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Fast Facts: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

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Courtesy of INDYCAR PR, here’s all you need to know ahead of this weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ first round of the new 2016 season:

Track: 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit (clockwise)
Race distance: 110 laps / 198 miles
Entry List:  Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Click link to download Entry List PDF)
Push-to-pass parameters: 10 activations for 15 seconds each
Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, three sets alternate
Twitter: @GPSTPETE, @IndyCar, #FirestoneGP, #IndyCar
Event website: www.gpstpete.com
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com
2015 race winner: Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet)
2015 Verizon P1 Award winner: Will Power (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) 1 minute, 0.6931 seconds (106.676 mph) in Firestone Fast Six.
Qualifying lap record: Will Power (1:00.6509; 106.841 mph) set on March 28, 2015, in Segment 2 qualifying.

ABC race broadcast: Sunday, March 13 (12:30 p.m. ET). Allen Bestwick is the lead announcer for ESPN on ABC broadcasts for the third consecutive year alongside analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr. Pit reporters are Rick DeBruhl, Dr. Jerry Punch and Jon Beekhuis.

Video Streaming: All practice sessions for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be available on the INDYCAR YouTube channel www.youtube.com/indycar and RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Qualifying for races telecast by ABC will also be available via live streaming.

Radio broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying is broadcast on Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com,indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions plus Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires practice and qualifying are on IndyCar.com,indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

At-track schedule (all times local): 

Friday, March 11

10:50 a.m.-12:05 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)
3:40-4:55 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)

Saturday, March 12

11:55 a.m.-12:40 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)
3:40 p.m. (Three rounds of qualifications)

Sunday, March 13

9-9:30 a.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series warm-up)
12:30 p.m. ABC on air
12:52 p.m. Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg green flag

Race Notes:

* Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing begins defense of his 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship at St. Petersburg. Dixon, the longest-tenured driver for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, captured the title in thrilling fashion, winning the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma to finish in a tie with Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya in points. Dixon earned the championship by virtue of more race wins in the season. Dixon’s four season championships tie him with greats Mario Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti for second on the all-time Indy car list, trailing only the seven titles collected by A.J. Foyt. Dixon, is fifth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 38. He has three runner-up finishes at St. Petersburg but has never won at the circuit.

* With seven victories in 12 races at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Team Penske is the winningest Verizon IndyCar Series team at St. Petersburg. Four Team Penske drivers have visited Victory Lane at St. Petersburg. Helio Castroneves has won three times at the venue (2006, 2007, 2012), while Will Power has two St. Pete wins to his credit (2010, 2014). Juan Pablo Montoya won the 2015 season opener at St. Petersburg after qualifying fourth. Ryan Briscoe opened the 2009 season with a victory for Team Penske. Chip Ganassi Racing has won four of the last 11 Verizon IndyCar Series openers (Homestead: 2006, 2007, 2008; St. Pete: 2011).

* Team Penske has won the pole position for six of the last nine St. Petersburg races, including four of the last five poles with Power. The St. Petersburg winner has qualified fourth the last three seasons.

* Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 250th consecutive race, which would extend his Indy car-record streak that began in 2001 at Portland. Dixon has made 191 consecutive starts.

* After a record-tying 11 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers scored wins in 2014, there were nine different winners in the 16 races of 2015. An equally tight competition is projected for the 2016 season.

* Four drivers will make their first start this weekend at St. Petersburg – Max Chilton, Conor Daly, Alexander Rossi and Spencer Pigot. All are Sunoco Rookie of the Year award candidates. Daly has competed in six Verizon IndyCar Series races and makes his full-season debut with Dale Coyne Racing. Pigot was the 2015 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion and has won at the track five times in Mazda Road to Indy series. Chilton, who joins Chip Ganassi Racing after a year in Indy Lights, and Rossi, who races with Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, both competed in Formula One.

* The 2016 season will be the second in which aerodynamic bodywork component kits are used. The aero kits, produced by engine manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda for their respective supplied teams, are the latest technical innovation to enhance on-track performance through competitive aerodynamic development. Each manufacturer produces two kits for teams – one for short ovals/road courses/street courses and another for superspeedway ovals – but within each kit, teams have multiple component options available.

* The second season of aero kit competition complements the fifth year of engine manufacturer competition between Chevrolet and Honda with their 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines. It will be another season testing speed and durability to determine the manufacturer champion.

* The overtake assist, or “push-to-pass,” for each car has increased by 20 horsepower to a total of 60 horsepower for 2016. Drivers may engage their overtake assist a total of 10 times during the race.

* The 2015 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the 13th Indy car race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Paul Tracy won the inaugural race on Feb. 23, 2003, under CART sanction. Sebastien Bourdais, entered in this year’s race, started from the pole. He is a St. Petersburg resident. With the exception of 2004, the race has been run every year since.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).