IndyCar: Notes and numbers for St. Petersburg

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We’re four days away from the start of the new Verizon IndyCar Series season at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.).

With that in mind, here are some important notes and numbers to keep in mind going into Round 1 of the 2014 IndyCar championship, courtesy of the series…

Race Notes

  • The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the 11th Indy car race conducted on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • Previous race winners entered are James Hinchcliffe (2013), Helio Castroneves (2006, 2007 and 2012), Will Power (2010), Ryan Briscoe (2009) and Graham Rahal (2008).
  • Previous pole winners entered are Will Power (2010-13), Graham Rahal (2009), Tony Kanaan (2008), Helio Castroneves (2007) and Sebastien Bourdais (2003).
  • At least 17 drivers entered in the event have competed in previous Indy car races at St. Pete. Twelve (12) of those drivers have led laps: (Helio Castroneves 205, Ryan Briscoe 117, Scott Dixon 94, Will Power 93, Justin Wilson 70, Sebastien Bourdais 30, James Hinchcliffe 26, Graham Rahal 19, Tony Kanaan 15, Takuma Sato 11, Marco Andretti 5 and Ryan Hunter-Reay 4.)
  • Mikhail Aleshin, Jack Hawksworth, Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Munoz will compete in their first Verizon IndyCar Series race on the streets of St. Petersburg. Hawksworth won his Indy Lights debut on the track last season and won the Pro Mazda race in 2012.

Milestones And Records

  • With his next victory, defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon will tie Al Unser Jr., for sixth on the all-time wins list. Dixon, the active leader for wins, won his 33rd race at Houston’s Reliant Park in October 2013.
  • With a victory in 2014, Scott Dixon will extend his streak of consecutive seasons with a win to 10.
  • With his next victory, Sebastien Bourdais will move into sole possession of eighth place on the all-time wins list. Bourdais is tied with Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy with 31 wins.
  • With his next victory, Helio Castroneves will tie Rick Mears for 11th place on the all-time wins list. Castroneves won his 28th race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8, 2013.
  • Helio Castroneves needs two earned poles to reach 40 career poles in his Indy car career. Castroneves is the active leader with 38 pole positions.
  • With one pole in 2014, Scott Dixon will extend his Verizon IndyCar Series streak to eight consecutive seasons.
  • Tony Kanaan will attempt to make his 216th consecutive start, which would extend his all-time record (set last year in Baltimore). Scott Dixon with 157 straight starts (sixth all time), Marco Andretti with 133 straight starts (13th all time) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (tied for 19th) with 107 straight starts are the only active drivers with a streak of more than 100 consecutive starts.
  • Helio Castroneves is the active leader in starts with 277, which is eighth on the all-time list.
  • Tony Kanaan has 276 starts, which is ninth on the all-time list.
  • Tony Kanaan is the active leader in top-five finishes with 112, which is one behind Bobby Unser for eighth on the all-time list.
  • Helio Castroneves is tied with Rick Mears for 10th on the all-time list with 111 top-five finishes in his Indy car career.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.