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What to know about today’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, IndyCar opener

Belleair’s Colton Herta was the quickest in the morning warmup and is the driver to beat in today’s IndyCar season opener.
Alexander Rossi is one of the IndyCar drivers competing in today's Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Alexander Rossi is one of the IndyCar drivers competing in today's Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Feb. 27|Updated Feb. 27

ST. PETERSBURG — The IndyCar Series has finished its final practice session for today’s season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Belleair’s Colton Herta, the defending race winner, was the fastest during the morning warm-up session. His No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda led 97 of the 100 laps in this event a year ago.

Related: Enjoy Pinellas’ Colton Herta at IndyCar Grand Prix. He won’t be here forever.

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, a two-time Grand Prix winner, was the next quickest, followed by reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou. Pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin was in P6 during practice. That’s seven spots ahead of his Penske teammate, Will Power, who will also start from the front row. Power set a track record with a qualifying lap of 59.3466 seconds during Saturday’s second segment.

Three-time Grand Prix winner Helio Castroneves was slowest in the 26-car field. His No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda also struggled during qualifying Saturday.

Jimmie Johnson spun out during Sunday's morning practice.
Jimmie Johnson spun out during Sunday's morning practice. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson had another issue — at least his third of the weekend — when he spun out in Turn 10.

Related: Why Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR success hurt him in IndyCar, Grand Prix

If you’re looking for potential winners, start with Herta. He was among the quickest in every practice session, dominated this race last year and starts third. The 21-year-old also won the final two races of last season.

McLaughlin has only one finish on the podium (second at Texas last year) but looks much more comfortable this season in his No. 3 Chevrolet. Power is often a factor here, too, and keep an eye on Romain Grosjean, the former Formula One driver. His No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda has had a strong weekend, despite a wreck during Saturday’s practice.

Weather should not be an issue; it’s supposed to be a sunny and about 77 degrees at the green flag.

Here’s the important race information:

TV: NBC

Telecast begins: noon

Estimated green flag time: 12:30 p.m.

Number of laps: 100

Course details: 1.8 miles, 14 turns

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