ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—For the tenth straight year IndyCars will scream through the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida at nearly 200 mph.
Since 2005, St. Pete, normally known for yachts, beaches, and the Dali Museum, has transformed its waterfront into a temporary racetrack, a tricky 1.8-mile, 14-turn concrete-lined course which punishes any lack of precision and rewards bravura overtaking maneuvers
For the fifth year Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the first race of IndyCar’s season. Fans tired of winter flock to Florida to see the their favorite stars, some with new teams or sponsors, and this year, all with updated Honda or Chevrolet engines which make more horsepower and promise more speed and excitement.
This year sees veteran Tony Kanaan joining the powerful Target-Ganassi team alongside three-time series champion Scott Dixon, while former IndyCar and F1 star Juan Pablo Montoya has returned to the series, joining the equally powerful Penske Racing squad, where he teams up with Helio Castroneves and Will Power.
The third leg of the IndyCar power-team triad, Andretti Autosport, brings back 2012 champ Ryan Hunter-Reay with Marco Andretti and 2013 St. Pete GP winner James Hinchcliffe, plus rookie sensation Carlos Munoz, who qualified and finished second in the 2013 Indy 500.
Andretti Autosport shocked everyone when the team switched from Chevrolet to Honda engines over the off-season. The team gambled that the new twin Turbo Honda V6 would equal or outperform the Chevy engines it had been using. The team was quick in pre-season testing, but St. Pete will be the first real test.
In total 22 cars will take the green flag at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 30. Tickets are available through the St. Pete GP website, and the race will air live on ABC starting at 3 p.m.
Speeding Sports Cars and Flying Trucks
2013 Pirelli World Challenge GT champion Johnny O’Connell will be back in his Cadillac CTS-V.R, battling the world’s top sports car racers for the win at St. Pete. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
There is a lot more racing on the weekend schedule than just IndyCar.
All three Road to Indy series: Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, and USF 2000 will be racing. Indy Lights races Sunday, while the other two series are each up for two races, Saturday and Sunday.
Another regular participant at St. Pete GP weekend is the Pirelli World Challenge sports car series, which will be kicking off its 25th season with a pair of races at St. Pete. World Challenge features some amazing vehicles: its top classes, GT and GTA offer race versions of iconic street cars from Porsche, McLaren, Cadillac, Audi, and Ferrari; also Acura, BMW, Nissan, and SRT Viper.
Pirelli World Challenge’s GTS class is often a fight between American muscle car icons, the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
The GTS class includes American muscle cars like the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang facing off against Porsche Caymans, Aston Martins, Nissan 370Zs, and even a Scion FR-S and a pair of very quick Kia Optimas.
With 52 cars fighting for position around St. Pete’s narrow 1.8-mile track, intense action is guaranteed.
Pirelli World Challenge races, twice Saturday at 8 a.m. and Sunday at 11:25 a.m. These races will be streamed live on www.world-challengeTV.com and broadcast on NBCSN on April 6 at 5:30 p.m.
New to the streets of St. Pete will be the SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road Presented by Traxxas Stadium Super Trucks.
These monstrous four-wheel-drive racing trucks will launch off man-made ramps at 100 mph to fly 150 feet through the air before skittering through the corners on three wheels and dashing away, propelled by their 600 horsepower engines, to tackle the next obstacle.
SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road starts its second season at St. Pete. The series was started in 2012 by IndyCar, NASCAR, and off-road race Robby Gordon focusing on two things—fair, low-cost racing for the drivers and a huge thrill for the fans.
The drivers get identical trucks, so driver skill is all that determines success—no one can spend more money and buy better equipment to win. The series owns and maintains the trucks, so the drivers just show up and go wild behind the wheel.
The series is tremendously fun for the drivers, but it is the fans who get the best of the deal. Seeing the full-sized, overpowered pick-ups blast through tight corners and hurtle through the air provides a visceral thrill which affects everyone. You don’t need to be a racing fan to appreciate seeing a ton and a half of screaming truck fly 20 feet over your head, bounce down 150 feet away, pirouette, and race back at you at 130 mph.
The Stadium Super Trucks race at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.