The date every Verizon IndyCar Series enthusiast is looking forward to is March 13. That’s when the 2016 season gets underway with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
But before there can be a race, there needs to be a track.
Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya was on hand in St. Petersburg, Florida on Tuesday to help get the track construction process underway. Montoya joined St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Green Savoree Promotions co-owners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree in wearing hard hats to note the occasion.
“It’s very nice to be here in St. Petersburg and see the racetrack, see the city,” Montoya told IndyCar.com. “The city is really pretty. Preparing for the first race is huge, last year was a great race for me and a great crowd. Hopefully we’ll have a great crowd and a great race weekend (this year) as well.”
How the track is constructed relies on traffic flow in the city located west of Tampa. The ceremony took place in Bay Shore Drive, a low traffic area and will conclude in areas close to Albert Whitted Airport, where the track occupies one runway.
When it’s all done, the area will have become a 1.8-mile, 14-turn circuit. Montoya won the 2015 race to start last season. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has been held every year since 2003 except for 2004. This year will be the eighth time it has opened the IndyCar season.
“It’s a great way to start the season,” Montoya said. “We do about three or four street courses a year and this is one of the most fun ones, for sure.”
Talon Hawkins, 19, will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut on a 250 this week in Houston, Texas as a fill-in rider for Jalek Swoll.
During the Anaheim 2 weekend, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team announced Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken arm suffered in a practice crash.
That same weekend, Hawkins made some noise. He took the lead from teammate Casey Cohran on Lap 2 of the 250 SX Futures Main and led for three laps before he was overtaken by eventual winner Daxton Bennick. Cochran also got around him to push Hawkins to third.
This will not be Hawkins SuperMotocross professional debut, however; he made three Lucas Oil Pro Motocross starts last year with results of 19th at Spring Creek in Millville, Minnesota, 27th at Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana and a best finish of 17th in the season finale at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.
Hawkins also has a top-10 finish in the 125 All-Star division at Pala in 2019 riding a Husqvarna.
Speaking with RacerXOnline.com before the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals, Hawkins predicted his future with Husqvarna would come down to how he performed in that race.
“It all just comes down to how I perform at Loretta’s,” Hawkins said. “Say I do really well, I get a top three in both classes and do a pretty solid job, I would like to go pro and just kind of finish out the rest of the series. But there’s also the option of waiting a little bit longer, going back out to [Aldon] Baker’s [Factory] or going anywhere and training, and just being prepared. I’m also open to that too. Honestly, it’s whatever the team wants. Whatever we think is the best option is what we’re going to go with. So, I don’t really have a plan right now, just looking into the future.”
Hawkins finished third overall in the 125 B/C and Schoolboy divisions at the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals.