Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Sports

Roger Penske likes St. Petersburg's place as IndyCar opener

ST. PETERSBURG — As IndyCar officials work on next year's schedule, team owner Roger Penske said he favors keeping the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as the series' opener.

"Coming to Florida this time of year, it's a good place to be," the Team Penske owner said. "The whole city has embraced what's going on. To me, that's good."

Penske, whose drivers are Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe, said he likes where the series is because of a 26-car field, new engine competition and new cars. But he said he thinks IndyCar can grow by adding more races to North America's major markets while keeping certain races in regular spots on the schedule.

"People want to go to St. Pete in March and see an IndyCar race, like you go to Sebring, like you go to Le Mans," Penske said.

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard praised the city but said he doesn't want to commit to St. Petersburg as the long-term season opener.

"I love St. Pete," Bernard said. "I think that wherever St. Pete is, it'll be successful. I don't want to box myself in and say that it should be the first event."

Bernard said 90 percent of his attention has been focused on adding new North American markets next year. IndyCar has had serious talks with Houston, but an announcement isn't imminent, Bernard said. Phoenix, which held IndyCar races from 1996-2005, is another possibility.

Starting last: Sebastien Bourdais ran off the track in Turn 8 during the first qualifying segment and did minor damage to his No. 7 Lotus Dragon Racing machine.

The native Frenchman, who has moved back to St. Petersburg, where he lived when he won four consecutive Champ Car titles from 2004-07, starts today's race last among 26 entries.

"(Saturday) morning we felt very strong, very happy with the car, and we put reds (alternate tires) on and it just disappeared," Bourdais said.

It has been a tough week for Bourdais, who waited until this week to get a Lotus engine in his car.

"It's been a huge effort for the last month and a half," Bourdais said. "We can only be pretty happy to be there."

The other Lotus machines struggled, too. The highest Lotus-powered qualifier was the No. 98 of Alex Tagliani, who starts 17th and was 1.3 seconds behind Power's pole time. Penske said he hopes the engine issues are resolved "here pretty quick," at least before the Indianapolis 500.

"We've always said that Lotus is the little engine that's trying," Bernard said. "They're trying to compete with two gorillas in this sport."

Qualifying wrecks: Katherine Legge's No. 6 Dallara-Lotus ended its qualifying run when she ran into the Turn 8 tires and damaged the left half of her front wing. She starts 25th.

Castroneves said communication problems with his team made him unable to hear where he stood during his second qualifying session. The 2006 and 2007 Grand Prix winner said he pushed his No. 3 Chevy too hard and hit the wall in Turn 9. His team quickly replaced the rear suspension, helping Castroneves qualify fifth.

Etc.: Rookie Josef Newgarden was eighth-quickest during Saturday's practice but couldn't keep up in qualifying. He starts 19th. … IndyCar newcomer and former Formula One star Rubens Barrichello finished outside the top 12 and didn't advance to the second round of qualifying. His No. 8 KV Racing Technology Dallara-Chevrolet starts 14th. … Graham Rahal, the 2008 Grand Prix winner, on qualifying 11th as part of Chip Ganassi's teams: "We're pretty frustrated, or at least I am."

Times staff writer Jim Tomlin contributed to this report. Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]om.

Comments
Lightning plays the waiting game

Lightning plays the waiting game

TAMPA — Had Boston closed out Toronto on Monday, Game 1 of the Lightning-Bruins series would have been Wednesday. Instead, the Lightning returned to the ice Tuesday still awaiting its opponent for the conference semifinals that begin later this...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays-Orioles postponed, doubleheader planned for May 12

Rays-Orioles postponed, doubleheader planned for May 12

UPDATE, 6:06: The Rays will stay in rotation, so Faria will slide back a day and pitch Wednesday, vs. Cobb, and Archer will get an extra day's rest and pitch Thursday, against RHP Dylan Bundy.Also of note, Cash said 3B Matt Duffy (right hamstring str...
Updated: 1 hour ago
How the Lightning did its best work on the Devils shorthanded

How the Lightning did its best work on the Devils shorthanded

TAMPA — The Lightning rolled past the Devils in five games of the Stanley Cup playoffs quarterfinal series largely because the penalty kill became a beast, killing off 16 of 19, including the final 15 when down a man.Two of those three goals al...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

For months, NFL fans have wondered what the Bucs might do with the No. 7 pick in Thursday's draft, producing a wide range of answers, each with passionate support from some of their fans.But as draft nears, and as the interest level in a talented gro...
Updated: 3 hours ago
HomeTeam 25: Baseball rankings for Tampa Bay

HomeTeam 25: Baseball rankings for Tampa Bay

1. Calvary Christian (23-0)This week: Today at Jesuit, Friday vs. St. PetersburgThe buzz: The Warriors are ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today. The win streak is now 53 games. Venice was a big threat last week, but ace Nolan Hudi held the Indians...
Updated: 3 hours ago
USF extends Mark Harlan’s contract

USF extends Mark Harlan’s contract

As expected, USF athletic director Mark Harlan has signed a contract extension that will keep him at the school through the 2020-21 school year.Harlan recently entered the final year of the original five-year deal he signed in March 2014 that paid hi...
Updated: 4 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing Cobb, weather permitting

For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing Cobb, weather permitting

The Rays are set to get their first look at an old friend tonight, as Alex Cobb will be on the mound for the Orioles, weather permitting.Heavy rain is forecast for the Baltimore area, though Orioles officials seem confident there will be a window for...
Updated: 4 hours ago
USF men win fourth consecutive AAC golf title

USF men win fourth consecutive AAC golf title

Only 445 yards separated USF's resident runner-up from the 2018 breakthrough he coveted.Two or three more swings, and Bulls senior Claudio Correa's first individual title of the season would be in the bag, right where his team's conference title alre...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bruins … Leafs … doesn’t matter. Lightning’s got this

Bruins … Leafs … doesn’t matter. Lightning’s got this

TAMPA — The Bruins and Maple Leafs play Game 7 Wednesday night in Boston.Let them.Let them beat each other's brains in for all the Lightning care. Let it go to overtime. Let it go to six overtimes. Lightning players and coaches will be watching...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Vita VeaPosition: Defensive tackleSchool: WashingtonHeight/weight: 6-4, 347Draft projection: Round 1Why Vita Vea makes sense for the Bucs: Vea's combination of size and quick feet is rare. He ran a 5.1 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 40 tim...
Updated: 6 hours ago