Various mechanical issues spoil Hinchcliffe’s St. Petersburg title defense

1 Comment

James Hinchcliffe’s defense attempt of his 2013 win at St. Petersburg was never really able to get going in the manner he or his Andretti Autosport team would have liked.

Hinchcliffe was fastest in first practice on Friday, but his weekend took a turn off course after an accident in qualifying on Saturday. It left him 19th on the grid for his first race in the newly reliveried white-and-blue No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda, and his first race with new engineer Nathan O’Rourke.

Mechanical issues kept him from getting going almost from the start, which dropped him three laps off the lead. Although he was able to resume and get the pace going, it was a lost day to end in exactly the same place he started.

“At the end there, the United Fiber & Data car got even better,” Hinchcliffe said post-race. “We were going to be so strong at the end of this race if we had been in contention. You could see at the end there we were keeping pace with some of the guys; it’s unfortunate to see it like that. More yellows might have helped keep us on the lead lap, maybe. We could have taken advantage if some more guys have problems with their tires in the end.”

Hinchcliffe missed the 2011 St. Pete race as he was still finalizing a budget for his rookie year; in 2012, he made his Andretti team debut as the replacement for both Danica Patrick and the late Dan Wheldon in the GoDaddy Chevrolet, and finished fourth.

The weekend wasn’t a total loss though, as he was honored at the St. Petersburg winner’s display behind pit lane.

IndyCar’s season finale at St. Pete approved to have 20,000 fans

IndyCar St. Pete fans
Chris Jones/IndyCar
Leave a comment

The NTT IndyCar Series’ season finale will be permitted up to 20,000 fans, making the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg possibly the circuit’s most well-attended race of 2020. The race originally was scheduled as the season opener before being moved to Oct. 25 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IndyCar has enjoyed limited crowds at Road America, Iowa Speedway, Gateway, Mid-Ohio and this weekend’s doubleheader races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which could have up to 10,000 fans in attendance. That had been the largest maximum grandstand crowd for an IndyCar race this season.

At a St. Petersburg city council meeting Thursday, Mayor Rick Kriseman approved plans by race organizers Green Savoree Racing Promotions to hold the Oct. 23-25 weekend for the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Pete with 20,000 fans who would follow health and safety protocols that include mandatory temperature checks and masks.

 “My thanks to Green Savoree Racing Promotions and IndyCar for their flexibility and resilience during this challenging time,” Kriseman said in a release. “I know that everyone is excited to get back on the track in St. Pete. I can’t wait for Oct. 23rd. I know everyone will embrace this race the St. Pete way, adhering to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Let’s have some great racing in the Sunshine City.”

Paddock and the pit lane will remain closed to spectators, and social distancing of at least 6 feet will be observed on site.

“Our entire team greatly appreciates the patience and understanding of our ticket holders as we worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council and local health officials,” Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree Promotions. “It’s important for everyone who attends to read and follow all the COVID-19 protocols to contribute to a fun, safe and successful event for us all.”

“The ongoing guidance and support of Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and the City of St. Petersburg’s event team have been phenomenal,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of Green Savoree Promotions. “We also would not be in this position to move this spring tradition to fall without Firestone’s unwavering commitment and dedication. It’s going to be a terrific weekend again in downtown St. Pete in three weeks featuring world-class racing from INDYCAR.”