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Turn 10 is St. Petersburg course's iconic spot

James Perkins takes a photo of the Dan Wheldon monument near Turn 10, which is named for the St. Petersburg resident who won the track’s inaugural IndyCar race in 2005 and died in 2011.
Published Mar. 24, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG

Today's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the ninth IndyCar race on the downtown streets, so the event might be too young to have an iconic spot. • But Turn 10 has a pretty good argument. • From atop the stands, fans can see part of Al Lang Field, the Dali Museum, the Ferris wheel and the palm trees. • And in front of it all: Dan Wheldon Way, where the action is. • It doesn't have the history of the hairpin at Monaco, the tri-oval at Daytona or the bricks at Indianapolis. But Turn 10 is the best spot on the track to show off the city on worldwide television. It is the racing image that says St. Petersburg — and no place else. • Though there are other street circuits in IndyCar, Turn 10 is a landmark for the drivers, too, and a tough one. • "The wall comes back at you on exit. It's pretty unforgiving," IndyCar driver and St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais said. "You can't just brush and get off of it. You're going to be grabbed by the tires, and that's going to be that. It's tough braking, very bumpy on the approach. Not an easy corner. I remember a corner being similar to it in Vancouver (in Champ Car), but not too many (are like it). • "It's kind of unique."

Turn 10's impact on the grand prix of St. Petersburg

The action

Turn 10 became the place to be pretty quickly, late in the inaugural IndyCar race in 2005. Rookie Ryan Briscoe led until Tony Kanaan tried to make a move on him under braking. Briscoe wound up in the tires, and Kanaan wound up going wide enough to let Dan Wheldon pass him on the way to victory.

"I made the move for the lead. He blocked me, and we hit," Kanaan recalled Friday. "I was lucky to (not hit) the wall. By doing that, I lost a position to Dan. It was the right place at the right time. (Wheldon) took the opportunity, and he went for it. Back in the day, it was a 1-2-3-4 (finish) for Andretti Green, so it was awesome."

The turn has bitten plenty of other drivers. Last year, James Jakes made contact with the tire barrier, ending his race on Lap 20. Alex Lloyd (2010) had his race end there. And in 2008, Vitor Meira, Franck Perera and Townsend Bell got in a multicar wreck and Ed Carpenter spun in a separate incident, knocking them all out of the race.

The celebration

Last year, Helio Castroneves had one of his most memorable fence-climbing celebrations at Turn 10 as the fans roared.

"I remember everything," Castroneves said recently. "The previous two years (after victories here), I stopped near Turn 1. I just don't know why I didn't stop there. I had no idea. I ended up stopping near Turn 10. I saw a lot of the crowd, a lot of people cheering. As I'm coming down the fence, one of the workers said, 'Why don't you climb over there? Look.' He just said, 'Look.'

"It was the Wheldon sign. I'm like, come on. This is amazing. I had no idea. I just felt why I didn't go there instead of here? That was my only logical spot."

The scene

Turn 10 is one-stop shopping for seeing the boats on the marina, getting a glimpse of the skyline, buying souvenirs and smelling the food at various stalls.

That smell has more of a reach than one might suspect.

"It's funny sometimes. When people are barbecuing, you kind of have the smoke coming over. You can smell what is going on," driver Simona de Silvestro said. "So it's pretty fun at a street course because you get to experience all these things.

"I always think it's cool because the fans … there's a grandstand looking right at you when you're braking. I think that's pretty special. When we do a cool-down lap, I always look up and it's cool to see all the people."

The newest attraction, just behind the grandstand, is the Dan Wheldon monument and adjacent Victory Circle monument, which the city dedicated on Thursday.

And of course, there's the sign attached to the fence, the one Helio Castroneves made famous after winning last year's race.

"I think the first few laps in practice, you kind of always think about Dan," de Silvestro said.

"I looked at (the sign) a few times last year and this year," driver Tony Kanaan said. "I try not to think (about it) too much because when you're driving the car, you've got to concentrate on your stuff. I know that's his street, and it's in my mind and in my heart."

Times staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.

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