palmer, president of RP Funding. “INDYCAR racing is a spectacular show, and RP Funding is honored to play a part in bringing this major event to the community.”

RP Funding is a direct mortgage lender with a primary focus on servicing Florida residents. Its customer-first approach offers no closing cost purchasing and refinancing. As part of its sponsorship, RP Funding will also heavily promote the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding across the state of Florida through dedicated advertising campaigns.

“We are thrilled to have RP Funding, a major Florida company, on board as a partner of this significant annual event in Florida,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by RP Funding. “Robert Palmer has built one of the fastest growing companies in the state, and his pace is similar to the growth we’ve seen with the Firestone Grand Prix. We look forward to having the team at RP Funding join us as the Firestone Grand Prix returns to a full-scale experience for our fans in 2022.”

3-Day tickets go on sale to the public starting tomorrow at 10 a.m. ET. For ticket pricing and event information, visit gpstpete.com or follow Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on social media using #FirestoneGP. Joining the E-Club also provides insider access to the latest news and offers. The complete racing and activities schedule will be released in early 2022. The updated Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding logo digital kit is available on the Media page of gpstpete.com.

About RP Funding:

Based in Central Florida, RP Funding is a full-service direct mortgage lender owned by Robert Palmer.  Serving primarily Florida, RP Funding has a combined staff of nearly 300 and revenues of $100 million annually.  In addition to RP Funding, the Robert Palmer Companies also features RP Title and Escrow providing residential and commercial real estate closing services, Listed.com, a residential real estate brokerage, ARMR Appraisal Management, a full-service residential real estate appraisal management company and Listing Power Tools, a company that helps real estate agents craft the perfect listing presentation. For more information visit www.robertpalmercompanies.com.