ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A few updates from the day at St. Petersburg, where a mix of pre-event items took place and on-track running occurred in the afternoon:
- Spoke with both Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud today of Team Penske. Montoya discussed the caliber of competition and noting how much tougher it is to win now versus the last time he won a championship in 1999 (had seven wins, and won on a tiebreaker). “If you’ve got four great drivers at Team Penske and 15, 16 races, there’s a reduction right there,” he said, among other notes as he and Pagenaud prepare for the season.
- Also caught up with Alexander Rossi of Andretti-Herta Autosport. More will follow from him tomorrow, but the American is prepared and focused on IndyCar ahead of his series debut this weekend.
- Both Conor Daly and Luca Filippi are optimistic Dale Coyne Racing and Honda have made gains after a successful Sebring test.
- KVSH Racing confirmed GEICO will continue with the team for a ninth consecutive season, extending a partnership that dates to 2008.
- The silver Verizon Team Penske liveries for Montoya and Will Power look even better in person.
- INDYCAR announced additional programming details for 2016; more should follow with regards to our NBCSN coverage in a separate post.
- From a track walk today, there doesn’t appear to be any major changes to the surface or any of the curbs. We’ll know for sure how the drivers react tomorrow after first practice.
- ArmsUp Motorsports announced its Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda plans, with Victor Franzoni and Max Hanratty anticipated for full season efforts and with Danny Weyls and Dale VandenBush set to run in the National Class at the Indianapolis Grand Prix weekend and Road America. Zachary Claman DeMelo also tested one of ArmsUp’s USF2000 cars – formerly James Dayson’s – during today’s test.
- Anthony Martin topped the lone practice session, which like others on Thursday was truncated due to lunch time activities delay (cut from 30 minutes to 20 minutes).
- Had some positive chats with Scott Hargrove (Team Pelfrey) and Zach Veach (Belardi Auto Racing) in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires paddock. Neither driver is yet officially confirmed for the full season, though the intention and goals for both are to do just that. Veach won here in 2014, for his first career Indy Lights win.
- Also met the quartet of Team Pelfrey’s USF2000 crew – it will be fascinating to watch the growth and development of Robert Megennis, Jordan Cane, TJ Fischer and James Munro. Pabst Racing’s Jordan Lloyd is also excited to be back after his extended hiatus last year.
- Patrick Long’s EFFORT Racing is team is working tirelessly to repair its Porsche 911 GT3 R, damaged last weekend at Circuit of The Americas. Long tested in teammate Michael Lewis’ Porsche on Thursday but is not expected to have his car back until mid-day at the earliest.
- Austin Cindric of K-PAX Racing returns to St. Petersburg for the first time since 2014. Cindric, 17, is keen to break a drought of tough races regardless of series (PWC, Bathurst 12 Hour, NASCAR Camping World Trucks and Red Bull Global Rallycross Lites division) since last September. He’s raced twice at St. Petersburg in USF2000 (2013 and 2014).
- All PWC sessions were delayed and truncated today due to the lunchtime delays. As last year, it’s the GT/GTA/GT Cup and GTS classes on hand here this weekend.
Rising Star Racing’s trio of Josef Newgarden, Spencer Pigot and Neil Alberico assisted Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Louis Murphy in changing tires on the two-seater IndyCar.
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Awesome time @gpstpete so far with @tbbuccaneers wide receiver Louis Murphy Jr. @_one8_ !!! Cool to hear Louis' dad is going to be saying the prayer before the race on Sunday! Thanks for the Bucs official @nfl jersey, can't wait to warm the bench for you guys this season!!!!
Chicanery and pranks are already underway between a couple teams. Andretti Autosport exercised this one on Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, with James Hinchcliffe’s bike being moved to a pedestrian bridge.
Here’s what the USF2000 cars looked like rolling out…
… and here’s what Parker Thompson’s car (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) looks like after a rare accident during the session.
More to come tomorrow from St. Petersburg.