IndyCar stars, cars promote Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in downtown

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to generate buzz among fans ahead of the March 30 race.

"It's all trying to spread the word around," said Sebastien Bourdais, who finished 12th in last year's Izod IndyCar Series points race, "and get the community engaged, and to try to broaden a little bit the boundaries just to get a little wider and to get more fans. Mostly, (it's) to try and get people to realize what it's all about. What they're going to see if they come."

Wednesday's visit to Manatee County for Bourdais started at Anderson RacePark in Palmetto for a go-karting competition, which his team of media members and local dignitaries won, including one driver from AutoRacing1.com. That is three straight years now that the AutoRacing1.com team came out a winner in the go-kart event.

Other participating IndyCar drivers included Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin.

"It's the first race of the year, so the excitement is high," Pagenaud said of Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Pagenaud had a successful 2013 season that landed him in third place at season's end. He registered two victories.

Pagenaud also snagged eighth place at the Indianapolis 500, a race he said he'd like to win this season.

"It takes experience," Pagenaud said. "Guys like Tony Kanaan and (Helio) Castroneves and (Scott) Dixon, they've been around for 15 years. This is going to be my third time. I have the equipment, I have a great engine, and now it's going to be down to me to qualify well and do the job during the race."

Pagenaud just took part in the go-kart event in Palmetto, while Bourdais competed there before heading south to Old Main Street to mingle with fans.

"It's not in every series that you get to put your head into the cockpit of a car and see exactly how it is inside," Bourdais said. "… It's pretty neat."

Bourdais said the course for the St. Pete race, which is along the water downtown, is comparable to the Grand Prix of Monaco, a Formula One race.

"The scenery and the location, being on the water like that, it's not the typical U.S. street course," Bourdais said. "Because the usual street course in the U.S. is very rough, a lot of concrete, a lot of bumps and back in '03 when they set up the track they had to repave everything with nice asphalt. It's obviously aged. … It's still one of these places that doesn't look as rough as others and it's kind of a road course with no room for error. It's a pretty neat setup and a challenging track for sure."

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