ST. PETERSBURG — Justin Wilson lacks only a victory in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to hit every step on the podium here.
He has finished in the top three (podium spots) twice here, coming in third in 2009 and second last year. In '09 he led a race-high 52 laps and lost the lead to winner Ryan Briscoe with 14 laps to go.
Most of the success in Wilson's career has come on road and street circuits, but he wasn't giving away a lot of secrets on Thursday as to why he has run so well in St. Petersburg.
"I've no idea what it is but we always go well and I'm looking for this year to be just as good if not better," Wilson said. "There are things that I want to work on (with) the car and get even better than last year."
"But it's a track that suits me. I have fun; I enjoy driving the track. I enjoy attacking it."
After four years in Champ Car, Wilson came to IndyCar along with the Newman/Haas/Lanigan team in 2008, in the midst of the merger between the two series.
"Actually in 2008 I led early on (for 18 laps) and we got the wrong strategy and finished ninth," Wilson said.
In 2009 Wilson followed his strong run here with a victory at Watkins Glen for Dale Coyne Racing, that team's first win in 25 seasons of major open-wheel racing. Now in his second year with the Dreyer & Reinbold team, Wilson seems to relish starting the season here.
"I enjoy this track, it's a lot of fun to drive," he said. "I like being on the airport where it's wide open. And then you come into the streets where it's tight and twisty and it's all about the rhythm."
Deja Danica? Among the newcomers to watch in the USF2000 Series is 21-year-old Shannon McIntosh, who bears more than a passing resemblance — in terms of appearance and aspirations — to Danica Patrick.
An Ohio native, McIntosh moved in December to St. Petersburg, where her team — Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing — is based. A 16-year veteran of oval-course racing, mostly in midget cars, she never previously has raced on a street course.
"The guys I'm racing against have been doing road racing since they started, I've been doing ovals since I started," said McIntosh, who competed in her first race at age 5 in a quarter-midget event in Dayton, Ohio.
"The dynamics of the racing and techniques and all that are so different, so I've got definitely a huge learning curve, but it's okay. I'm doing well and I'm real excited about this week."
McIntosh is sponsored by Glass Hammer Racing, created last summer to promote the participation of girls and young women in motorsports. Its web address: www.beatbyagirl.org.
Absorbing the spotlight: Pinellas Park High School graduate Nick Andries is learning to deal with the media blitz.
Andries, 19, a driver in the Star Mazda Championship series, visited All Children's Hospital on Wednesday to sign autographs.
On Thursday, he did an interview with a local television station before attending a media luncheon at the Renaissance Vinoy Golf Club.
"This is my first time being invited to the luncheon," Andries said. "It's exciting. I'm sitting next to Dario Franchitti. It's good that the younger drivers get to do something like this and get a feel for what the media attention could be like in the future."
Did you know? Nick Veach, a 16-year-old driver in the USF2000 series, released his first book, 99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16, earlier this month.