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What you should know about the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (which starts today)

The popular Stadium SUPER Trucks are back. NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson will be racing downtown, too.
The popular Stadium SUPER Trucks are back at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this year.
The popular Stadium SUPER Trucks are back at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this year. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times (2016) ]
Published Apr. 23
Updated Apr. 23

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.

Related: 5 questions about next week’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

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.

Spectator guidelines

Organizers and the city are allowing 20,000 fans to attend per day. That’s the same capacity the Grand Prix used in October for its rescheduled event.

The Grand Prix will keep the attendance capacity it had in October.
The Grand Prix will keep the attendance capacity it had in October. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

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

Alex Palou earned his first IndyCar Series victory last weekend.
Alex Palou earned his first IndyCar Series victory last weekend. [ JOE SKIBINSKI, INDYCAR | The Indianapolis Star ]

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.

Related: Q&A: St. Petersburg’s Sebastien Bourdais on Grand Prix, 2021 IndyCar season

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.

Alexander Rossi has raced well at the Grand Prix but has not yet won the event.
Alexander Rossi has raced well at the Grand Prix but has not yet won the event. [ LUIS | Tampa Bay Times ]

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.

Future schedule

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.