Five things to know about St. Petersburg

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After 175 days since the season finale at Sonoma Raceway, IndyCar will swing back into action on the streets and runways of St Petersburg, Fla.

The first of four street courses (along with Long Beach, Belle Isle and Toronto), this 1.8-mile circuit has hosted races since 2005. It kicked off the season in 2009 and every year since 2011. Getting off to a strong start on the Streets of St. Pete does not necessarily translate to season-long success in part because most of the temporary circuits are front-loaded in the year while ovals and permanent road courses dominate the second half.

Here are five things to know about this week’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg:

  1. St. Petersburg has been won in back-to-back seasons three times, but no one has ever won three consecutive. Sebastien Bourdais won in 2017 and 2018. The first 12 runnings of this race were won from a starting position of 9th or better. The last two have been won from 21st in 2017 and 14th in 2018.
  2. In 14 races, four drivers have multiple wins at St. Petersburg: Will Power, Bourdais and Juan Pablo Montoya have two; Helio Castroneves has three. The winner of this race has gone on to win the championship three times: Dan Wheldon in 2005, Dario Franchitti in 2011 and Power in 2014.
  3. This race has been won from the pole only twice (Castroneves in 2007 and Power in 2010) and from the outside pole once (Franchitti in 2011).
  4. Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan are the only drivers to start every race on this track. Kanaan has been running at the finish of all but one of those races. Dixon has retired four times.
  5. Ten countries are represented among 24 entrants: the United States with 10 (three from California, two from Ohio and Florida with one each from Tennessee, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, England has three, there are two each from Brazil, Sweden and France, plus one each from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates and Japan.

MORE: Sebastien Bourdais hopes another fast start lasts all season 
MORE: Five things to watch for in the 2019 IndyCar season 

 

 

NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series begins on March 10 with the Streets of St. Petersburg at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app. Watch the entire 2019 IndyCar season on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.