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Firestone Indy Lights features competitive field
The Firestone Indy Lights field for the season opener at St. Petersburg may be one of the most competitive in series history from top to bottom.

St. Petersburg will be a highly sought-after victory to start the season, with the last three winners at St. Pete going on to take the championship. Reigning title-holder Schmidt Peterson Motorsports enters the season with the top-three championship finishers from the 2012 Pro Mazda season - champion Jack Hawksworth, runner-up Gabby Chaves and long-time standout Sage Karam.

Returning with its same lineup for most of 2012 is Belardi Auto Racing, who welcomes back veterans Peter Dempsey and Jorge Goncalvez. 2013 will mark Dempsey's first year in the series with a full-season ride at a single team.

"I feel like I've been training harder than ever, and my mindset is in a completely new place because I know I am fighting for a championship title and not just running race by race," Dempsey said. "The field is going to be very competitive this year, so it will be important for us to make sure we bring everything we have to every race weekend. I'm really pumped up to get the season started."

Just recently signed is Florida's Ethan Ringel, who will drive the No. 22 Team Moore Racing entry alongside teammate Juan Pablo Garcia. Ringel spent last season in the GP3 series, and returns to the U.S. to pursue the path up the Mazda Road to Indy.

Fastest in the series' two Open Tests during the offseason was Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz, who will compete the full season in Firestone Indy Lights and also pull double-duty in May by attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. He is the only driver on the entry list with a Firestone Indy Lights race win, collecting two last year in Edmonton and Auto Club Speedway.

"I am very excited to start up again this season," Munoz said. "I think we have a good package for St. Pete, and I have been looking forward to this race during this long off season. I believe that I will be much stronger now that this is my second year with Andretti Autosport, and I am in a good position to fight for a win."

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