Back on the Streets Again- For Now

Today’s announcement that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is now the season finale could ensure the NTT Indycar Series has at least one street race this season. The original opener was cancelled, as were Long Beach and the doubleheader at Detroit. Toronto is on the schedule as of now, but I’m still not sure that race will happen. While I am glad the race is rescheduled, I know several ticketholders who will not be able to attend on the new date. Some of these are not happy with Green Savoree’s  options, either.

Official announcement-https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2701353098

In an email from Green Savoree just received:

“Thank you, race fans, for your continued patience.
We are thrilled to have announced some great news. In cooperation with the City of St. Petersburg, Firestone, and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has been rescheduled for October 23-25, 2020. Read more here.
We hope that you will join us in October to crown the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion at the season finale race on the streets of St. Petersburg. Your existing tickets will be valid for use on the new event dates and no further action will be required.
For those fans who will not be able to attend in October, alternative options as previously announced include the deferral of purchased tickets for use at the March 2021 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, or a credit for use at another Green Savoree Racing Promotions event during the 2020 or 2021 season. “
Fans unable to attend have until June 15 to choose one of the other ticket  options.
Green Savoree could have lost two races this year if St. Pete hadn’t been rescheduled and Toronto can’t go on. Their Portland race will be run without fans since the  governor of Oregon has ordered no fans at sports event through September 30.
This is  quite a feat to reschedule a street race. It takes a lot of coordination and cooperation from the promoters, the series and the city. I am surprised that this became a reality but Mayor Rick Kriseman has been a huge supporter of the race. If the race happens, it will help St. Petersburg recoup some of the revenue lost from  the aborted Spring Break season in March.
The date is significant for another reason. It is three weeks after the new Harvest Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That is a big enough window just in case the Indianapolis 500 needs to be moved to October from its new August date. If you’re a fan of uncertainty, this is your year. Should the 500 need to move, the schedule would reflect May in that a street race would follow the 500.
Another good thing about this date is that Indycar will be racing in October. if things go well, perhaps October races could become a regular part of the schedule when things return to normal. I have always thought September is too early to end the season.  At least for one year, we will have a short off season.
If the schedule holds, There would be two St. Pete races in a row- the 2020 finale and the 2021 opener. It might not be worth the time for the city to remove the track.
 

 

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Set for October 25

Just released from Indycar. My thoughts later.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg set for Oct. 25 as 2020 INDYCAR season finale

INDIANAPOLIS (May 13, 2020) – The 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion will be crowned Sunday, Oct. 25 at the rescheduled Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The new date for the series finale was confirmed today by officials from INDYCAR, Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC (GSSP) and the City of St. Petersburg.

This will be the 16th consecutive year that an INDYCAR event will take place on the streets of beautiful St. Petersburg, as the exciting race weekend has become a fan favorite on the annual schedule and a fixture in the region. The original date for the event, Sunday, March 15, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The streets of St. Petersburg will make for a fitting and action-packed finale in a venue and city that our entire INDYCAR community holds dear,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “We extend our thanks and gratitude to Mayor Kriseman, Green Savoree and Firestone for working with us to find a new date for the event. It’s going to be a fantastic weekend of INDYCAR action, and I know our drivers will have race day in St. Pete circled on their calendars.”

This will be the first time the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will serve as the exciting series finale, as the event traditionally has started the season.

“The City of St. Petersburg stands ready to welcome back the fans of INDYCAR, drivers, teams and sponsors in October,” said City of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “I want to thank our partners at Green Savoree Racing Promotions for believing in this race and giving the residents of the Sunshine City something to look forward to. I am confident that the race will occur in a manner that puts public health at the forefront.”

Said Lisa Boggs, director of motorsports, Bridgestone Americas, parent company of event sponsor Firestone: “We greatly appreciate the efforts of Green Savoree Racing Promotions, INDYCAR, Mayor Kriseman and the City of St. Petersburg to find a new date for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Coming back to the streets of St. Pete to close the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season is a great way to thank the incredible fans in this area for their support. While we couldn’t kick off the season with them as planned, we now look forward to crowning the 2020 INDYCAR champion together in October.”

Previously purchased tickets to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be valid on the corresponding days of the postponed event. Ticket purchasers on file will receive instructions via email. Additional event information and customer FAQs will be posted at gpstpete.com.

“Having a rescheduled date for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is a very positive development,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of GSSP, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “This could only happen because of our partners’ commitment and support at City of St. Petersburg, INDYCAR and Firestone. We hope this offers both Floridians and our race fans something to look forward to later this year as we navigate through these unprecedented times for us all.”

Said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of GSSP: “Thank you to our fans for their patience and understanding as we’ve worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council, the City of St. Petersburg’s event team, INDYCAR and Firestone. It’s been a terrific team effort by all, and we appreciate the opportunity to host the event again this fall in one of the most fantastic settings in downtown St. Petersburg.”

The rest of the updated INDYCAR calendar for 2020 remains on schedule for competition. The season starts Saturday night, June 6 with the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. To view the full calendar, click here.

ABOUT INDYCAR:

INDYCAR is the Indianapolis-based governing body for North America’s premier open-wheel auto racing series known as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The series features an international field of the world’s most versatile drivers – including five-time series champion Scott Dixon, reigning series champion Josef Newgarden and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud – who compete on superspeedways, short ovals, street circuits and permanent road courses. The 2020 season, which runs from June to October, currently consists of 15 races in the United States and Canada and is highlighted by the historic Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in August at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IMS Productions are owned by Penske Corporation, a global transportation, automotive and motorsports leader. For more information on INDYCAR and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, please visit www.indycar.com.

ABOUT FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG: 

The 16th annual Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is a race event typically held during Florida’s spring break season each March. Usually the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ season-opening race, St. Pete is a destination city hosting this annual motorsports tradition and offering a festival atmosphere with its downtown location. The temporary circuit is a 1.8-mile, 14-turn configuration using the streets circling Pioneer Park, the Duke Energy Center for the Arts, The Dali Museum and extending onto the runways at Albert Whitted Airport, which overlooks the waterfront of Tampa Bay and picturesque St. Petersburg Harbor and Marina. Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is owned and operated by Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC. Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC is owned by Green Savoree Racing Promotions 2, LLC whose other subsidiaries also promote three additional INDYCAR races, Honda Indy Toronto (July 10-12, 2020), The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Aug. 7-9, 2020) and Grand Prix of Portland (Sept. 11-13, 2020).

The Greatest 33 Non-Winners: Final Grid- A Reader Request Post

Editor’s Note: This is the first reader request; originally published May 9, 2017

What a fun project this turned out to be! It was fascinating seeing how much those who submitted grids both agreed and disagreed. Some drivers got just one mention, while others appeared on every ballot.  There was near unanimous placement for some drivers, and some drivers were near the front on some grids and near the back on others. The driver nearly everyone agreed should be on the pole is Michael Andretti (pictured above, from 1992).

I  noticed the rankings were along age lines. Older fans close to my age seemed to have near identical grids,  and younger fans as a group submitted similar lineups.  Many drivers from long ago in general fared better on the lists from the older group. I was surprised how well the current drivers stacked up against the racers of the past. Another interesting detail is that all 50 driver finalists had at least one mention. I didn’t expect that.

To rank the drivers, I assigned points to the drivers corresponding to their spot on each person’s grid. A driver on pole got 1 point, the last driver got 33. If a driver was listed on pole on five grids, his total was 5. The lowest total won the pole. If a driver did not appear on someone’s grid, he/she was given 34 points. To my shock, there were only two ties. I resolved placement by averaged each driver’s highest and lowest rank of all the grades, with the lowest average getting the higher spot. One of the ties was for 32nd and 33rd. It was just like qualifying for the 1963 500.

The front row- Michael Andretti, Rex Mays, and Ted Horn, is strong. These drivers were in the top 10 on everyone’s grid. Andretti led 431 laps, the most by any non-winning driver. he started on the front row three times and had 5 top 5 finishes.  Rex Mays, in the middle of the front row is the only other driver to lead more than 200 laps and not win. Mays was on the pole four times. Ted Horn, on the outside of the front row, finished in the top five 9 times in 10 starts.

So here they are, the Greatest 33 Non-Winners of the Indianapolis 500:

Row 1

Michael Andretti

Rex Mays

Ted Horn

Row 2

Harry Hartz

Marco Andretti

Lloyd Ruby

Row 3

Gary Bettenhausen

Ralph Hepburn

Roberto Guerrero

Row 4

Scott Goodyear

Carlos Munoz

Robby Gordon

Row 5

Eddie Sachs

Tony Stewart

Jack McGrath

Row 6

Wally Dallenbach

Tomas Sheckter

Will Power

Row 7

Danica Patrick

Tony Bettenhausen

Joe Leonard

Row 8

Jimmy Snyder

Ed Carpenter

Danny Ongais

Row 9

Pancho Carter

Mel Kenyon

Kevin Cogan

Row 10

Vitor Meira

Russ Snowberger

Paul Russo

Row 11

Tom Alley

Johnny Thomson

George Snider

it’s kind of fitting that Snider is last on the grid. his trademark was jumping into a car on Bump Day and getting into the field starting near the back. Thanks to everyone who submitted a grid. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and reasoning as to how yo put your grids together.

I will be back tomorrow with some 500 news and a report on my visit to the A. J. Foyt exhibit at the Speedway Museum. The cars were great to see, but the memorabilia was even more amazing to me. Thursday I will have my Indianapolis Grand Prix preview with my normally inaccurate winner’s prediction.

 

 

 

 

 

The Race Will Go On; No Spectators

The good news is there will be a race Sunday. The bad news is there will be no spectators. With other sports suspending their seasons and postponing or cancelling events, it is a relief that Indycar decided to press on. Any distraction from the Coronavirus is welcome.

The Indycar schedule is for one practice Saturday followed by qualifying. I assume thes sessions take place at the originally scheduled time. I will publish he schedule when it comes out.

All team personnel on the grounds will have a health screening.

The Road to Indy’s three series will each have one practice and one qualifying session. I assume some of these will be tomorrow, since Indycar won’t be on track. The qualifying round for each rung covers both races. The schedule should be out soon.

Here is the official announcement from the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg:

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New Eras and Young Guns- The Future Begins at St. Petersburg

Race weekend is finally here. After a long, eventful off season, Indycar returns with a new series owner, a new advancement in safety, and some rule tweaks. Another great rookie class is waiting for their first round of competition. Several races will host expanded fields.

Two new eras begin tomorrow at 10:45 am when the NTT Indycar Series has its first practice session of the year. The 17th Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the first event with Roger Penske in charge of the series. It also will be the first official session in which the aeroscreen becomes a part of Indycar safety.

The Kids Are Alright

One of the things to watch over the weekend is the young drivers. Last year’s outstanding rookie group and this year’s equally talented first year drivers make up almost a third of the grid for Sunday’s race. The rookie battle between Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay should be fun to watch all season. Alex Palou is the mystery rookie. He is quick, but is he on a team that can get him to the front? Felipe Nasr is new to Indycar, but his F1 and sports car experience should help him find speed quickly. These rookies not only have to battle the veterans, but also the second year drivers who amassed some stellar statistics in 2019. These nine drivers could be considered a class to watch by themselves.

The Aeroscreen and Pit Stops

This weekend will be the first time the aeroscreen is tested under race conditions. How will it affect the car’s handling in traffic? Will passing be easier, more difficult , or about the same? Teams need a couple of races to get a handle on the effects of the new safety attachment.

An extra crew member will be allowed over the wall this season to exclusively tend to the aeroscreen. The crew member can only work on the screen when the rear wheels of the car are off the ground. The duties are limited to tear offs and cleaning the screen.  Since St. Pete is the first race with the aeroscreen, could we see some teams have pit stop issues? I’m sure the teams have practiced the new procedures, but in the heat of competition, things happen. I plan to watch pit stops closely Sunday.

Pit Strategy

The race distance has been shortened to 100 laps this year from the 110 it has been since 2013. 100 laps was the original distance beginning in 2005. I think it was probably done for television purposes. This shouldn’t change the need for three stops, but the timing of the final stop could depend on when the yellows fall. A team that pits late enough could end the race on red tires and have a speed advantage. Normally a team would want to be on blacks at the end of this race.

The Winner

If the recent trend holds, Josef Newgarden will win. His victory last year made him just the third winner since 2015. Juan Pablo Montoya won the first of back to back races in St. Pete then. Sebastien Bourdais went back to back in 2017 and 2018. Newgarden was just the fourth winner of this race to go on to win the series championship. Will Power was the last driver to win both in 2014.

Predictions

The race has had few caution periods for the most part in recent years. Qualifying position is the key to success. The pole winner doesn’t necessarily win, but with the exception of Bourdais’ two victories, starting near the front helps.

When we talk qualifying, we usually mean Will Power. He is the active leader in career poles and won the pole last year.  Look for him to repeat as the top qualifier, but I look for Scott Dixon to finally win at this track.

Schedule Changes

It is possible the schedule may be adjusted during the weekend. I will keep you posted on any changes that occur. If you’re coming to the race, stay safe and wash your hands.

Update: Herta Transporter Catches Fire; Car Okay

Andretti Autosport issued the following statements on Twitter @FollowAndretti around 11 am ET:

At this time, damages to the 88 car appear to be minor and cosmetic, caused by heat, smoke and/or water. We have no current reason to believe that any competition or mechanical aspects of the 88 car have been damaged or compromised. (cont.)

Andretti Autosport
@FollowAndretti
Our Indy Lights team is in Florida for testing and is now in route to St. Pete to help evaluate and assess. Additionally, we are sending a team of INDYCAR crewman from Indianapolis to St. Pete today – in advance of the full team’s arrival tomorrow morning. (cont.)

Andretti Autosport
@FollowAndretti

We are also preparing backup pit equipment at our Indy race shop, this equipment & a spare transporter will depart Indianapolis today as well. Again, we would like to express our gratitude to our transport drivers & local fire departments for their quick responses & support.

 

The transporter carrying Colton Herta’s number 88 car to the Firestone Grand Prix caught fire early this morning just about 15 minutes from the track. An update just a few minutes ago reported that the car was not damaged, but there is extensive damage to the pit equipment.

Herta is expected to be a contender for the NTT Indycar Series championship. Follow along all day for updates.

My guess is the fire was caused by brake failure. A similar incident involving a Penske transporter happened in the early 2000s. I believe it Helio Castroneves’ car, but I’m not sure. He went on to win the race.

Update from Nathan Brown if the Indianapolis Star:

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Fast Facts

NTT IndyCar Series News Release
'The Amazing Race' premiers with drivers Rossi, Daly tonight
Firestone Grand Prix
of St. Petersburg Fast Facts

Race weekend: Friday – Sunday.

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.

 

Race distance: 100 laps / 180 miles.

Push-to-pass parameters: 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. The feature increases the power of the engine by approximately 60 horsepower for 2020.

Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate.

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

Event website: www.gpstpete.com.

INDYCAR website: www.indycar.com.

2019 race winner: Josef Newgarden, 2:04:18.2588, 95.572 mph (110 laps/198 miles)

2019 NTT P1 Award winner: Will Power, 1:00.4594, 107.179 mph.

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

NBCSN race telecasts: Qualifying, 10 p.m. ET Saturday (tape delayed); Race, 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday (live). Pre-race show begins at 2:30 p.m.

Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Jake Query and Nick Yeoman are the turn announcers with Dave Furst, Rob Howden and Michael Young reporting from the pits. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 211, XM 205, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app, with qualifying also airing on Sirius 216 and XM 205.

NBC Sports Gold Live Streaming: All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports’ direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.

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

Friday

10:45 – 11:30 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice #1, NBC Sports Gold

3 – 3:45 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice #2, NBC Sports Gold

Saturday

10:45 – 11:30 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice #3, NBC Sports Gold

2:40 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Qualifying (Three rounds of knockout qualifications), NBC Sports Gold (live) and NBCSN (taped delayed until 10 p.m.

Sunday

10:25 – 10:55 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Warm-Up, NBC Sports Gold

2:30 p.m. –  NBCSN pre-race show begins

3:23 p.m. –  Command

3:30 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg green flag (100 laps/180 miles), NBCSN (live)

Race Notes:

  • This will mark the 10th consecutive year that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has served as INDYCAR’s season-opening race. Dario Franchitti won the inaugural season opener at St. Pete in 2011. This will be the 17th race overall, dating to Paul Tracy winning the CART-sanctioned race in 2003.
  • 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 and Tony Kanaan have started 15 consecutive races. Only Dixon is entered this year. Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay competed in the first race in 2003.
  • Kanaan’s all-time record streak of 317 consecutive race starts will end this weekend. The streak began in June 2001 at Portland. Dixon has made 258 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak and now will become tops among active streaks.. Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti has made 234 consecutive starts, which is the third-longest streak all time and now will move to second among active streaks..
  • Dixon seeks his first win on the streets of St. Petersburg. Dixon’s five NTT INDYCAR SERIES championships trail only the seven titles collected by A.J. Foyt. Dixon is third on the all-time Indy car victory list with 46, but has never won at St. Petersburg. He has four runner-up finishes at the circuit, including last season.
  • Will Power (2010,’14) and Bourdais (2017, ’18) are the only entered drivers to win at St. Petersburg more than once. Helio Castroneves won three times (2006, ’07, ’12), while Juan Pablo Montoya won in 2015 and ’16. Past winners Graham Rahal (2008) and Newgarden (2019) are also entered.
  • Team Penske has won the pole position nine of the past 13 St. Petersburg races, including eight of the last 10 poles by Power. Past pole winners Bourdais (2003), Rahal (2009) and Takuma Sato (2014) are also entered this weekend.
  • Two drivers have won the race from the pole – Castroneves (2007) and Power (2010). The St. Petersburg winner has qualified fourth in four of the last seven seasons.
  • Team Penske has won at St. Petersburg nine times, including five of the last eight races with Castroneves (2012), Power (2014), Montoya (2015-16) and Newgarden (2019).
  • Five rookies are entered and three – Oliver Askew, Felipe NasrAlex Palou and Rinus VeeKay — will make their first NTT INDYCAR SERIES start this weekend at St. Petersburg. The other Rookie of the Year candidate entered is Ben Hanley.
  • Since 2012, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has averaged nine different race winners per season, including a record-tying 11 winners in 2014. There were seven different winners in the 17 races of 2019.