Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Round 1 of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship
Green Flag: 3:27 p.m. ET
Weather Forecast: Sunny, mid-70s
Circuit: 1.8 miles, 14 turns
Race Distance: 110 laps, 198 miles
Now with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Indianapolis 500 champ Tony Kanaan has another chance – maybe his last – to claim a second Verizon IndyCar Series crown. He’s starting second on the grid today in the No. 10 Target Chevrolet, and a win in St. Petersburg would legitimize his bid for the championship – not to mention prove that he’s still got plenty of muscle on road/street courses.
EYE ON THE ROOKIES
Two of the four rookies – Carlos Munoz, who led this morning’s final warmup, and Jack Hawksworth – will be starting toward the front of the field. The other two rookies, Mikhail Aleshin and Carlos Huertas, are starting farther back. It’s always interesting to see how newbies fare on track with their veteran competitors in race conditions and, also, how they’ll handle their first pit stops.
IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN
Saturday’s major storm in the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg region has effectively turned the 1.8-mile street circuit into a green race track, and that could make an impact right at the start as the field fights for grip while heading into the right-hand Turn 1. Drivers may be on their tip-toes for a bit until the circuit begins to rubber up.
GET THE RHYTHM
Drivers can throw the race away in the ‘rhythm section’ of the course – Turns 5 through 9. It’s very tight confines in there and should drivers somehow clip the inside walls at 8 and 9, they might get sent toward the outside walls and into the path of other competitors. Nailing 9 is key, as it leads into the backstretch run to a prime passing zone at Turn 10.
NO CLEAR FAVORITE
Four different competitors topped the practice sessions going into this afternoon’s race: James Hinchcliffe (starting 21st), pole sitter Takuma Sato, Ryan Briscoe (starting ninth), and Munoz (starting seventh). And the field has been tightly packed behind them in those practices.