St. Petersburg GP Friday Notebook
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster will wave the green flag to start the sixth Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Foster, 46, a longtime local attorney, was elected in 2009 to lead Florida's fourth-largest city. He succeeded Rick Baker, a former Indianapolis resident, who was instrumental in bringing the IZOD IndyCar Series race to the city streets.
ABC will broadcast the first of its five IZOD IndyCar Series races this weekend. Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear will be the announcers.
ABC's schedule also includes the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, marking the 46th consecutive year that "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" will air on ABC, as well as events at Kansas Speedway, Watkins Glen International and Toronto.
Reporting from the pits will be Rick DeBruhl, Jamie Little and Vince Welch. For the Indianapolis 500, former race winner Eddie Cheever will be an analyst with Reid and Goodyear in the booth for the third year. Jerry Punch returns to Indy as a fourth pit reporter. Brent Musburger will host the Indy telecast.
SCOTT GOODYEAR: "The addition of road courses has put a lot more interest back into who's driving the car. Drivers can make up the difference and the deficiency sometimes in a car that's not very good on a road course, whereas on an oval, if you don't have a good car, you're generally not going to find yourself up toward the front. I look for some surprising teams to show some new strength this year in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and although they might not be fighting for wins each and every weekend, I think they're going to surprise some people by stealing some podium spots and maybe even stealing some race victories throughout the season." (About Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg): "At the end of the high-speed straightaway there, the runway, you have a great opportunity for passing. But it's also an opportunity for people to get themselves into trouble because they get over-anxious and over-drive the car. It's one of the best places to watch."
Dan Wheldon will launch his "Lionheart" photo book this weekend at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. At noon Saturday, Wheldon will make a 30-minute appearance at the IZOD IndyCar Series merchandise tent on Bayshore Drive to autograph copies of his limited-edition book.
DAN WHELDON: "This 'Lionheart' book has been three years in the making, so to launch it in my hometown at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is really exciting for me. Lionheart documents my IndyCar Series career starting with my rookie year in 2003 through my Indy 500 win, to this season with Panther Racing. It gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at my life both on and off the racetrack. I think people who buy this book are really going to enjoy the candid moments captured by photographer Michael Voorhees, and I can't thank him enough for his hard work and support on this project."
Ryan Briscoe and Team Penske will play host to several pilots from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa over the race weekend. Briscoe met the pilots earlier this month when he visited the base and had the opportunity to tour a KC-135 refueling plane during an advance media visit to promote the race.
Cottonelle will serve as the primary sponsor of the No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car of reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti this weekend. Franchitti will be making his 200th open-wheel racing start (86th in the IZOD IndyCar Series).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running backs Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Clifton Smith were among the riders in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater Thursday, March 25 on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit. Williams and Smith, a 2009 Pro Bowl selection, also plan to attend the race Sunday.
CLIFTON SMITH: (About Indy Racing Experience two-seater ride): "Man, what a ride. I was thrown from side to side. I'd love to do it again."
A total of $2,200 was raised for the not-for-profit Best Friends Animal Society in a charity endurance kart race at Andersen RacePark in Palmetto, Fla.
Members of the public were paired with professional racers. A team including Firestone Indy Lights driver Jonathan Summerton won the race.
The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and the USF2000 Championship will run on the same weekend with the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights for the first time in St. Petersburg as part of the Road to Indy program.
Both series also will run alongside the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights in June at Iowa Speedway. The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear opened its season last weekend at Sebring International Raceway with Tristan Vautier taking the checkered flag.
ESPN on ABC's coverage of the 2009 Indianapolis 500 recently earned two Sports Emmy Award nominations, in the Outstanding Live Sports Special and Outstanding Production Design/Art Direction categories.
Award winners will be announced Monday, April 26.
KV Racing Technology will return the famous Lotus name and colors to the Indianapolis 500 in May with driver Takuma Sato. Lotus won the 1965 Indianapolis 500 with Jim Clark behind the wheel.
Sato will debut the iconic green-and-yellow Lotus colors in the IZOD IndyCar Series this weekend at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
DANY BEHAR (CEO, Group Lotus, plc): "Racing has always defined Lotus, and on many occasions in motorsports history, Lotus' numerous innovations have redefined racing. It's only fitting that as the Lotus Racing name re-enters Formula One, we will also race and innovate again in IndyCar. The Lotus name will once again compete in the top two open-wheel racing series for the passion and enthusiasm of car fans around the globe."
Andretti Autosport announced today it has signed 15-year-old American driver Zach Veach as the team's second entry in the USF2000 National Championship presented by Cooper Tires and powered by Mazda. Veach's season will start May 29 at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis.
Veach joins Sage Karam, a 15-year-old driver from Nazareth, Pa., as a part of Andretti Autosport's debut in the new Road to Indy ladder system.
Veach, from Stockdale, Ohio, has been successful at various levels of karting and participated in an aggressive Formula BMW Americas testing program that included nearly 30 days on track. He was set in 2010 to become the youngest driver in the 37-year history of the Atlantic Championship before that series ceased operations in early March.
ZACH VEACH: "I am sure with the sanction of the Indy Racing League, a bright future is ahead for the USF2000 Series. I have dreamed of driving IndyCar since I was a small child and look at this opportunity as bringing me one step closer to this dream. To be able to compete in the series with a team like Andretti Autosport is incredibly humbling for me."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (President and CEO, Andretti Autosport): "We are extremely pleased to announce Zach as our newest USF2000 driver. His quick success in the go-karting world and Formula BMW series proves his commitment to a high level of racing. I think he'll have a smooth transition into the USF2000 series with Andretti Autosport, and I am confident he will grow to become an established part of the Indy Racing League through the Road to Indy ladder system."
For nearly 20 years, the Team USA Scholarship has served as a launching pad for young American drivers to immerse themselves in international auto racing.
That proven track record is why the Indy Racing League will lend its support the program through the Road to Indy ladder system.
Drivers such as Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice, Jeff Simmons, Phil Giebler, A.J. Allmendinger and J.R. Hildebrand have used the scholarship to gain notoriety at an early stage in their careers. Team USA Scholarship President Jeremy Shaw hopes that future scholarship winners can follow their path through the Road to Indy.
TONY GEORGE JR. (Manager of Business Development, Firestone Indy Lights): "The Team USA scholarship gives young drivers the opportunity during our offseason to go and gain valuable experience outside the country. Past scholarship winners have been successful at the upper levels of the sport and the more recent ones are coming back to race in the Road to Indy series, so it's a natural fit for us. The winners learn how to handle adversity in a completely new environment, and as we've learned from backing the program in Firestone Indy Lights the last two years, it is a successful program that we should support."
JEREMY SHAW (President, Team USA Scholarship): "I'm thrilled with what the Indy Racing League is doing with the Road to Indy system. It's absolutely perfect. There are really so many opportunities for young drivers to move on up, and I think it's great that they have managed to get back on site. In fact, two of our winners are both in the Star Mazda Championship. So I think it shows the system is there.