IndyCar

IndyCar’s 2020 season finale will be Oct. 25 on streets of St. Petersburg

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Once scheduled to open the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will wrap the schedule on Sunday, Oct. 25.

IndyCar announced the new date Wednesday with a release that the race will be held with fans. Race organizers said tickets for the previous March 13-15 race weekend will be honored on corresponding days.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said, “I am confident that the race will occur in a manner that puts public health at the forefront.”

Last week, IndyCar confirmed its season opener will be June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway without fans in attendance.

After initially planning to be run without fans, the original season opener at St. Petersburg was placed on hold May 13 as the sports world was shut down by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Two weeks later, IndyCar announced a revised schedule with the streets of St. Petersburg designated as the season finale at a fall date to be determined.

St. Petersburg resident Kris Hansel took these photos last month of the Grand Prix grandstands left in place several weeks after the race was postponed.

Though reconstructing a street course can take weeks, the city of St. Petersburg has left many of its grandstands up along the layout.

Mark Miles, CEO of the company that runs IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said the support of Mayor Kriseman had made the logistics possible for returning to St. Petersburg.

“He’s an IndyCar fan,” Miles said of Kriseman during a March 26 news conference. “He’s a true believer in the value of a race at St. Petersburg for his community.

“They just never gave up. They’re making some arrangements that make it more feasible logistically. I think they’ll try to keep up some of their stands, not completely reset as I thought they might have had to. The key was their persistence and their appreciation for what (the race) brings to them.”

Here’s the release from IndyCar:

INDIANAPOLIS (May 13, 2020) – The 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion will be crowned Sunday, Oct. 25 at the rescheduled Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The new date for the series finale was confirmed today by officials from INDYCAR, Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC (GSSP) and the City of St. Petersburg.

This will be the 16th consecutive year that an INDYCAR event will take place on the streets of beautiful St. Petersburg, as the exciting race weekend has become a fan favorite on the annual schedule and a fixture in the region. The original date for the event, Sunday, March 15, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The streets of St. Petersburg will make for a fitting and action-packed finale in a venue and city that our entire INDYCAR community holds dear,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “We extend our thanks and gratitude to Mayor Kriseman, Green Savoree and Firestone for working with us to find a new date for the event. It’s going to be a fantastic weekend of INDYCAR action, and I know our drivers will have race day in St. Pete circled on their calendars.”

This will be the first time the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will serve as the exciting series finale, as the event traditionally has started the season.

“The City of St. Petersburg stands ready to welcome back the fans of INDYCAR, drivers, teams and sponsors in October,” said City of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “I want to thank our partners at Green Savoree Racing Promotions for believing in this race and giving the residents of the Sunshine City something to look forward to. I am confident that the race will occur in a manner that puts public health at the forefront.”

Said Lisa Boggs, director of motorsports, Bridgestone Americas, parent company of event sponsor Firestone: “We greatly appreciate the efforts of Green Savoree Racing Promotions, INDYCAR, Mayor Kriseman and the City of St. Petersburg to find a new date for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Coming back to the streets of St. Pete to close the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season is a great way to thank the incredible fans in this area for their support. While we couldn’t kick off the season with them as planned, we now look forward to crowning the 2020 INDYCAR champion together in October.”

Previously purchased tickets to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be valid on the corresponding days of the postponed event. Ticket purchasers on file will receive instructions via email. Additional event information and customer FAQs will be posted at gpstpete.com.

“Having a rescheduled date for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is a very positive development,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of GSSP, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “This could only happen because of our partners’ commitment and support at City of St. Petersburg, INDYCAR and Firestone. We hope this offers both Floridians and our race fans something to look forward to later this year as we navigate through these unprecedented times for us all.”

Said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of GSSP: “Thank you to our fans for their patience and understanding as we’ve worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council, the City of St. Petersburg’s event team, INDYCAR and Firestone. It’s been a terrific team effort by all, and we appreciate the opportunity to host the event again this fall in one of the most fantastic settings in downtown St. Petersburg.”

The rest of the updated INDYCAR calendar for 2020 remains on schedule for competition. The season starts Saturday night, June 6 with the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. To view the full calendar, click here.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?