School will be back in session for the NTT IndyCar Series’ vaunted rookie class Sunday — here are the important start times and stats for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The freshman trio of Jimmie Johnson, Romain Grosjean and Scott McLaughlin will be in the 24-driver field, but it’ll be the second career start for McLaughlin. The three-time Supercars champion made his IndyCar debut on the 1.8-mile street course with Team Penske last October, finishing 22nd in a crash.
This is the 17th consecutive year that St. Petersburg’s downtown circuit has played host to IndyCar. Josef Newgarden has won the past two events, joining WIll Power (2010, ’14), Sebastien Bourdais (2017-18), Helio Castroneves (2006, ’07, ’12) and Juan Pablo Montoya (2015-16) as multiple winners.
DISTANCE: The race is 100 laps (181 miles) on a 14-turn, 1.8-mile street course east in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.
TIRE ALLOTMENT: Six sets primary, four sets alternate. One additional set is available to rookie drivers for use in the Friday afternoon practice session.
PUSH TO PASS: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation. The push-to-pass is not available on the initial start or any restart unless it occurs in the final two laps or three minutes of a timed race. The feature increases the power of the engine by approximately 60 horsepower
FORECAST: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 79 degrees with a 24% chance of rain at the green flag.
PRACTICE: 9:45-10:30 a.m. ET Saturday, live on Peacock Premium
WARMUP: 9:05-9:35 a.m. ET Sunday, live on Peacock Premium
QUALIFYING: 1:45 p.m. ET Saturday, live on Peacock Premium; tape delay on NBCSN at 10 p.m.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.