As previously mentioned, today’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was one of four races on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule that received extended race distances over the off-season. 10 extra laps were added for IndyCar’s season-opening race, creating a 110-lap event and, in the process, altering pit strategies for everyone up and down the paddock.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull says that the extra laps will create a three-stop race.
“You just don’t know how much fuel you’re going to put in for each of those three stops,” Hull told Jim Tomlin of the Tampa Bay Times on Saturday. “But at some point, you’re going to put in less than a full tank of fuel. There were four or five people last year that did this race in two stops.”
There’s also the matter of determining the proper time to deploy that particular “short fill” strategy.
“You might jump four or five guys, but that’s not the part of the race you want to jump them,” Hull continued. “You want to jump them at the end.”
As for defending St. Pete champ Helio Castroneves, he also expects a three-stopper.
“Last year, I did it in two stops so it is going to be very, very difficult to do, which takes a little bit away from the strategy from other teams,” he said after qualifying fifth on Saturday. “At the same time, it adds a little bit more challenge in the beginning of the race. Instead of follow the leader, I do feel it’s going to be quite more [of a] challenge. But it’s still going to be competitive.”