Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Sports

A more passive Grand Prix role for Helio Castroneves

ST. PETERSBURG — Helio Castroneves will be leading the pack one more time in Sunday's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Then the three-time winner on St. Petersburg's streets will have to pull off the track before the green flag falls. That's because this year Castroneves is the pace car driver.

Being the grand marshal for the IndyCar season opener is a new role for Castroneves, the popular series veteran who is driving full-time for Roger Penske's Acura sports car operation this season.

"I'm still not sure what a grand marshal does," Castroneves said Thursday with a laugh.

After 20 years in either CART or IndyCar, Castroneves is only driving in one IndyCar race in 2018, the Indianapolis 500, for Penske. In May, the Brazilian will try to become the fourth driver to win Indy four times.

"I never had the time to lay down and say, 'Holy moly, I'm not going to be driving an IndyCar anymore,' " Castroneves said. "Because I'm doing something really cool, racing sports cars, and it's still racing for Team Penske. … So the transition has been fairly easy. If you come back to me after the first practice I'm probably going to say, 'Sorry, man, but this sucks.' If that happens, it is what it is. But right now I'm very happy to see everyone."

Castroneves will go down as a legend — three Indy 500 wins and 30 total career victories ensure that for anyone — but he leaves his full-time IndyCar career behind without a championship. He was second in points four times and finished in the top five 13 times.

"Why I didn't win? Destiny didn't want to make it," he said. "It wasn't because of lack of effort. I did everything I could; I feel that it wasn't meant to be."

RELATED: Dancers, ninja warriors, bachelors … and IndyCar drivers

Series deal extended

The race's title sponsor and tire supplier, Firestone, announced a two-year sponsorship and race extension. Future race dates are March 8-10, 2019, and March 13-15, 2020. This weekend, Firestone and the series are in the final year of a three-year agreement.

This is the 14th IndyCar race in St. Petersburg (15th including the one-off Champ Car edition in 2003) and the downtown streets are the setting for the series opener for the eighth consecutive year.

"The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is a marquee event," said Lisa Boggs, director of motorsports for Bridgestone, which owns Firestone. "Street courses are very difficult to do. But when you've got the unwavering support of the city — the fans, the mayor, the city council, the folks at all the local businesses — that is probably Step 1. … And the folks at (race promoter) Green Savoree in leading this effort just do an amazing job."

RELATED: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg schedule of events, tickets

No longer the new kid in town

Defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden set quite a standard for himself in 2017, winning the title in his first year driving for Penske.

That championship also helped Newgarden, 27, shake the feeling of being the new kid at Team Penske after he spent his first five seasons with smaller teams.

"I felt awkward walking into the team," Newgarden said. "I went to the team shop in the offseason and there were over 400 employees. So it felt odd to be there. I was like, 'I don't belong.' Every time I would walk into the building I (thought) I hope security doesn't throw me out. So having a year under your belt makes a world of difference."

Comments
Bryce Harper wins All-Star home run derby

Bryce Harper wins All-Star home run derby

WASHINGTON — Nationals star Bryce Harper has not had a lot to enjoy in his last season before free agency, struggling — at least by his usual standards — with a .214 average and other deficiencies in his game.Monday turned out to be...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays journal: Some warn that pitching strategy comes at a price

Rays journal: Some warn that pitching strategy comes at a price

WASHINGTON — The success the Rays have had during two months of using a game opener followed by a relieving starter seems to have tamed some of the criticism of the unusual plan.Until Arizona ace Zack Greinke, a Cy Young award winner and five-t...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays’ Blake Snell now in a starring role

Rays’ Blake Snell now in a starring role

WASHINGTON — Blake Snell first got the feeling after arriving at the All-Star hotel late Sunday night. He'd shared the first-class cabin on the Delta flight from Minneapolis with Rays teammate Wilson Ramos plus manager Kevin Cash and his wife, ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Sports on TV/Radio for Tuesday, July 17

TODAYBaseballAll-Star Game8 p.m.Fox; 620-AMCycling, Tour de FranceStage 107:30 a.m.NBCSNLacrosseWorld Championship: Australia vs. Canada7:30 a.m.ESPNUWorld Championship: England vs. United States11 a.m.ESPNUNBA, summer leagueChampionship10 p.m.ESPN...
Updated: 6 hours ago
SEC media days: LSU’s season could be defined by Miami, Gators

SEC media days: LSU’s season could be defined by Miami, Gators

ATLANTA — With criticism already heating up on LSU coach Ed Orgeron, don't be surprised if the Tigers' season ends up getting defined by their performance against two Florida teams.The first comes on the Sunday of opening weekend, against Miami...
Updated: 7 hours ago
SEC media days: Pressure already on for Jimbo Fisher

SEC media days: Pressure already on for Jimbo Fisher

ATLANTA — When new Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher walked to the stage Monday for his first SEC media days, he knew exactly what to say.Howdy."That's an A&M thing," Fisher explained.So Fisher knows how the Aggies say hello. Which is progress,...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Captain’s Corner: Warm water brings algae blooms

It’s been a hot summer. This week water temps crept up to sweltering 90 degrees at the surface inshore. We saw 88 degrees on the surface temps offshore. The deeper the water, the cooler the water temps were found, especially toward the bottom. Wit...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Tune into the only All Star Game that matters

Tune into the only All Star Game that matters

Summer was for beach days and watermelons and shorty pajamas and fighting with my brother over who gets to sleep in front of the fan.And summer was for the MLB All-Star Game.They'll hold the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday night at Washington's National...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Jimbo Fisher: ‘I love Jameis…unfortunately he made some bad decisions’

Jimbo Fisher: ‘I love Jameis…unfortunately he made some bad decisions’

ATLANTA — Jimbo Fisher defended every step of the way at Jameis Winston at Florida State, so it shouldn't be a surprise that he continues to back his former quarterback, even though both have moved on.Fisher, now the coach at Texas A&M, sa...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Live from Washington: Rays Blake Snell was under consideration for All-Star start

Live from Washington: Rays Blake Snell was under consideration for All-Star start

UPDATE, 2:33: AL manager A.J. Hinch said  Snell, even though he wasn't named to team until Friday, was in the mix to start the game, that he was "not too far behind," though Boston's Chris Sale was chosen.  Snell is likely to be 3rd pi...
Updated: 11 hours ago