The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg kicks off this morning downtown. Here’s what you need to know about the IndyCar Series staple:
Schedule, TV info
The event runs through Sunday, with gates opening at 7:45 a.m. each day. It features 11 races headlined by Sunday’s 100-lap IndyCar race. The green flag is scheduled for 12:42 p.m. and will be televised on NBC.
The popular Stadium SUPER Trucks, which ramp their way around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course, return to the Grand Prix after several years off. They practice today and race Saturday and Sunday. One of the drivers scheduled to race: Arie Luyendyk Jr., the controversial male lead on The Bachelor in 2018.
All spectators are required to wear a mask, and fans’ temperatures will be checked before entry. Hand washing and sanitizing stations will be present throughout the grounds.
IndyCar Race 1 recap
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou led 56 of 90 laps to win last weekend’s season opener at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. It was the 24-year-old Spaniard’s first career IndyCar victory.
Another young driver, Pato O’Ward, was impressive, too. The 21-year-old Mexico native won the pole, led 25 laps and finished fourth. He hasn’t won in the series yet but took second as a rookie in last year’s Grand Prix. “We definitely exceeded expectations my first year in IndyCar,” O’Ward said. “This year, we’re definitely wanting to fight for the title.” So far, so good.
Will Power — the year-after-year favorite to win the pole in St. Petersburg — finished second at Barber, ahead of six-time series champion Scott Dixon.
Other drivers to watch this week
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will be racing here for the first time after finishing three laps down last weekend in his IndyCar debut. St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais typically runs well at his home track.
Josef Newgarden is the two-time defending Grand Prix winner for Team Penske, which is always the team to beat in this event. Belleair’s Colton Herta finished third in points last season but got off to a rough start when he was collected in a Lap 1 wreck at Barber.
And Alexander Rossi might be due for a Grand Prix victory. He led 61 laps in October before crashing and finished in the top five in each of the two previous races here.
The Grand Prix expects to return to its normal, spring-break date after this pandemic interruption. The 2022 event is scheduled for March 11-13, and the next year’s race is set for March 10-12.