Dixon, Newgarden Have the Same Weekend Plan- Keep it Simple

Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden have a similar approach to the NTT Indycar Series finale at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg- keep things simple and win the race. Dixon, who leads Newgarden by 32 points, needs to finish ninth or better Sunday to put the title out of Newgarden’s reach.

Dixon stated his objective, “Obviously the goal is to go for a win. That makes it a lot easier, then you don’t have to worry about any of the scenarios. …we try to typically keep it pretty simple. I would say that was not the case for the last few races, which got us into a bit of a tailspin. Josef and Team Penske, him and his teammates, have been doing a fantastic job.”

Dixon admits his spin at Mid Ohio put him in this situation and made the championship more difficult to wrap up early.

For Newgarden, models showing that he has just a 1% chance of winning the title is fine with him.

“I love on the fact sheet, I saw this put out, it was like 20,000 scenarios, 1% of the scenarios means we can win the championship. You’re saying there’s a chance and that’s all we need.”

Dixon is not sure about the effect the aeroscreen will have as the series races what will be its only street cdpourse race of the season.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s the first time for it. It’s done a great job first season, the conditions we’ve had in different situations. We didn’t get the full rain situation, which I think a lot of us expected throughout the season at some point. Maybe the depth perception maybe a little altered depending on the walls, where there’s placed. Honestly, this year it’s been very good in every situation. Touch wood that there’s no issue there.”

Newgarden is excited that fans will be able to attend the race this weekend.

“It’s been a tough year. Showing up to the racetrack in the conditions that we’ve seen this year, it’s hard. I think just from an event standpoint, you don’t have the energy of the fans and the crowd. That’s really what makes INDYCAR racing what it is. I think it makes sport what it is.”

Dixon added, “Just to touch on what Josef said about the atmosphere, I think a lot of us thrive on that. To be able to go back full circle and have fans again at St. Pete I think is going to be really cool.

But, yeah, just the effort that’s gone in to make a season and have a season where a lot of people haven’t had that opportunity. A lot of categories in motor racing, but other sports have really struggled. A lot of people that have gone into it, partners, quite involved. We’re very fortunate and very lucky. Glad we’re able to carry on.”

Both drivers expressed appreciation to Indycar and Green Savoree for working out a date to have this race.

Dixon and Newgarden plan to change their approach this weekend like any other race weekend. Newgarden said changing your approach can get you into trouble.

On the prospect of racing with Australian VA Supercar champion Scott McLaughlin, both drivers expressed excitement.Newgarden, who will be McLaughlin’s teammate, acknowledged this will be a challenge for him this weekend, but added,

“It’s going to be really fascinating to see how he handles this challenge. This is going to be an enormous task for Scott. He’s really, really good. We already know that. You could see that a mile away. I think we all admire his strengths around the Super Car side. I think he’s a great racer overall, doesn’t matter what car you put him in.”

Dixon is excited to have a fellow countryman in the series.

“Yeah, he’s damn good. I’m super excited for him. I met him maybe four or five years ago. We had to do an appearance at some event in Auckland city, do autograph sessions. Had to sit around for a long time and chat. This is before he had gone to Team Penske.

Yeah, he’s been crushing it obviously down there with his pole record, championship situation. Then for him to have this opportunity, I know he loves America, always wanted to come to America. I think it’s really cool to have another Kiwi in the field, which didn’t really even seem to be on the radar for quite a few years.”

Dixon is disappointed about the lack of ovals on the 2021 schedule and hopes more will return in the future.

“I’m bummed there’s only three ovals. I started in this category in 2003. It was 16 ovals in the series. We definitely need to work hard and trying to get back to that. I was extremely bummed about Iowa. It’s not a place I’ve won at, but it’s a track that is complete chaos, very difficult to set the car up. It’s exhausting physically. It provides some of our best racing we have all season. Hopefully that can be rectified down the road.”

Dixon and Newgarden think the race will come down to the tires, which are an unknown factor going in. They tested the street tire at Sebring, which doesn’t give a true indication of its wear. Dixon thinks three stops might be needed during the race.

St. Pete Entry List- McLaughlin Debuts, Askew Returns

Scott McLaughlin, Australian VA Supercar champion, makes his Indycar debut this weekend in the number 3 Chevy powered entry. McLaughlin finished 5th in last Sunday’s Bathurst 1000.

Oliver Askew returns to Arrow McLaren SP for his final drive in the 7 car. Askew missed the Harvest Grand Prix while undergoing treatment for concussion symptoms.

St. Pete Ticket Update- Friday Sold Out, Still Some Room Saturday and Sunday

A look this morning at the ticket situation for St. Pete, according to their website, shows that tickets for Friday are sold out. General admission tickets for Saturday and Sunday are available, for individual days or a two day ticket. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is not selling any more grandstand reserved seats.

The event has a 20,00 fan limit per day. Ticket prices – $60 for a 2 day ticket to $40 for Saturday only, and $55 for Sunday only. There is a $10 service charge.

An email sent to ticket holders yesterday asks fans to complete a self assessment of their health before coming to the track. Only the Road to Indy and Mazda MX-5 Cup paddocks are open to spectators. Seems odd that any paddocks are open.

Masks are required to be worn at all times at the track. Expect a temperature check upon entry.

From the email regarding viewing areas:

  • Social distancing must be maintained between individuals/family/household groups.
  • No more than 10 people together.
  • Please respect posted directional signage, as well as specific entry and exit for pedestrian roads and pathways.
  • The Budweiser Party Pit will be closed
  • The Waterside Club will be closed

As other tracks have done this year, St. Pete is taking the usual precautions. I think a street race venue will be quite a challenge to monitor.

Since this race is the 2020 finale and the 2021 opening event for the NTT Indycar Series, I’m sure they will want to have a smooth weekend. We can hope that things will improve somewhat by next March.

St. Pete Track Busy with Series Finales- On Track Schedules

The postponed Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg not hosts the NTT Indycar Series finale, the Road to Indy season ending races also take place this weekend. Mazda MX-5 Cup and Porsche GT3 Cup action is also on the agenda. Indycar does not get on track until Saturday morning at 10:55 am for a 90 minute practice. Friday is dedicated to practice and qualifying for USF 2000, Indy Pro 2000, Mazda mx-5 Cup, and Porsche GT3 Cup. each of the support series will have two races. Both Mazda races are Saturday. The second races for the other three series are on Sunday before the Indycar finale. The schedule by day (all times Eastern):

Friday

TimeSeriesSession
8:45 AM – 4:00 PM Gate Hours
9:00 AM – 9:40 AMMX-5 CupPractice 1
10:00 AM – 10:45 AMPorsche GT3 CupPractice 1
11:05 AM – 11:35 AMUSF2000Practice 1
11:55 AM – 12:25 PMIndy Pro 2000Practice 1
12:45 PM – 1:25 PMMX-5 CupPractice 2
1:45 PM – 2:15 PMPorsche GT3 CupPractice 2
2:35 PM – 3:05 PMUSF2000Qualifying 1
3:25 PM – 3:55 PMIndy Pro 2000Qualifying 1
4:15 PM – 4:35 PMMX-5 CupQualifying
4:55 PM – 5:10 PMPorsche GT3 CupQualifying

Saturday

TimeSeriesSession
8:15 AM – 5:45 PM Gate Hours
8:30 AM – 9:15 AMMX-5 CupRace 1
9:30 AM – 9:50 AMUSF2000Qualifying 2
10:10 AM – 10:30 AMIndy Pro 2000Qualifying 2
10:55 AM – 12:25 PMNTT INDYCAR SERIESPractice
12:50 PM – 1:35 PMMX-5 CupRace 2
1:55 PM – 2:40 PMPorsche GT3 CupRace 1
3:05 PM – 4:20 PMNTT INDYCAR SERIESQualifying
4:40 PM – 5:25 PMUSF2000Race 1
5:35 PM – 6:15 PMIndy Pro 2000Race 1

Sunday

TimeSeriesSession
9:15 AM – 3:00 PM Gate Hours
9:30 AM – 10:15 AMUSF2000Race 2
10:40 AM – 11:10 AMNTT INDYCAR SERIESWarm-Up
11:30 AM – 12:20 PMIndy Pro 2000Race 2
12:40 PM – 1:25 PMPorsche GT3 CupRace 2
2:30 PMNTT INDYCAR SERIESRace

St. Pete Broadcast Schedule; Selling Limted Number of Tickets

The broadcast schedule for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is out. Notable is the delayed television broadcast of qualifying. Qualifying will be shown live on NBC Gold for those who have purchased it. This qualifying sesion will be just the second traditional knock out qualifying leading the Fast Six this year. I have missed the Fast Six format, although I have enjoyed the way the grid is set for the double headers. The broadcast schedule:

Oct24 Saturday Practice 10:55 AM – 12:25 PM ET

Oct24 Saturday Qualifications (Live) 3:05 – 4:20 PM ET

Oct24 Saturday Qualifications (Delay) 8:00 – 9:00 PM ET

Oct25 Sunday Warmup 10:40 – 11:10 AM ET

Oct25 Sunday Pre-Race 2:00 – 2:30 PM ET

Oct25 Sunday Race 2:30 – 4:30 PM ET

Yesterday afternoon, Green Savoree, the race promoter, put a limited number of tickets on sale. the event has a 20,000 fan limit per day. Ticket holders who had seats for the original March date received an email yesterday with a reassigned seat. In my case, I am in the same grandstand, same section, but just four rows lower than my regular location. I even retained the same seat number.

Whenj the March race was cancelled the promoters gave ticketholders the opportunity to get a credit for the 2021 race. i know several fans who took advantage of that offer. Some were unhappy because there was no cash refund option. I’m disappointed that Green Savoree did not extend a similar deferral until 2021 option to those who kept their tickets, but who cannot for one reason or another go to this race. I have chosen not to attend because of the pandemic. I know of another fan, who I believe has been to every St. Pete race, also in this situation.

I understand this promoter has been hit the hardest by the schedule upheaval this year. They have lost two races entirely, Toronto and Portland, were allowed just 6,000 fans per day at Mid Ohio, and were in danger of losing this event completely as well. It is a sham that the good will of the fans takes a backseat to their bottom line.

Early Racing in St. Pete Laid Groundwork for Indycar

Before the first Indycar race in St. Petersburg, a CART race in 2003 won by Paul Tracy, sports cars raced through the streets in the mid 1980s and had a brief revival in the 90s. The early tracks did not use the Albert Whitted Airport runway and ran further uptown. The course we know today still has parts of the former tracks in it.

In 1985, St. Petersburg sought a way to gain more exposure and attract tourism. A street race was proposed. The nine turn course ran along the waterfront, returning to the finish line via Bay Shore Drive. Turn 6 looks interesting, if not downright scary. SCCA Trans Am and Can Am cars participated.

Willy T. Ribbs won the inaugural Trans Am race, and Dr. Lou Sell won the Can Am race

For 1986 the course was revised. Businesses along the pier were not happy that they were cut off during the time of the race. This configuration continued through 1990, when the race stopped after losing its sponsor. The 180 degree turn is gone. The track went to the Vinoy hotel and then to Bay Shore Drive. This track has 10 turns and a more straightforward route.

Pete Halsmer and Scott Pruett were two winners with an Indycar connection in this era. In 1987 Johnny O’Connell won in Formula Atlantics. I can’t imagine what a young O’Connell looked like. Tragedy struck in 1987 when Jim Fitzgerald suffered fatal injuries after hitting the concrete barriers in turn 1. Firtzgerald had been a mentor to Paul Newman as Newman began his racing career.

In 1996 and 1997, a race sponsored by Kash n Karry ran on a course around Tropicana Field. The sponsor pulled out before the 1998 race and racing was done in St. Pete until CART returned in 2003.

The new track is basically the same layout we are familiar with today, 14 turns with the wide runway as the front stretch. The curbing in turns 2 and 10 stays down all year long.

There was no race in 2004 as the promoters were uncertain of the viability of CART. In 2005 the IRL began racing and has continued annually since.

In 2017 a subtle change was made with a little kink between turns 2 and 3.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will run on October 25 this year. If it runs as scheduled March 7 in 2021, it will serve as the 2020 season finale and the 2021 season opener. The races would be held less than five months apart.

St. Pete to Allow 20,000 Fans

Just released from the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg:

NEWS RELEASE

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST PETERSBURG

SET TO HOST SPECTATORS FOR OCTOBER 23-25 WEEKEND

INDYCAR Season Finale Will Require Fans to Follow

COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols Including the Wearing of Facial Coverings

ST PETERSBURG, Fla. (October 1, 2020) – Officials from the City of St. Petersburg and Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC (GSSP) announced today that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, rescheduled to October 23-25, will be open to spectators. The event was postponed from its original March date due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At today’s City of St. Petersburg City Council Meeting, Mayor Rick Kriseman with the support of City Council approved GSSP’s plans to operate the event with 20,000 spectators under specific health and safety protocols. Fans should visit gpstpete.com/covid19 for more information on these essential protocols.

“My thanks to Green Savoree Racing Promotions and INDYCAR for their flexibility and resilience during this challenging time. I know that everyone is excited to get back on the track in St. Pete,” said City of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “I can’t wait for October 23rd. I know everyone will embrace this race the St. Pete Way, adhering to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Let’s have some great racing in the Sunshine City.”

Competitors, spectators and all associated with the event will be subject to a health screening and temperature check before entry is permitted. All attendees will be required to wear masks or facial coverings at all times unless when eating or drinking with the “No Mask, No Entry” plan. Those who don’t have one will be issued a mask at the entry gates.

“It’s exciting to be able to have fans attend the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Our entire team greatly appreciates the patience and understanding of our ticket holders as we worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council and local health officials,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of GSSP, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “It’s important for everyone who attends to read and follow all the COVID-19 protocols to contribute to a fun, safe and successful event for us all.”

To promote social distancing, the paddock and pit lane will be closed to spectators. The CDC’s recommended guideline of at least six feet of social distancing should be maintained while on site. Hand sanitizer and hand washing stations will be pervasive across the venue.

“The ongoing guidance and support of Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and the City of St. Petersburg’s event team have been phenomenal. We also would not be in this position to move this spring tradition to fall without Firestone’s unwavering commitment and dedication,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of GSSP. “It’s going to be a terrific weekend again in downtown St. Pete in three weeks featuring world-class racing from INDYCAR.”

-more-

FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST PETERSBURG TO HOST SPECTATORS

2-2-2-2

Previously purchased tickets to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which were not already deferred, will be valid for gate entry on the corresponding days of the postponed event. Ticket purchasers on file will receive more information via email, and in some cases, reserved grandstand seating may need to be reassigned to allow for social distancing. Additional answers to common questions can be found at gpstpete.com/covid19faq. A very limited number of tickets will be released for sale in the coming days at gpstpete.com.

This will be the first time the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg serves as the season finale for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, as the event traditionally has opened the season. The 100-lap INDYCAR race is set to take the green flag at 2:32 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 25, with NBC providing live coverage. Practice and qualifying sessions will be available for live streaming on NBC Sports Gold with the IndyCar Pass

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, The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio  and Grand Prix of Portland. 

For more information, visit gpstpete.com, ‘like’ its Facebook page at @GPSTPETE or follow the event on Twitter @GPSTPETE and Instagram @GPSTPETE using #FirestoneGP.

Mclaughlin to Debut at St. Pete

Scott Mclaughlin will getto make his COVID -19 delayed Indycar debut at the season finale in St. Petersburg October 25. Mclaughlin, the two time Australian VA Supercars champion, was originally slated to drive in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. With all racing series scrambling to adjust their schedules this year, Team Penske and Mclaughlin finally found a spot that worked for both of them. Mclaughlin leads the Supercars points with three races remaining.

Penske had brought McLaughlin to the open test in Austin, where he posted the third fastest time. before returning to Australia he took his oval test at Texas Motor Speedway. McLaughlin is expected to be a full time driver for Team Penske in Indycar next season.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” said McLaughlin. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my INDYCAR debut. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop. I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”

McLaughlin will pilot the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Dallara/Chevrolet at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was postponed from its original date in March and will now take place on Sunday, October 25. The race on the 1.8-mile street circuit will be seen live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, with radio coverage on the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network and SIRIUS XM.

Notes

It will be weird seeing the number 3 car without Helio Castroneves in the cockpit. St. Pete signals the end of ties between Team Penske and Castroneves.

The field for the last race has gotten deeper with announcements this week of Sebastien Bourdais driving for A. J. Foyt and now mclaughlin in a Team Penske car. Jimmie Johnson, seven time NASCAR champion, may join the field for the first race in 2021, increasing the field’s depth even more.

We are still awaiting word on whether fans will be allowed to attend the Indycar Harvest Classic and the 8 hour sports car races at IMS the first weekend of October. A positive sign is the the Indianapolis Colts received permission to increase their home attendance to 7,500 for their home game September 27.

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.