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.

IndyCar: Tony Kanaan’s ‘Last Lap’ begins at Texas Motor Speedway

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The streak lives for Tony Kanaan. At least for one more race.

With Kanaan running only ovals during his farewell IndyCar season in 2020 – which has been dubbed the “Last Lap” – his record streak of 317 consecutive Indy-car starts was to end with the season opener March 15 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Fate had other plans. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced the postponement of St. Pete (now the season finale in October) amid the shutdown of American sports.

IndyCar has made multiple changes to its 2020 schedule since then, and as a result, Kanaan is getting an opportunity to extend his “Ironman” streak.

The 2004 NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner is set for career start No. 318 on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway – driving the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet alongside the team’s new full-season driver, Charlie Kimball, in the No. 4 Chevy.

“A lot of people ask me how I coped with the delay of the season,” Kanaan said Monday in an IndyCar Zoom news conference. “To be honest, I was mentally prepared already because my first real race was going to be the [Indy] 500. My mind was already set for May.

“I only really had to delay, what, a couple of weeks from what I was originally scheduled to do. For me, I think it wasn’t as hard as for the other guys that were already in St. Pete, ready to go.”

But while his mindset is locked in, Kanaan notes that he’s been out of a race car for eight months. In fact, as of Monday, he hadn’t sat in a car fitted with the new Aeroscreen cockpit protection system.

However, he is no stranger to the wild and woolly action at Texas. Ditto for his new-slash-old teammate, Kimball: The two competed together at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2014-17.

That experience is something A.J. Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt is grateful to have on his side.

“Going into this race, it’s huge,” Foyt said. “Especially with the one-day show, everything is accelerated, and going to a big track like Texas, having a guy like Charlie sit on the pole there [in 2017], knows his way around there, and obviously TK is very good there, as well.

“It’s a little bit of peace of mind for sure. Anything can happen, but the engineering group has been working really well together. We’re really hopeful we’re going to unload and get these guys some good cars out of the box. That’s the plan.”

Speaking of Kimball, the Californian is set to revive his full-time career in the sport after making just seven starts last season with Carlin.

He’s enjoyed his unexpected free time at home with his wife, Kathleen, and their two children, Hannah and newborn son Gordon, who arrived in March. But he’s grateful to get back in the car – and to accompany Tony on his ‘last lap.’

“We’re friends off the track,” Charlie said. “We train together. He’s gotten me addicted to riding a bicycle on a computer game, but also our wives are friends, and I think our families when we can get together and the kids can play, I think they’re going to interact really well. I’m excited for his daughter Nina to spend some time with our daughter.

“And the experience – I mean, he’s taught me things and I’ve learned a lot from him about how to restart on ovals and what you can and what you should and shouldn’t do and what he still does. That experience is invaluable to me to continue to learn and get better. I just feel really honored to be his teammate during his last lap, especially when we get back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500.”

The NTT IndyCar Series season begins Saturday night from Texas Motor Speedway with the Genesys 300 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. The race will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.