The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is right back at it this weekend with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, April 25 on the action-packed streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.
The second race of the season comes on the heels of a thrilling season opener Sunday, April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park. With drivers on different fuel strategies, the race played out into a four-way duel among young stars seeking their first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES wins, Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward, and series veterans and champions Will Power and Scott Dixon. Palou earned that coveted first win in the No. 10 SEGI.TV Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, taking the checkered by just .4016 of a second over Power’s No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet.
Last season, Palou’s new teammate Dixon opened the year with three straight NTT INDYCAR SERIES wins. Can the Spaniard keep that trend going this weekend in St. Petersburg, or will the series see another first-time winner, such as O’Ward or newcomer Romain Grosjean? Or maybe a seasoned veteran such as Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden or Will Power will stand atop the podium at the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit?
The action starts Friday with NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice 1 at 4:15 p.m. ET (live on Peacock). The series has another practice session at 9:45 a.m. ET Saturday (live on Peacock), followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 1:45 p.m. ET (live on Peacock, tape-delayed on NBCSN at 10 p.m. ET). Coverage of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg starts at noon ET Sunday, live on NBC and INDYCAR Radio Network.
Here are five things to look for this weekend in St. Petersburg:
The Next Generation Is Here
The top six finishers in last week’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst were a mix of seasoned INDYCAR SERIES veterans and newcomers looking to steal the spotlight.
Wedged in between 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power (second), six-time champion Scott Dixon (third) and four-time champ Sebastien Bourdais (fifth) – all age 40 or older – were Alex Palou, 24 (winner), Pato O’Ward, 21 (fourth), and Rinus VeeKay, 20 (sixth).
Palou and O’Ward dominated the race, combining to lead 81 of the 90 laps. Palou was out front for 56, O’Ward for 25. VeeKay rebounded from being collected in a big Lap 1 accident to score one of the best finishes of his career.
It’s all proof that the next generation of NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes is here.
The real question is which of the many young stars of the series is next in line for their first career win, and does it happen again this weekend in St. Petersburg?
Newgarden looks for three-peat after choking at Barber
Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden had a weekend to forget at Barber, arguably his best track in the series. Newgarden started a Lap 1 melee in Turn 5 when he lost control of his No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet at the exit of the uphill corner.
It was a rare mistake by the three-time Barber Motorsports Park winner, but there’s no better place for Newgarden to rebound than at the track where he has won the last two races.
Newgarden won the 2019 and 2020 editions of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the latter of which was the season finale last October and continued a five-year trend of drivers winning back-to-back in Florida: Juan Pablo Montoya won in 2015-16 and Bourdais won in 2017-18 before Newgarden began to reign supreme.
Regardless of if he extends his winning streak or hands the top spot on the podium to another athlete, Newgarden’s rise from 23rd in the points standings must start this weekend.
Power Chasing Andretti’s pole record
Will Power is the greatest qualifier in modern INDYCAR history. His 62 career poles put him just five behind the all-time INDYCAR record of 67, set by the legendary Mario Andretti.
The tale of Power’s qualifying success can best be told through the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where he has won nine of the last 11 poles, including for the last two races.
The only two drivers to score a pole in the last 11 years in St. Petersburg not named Will Power are Takuma Sato in 2014 and Robert Wickens in 2018. In total, Team Penske has won the pole position in 10 of the past 14 St. Petersburg races.
Power has scored at least one pole position in each season since 2009, including five last year. It’s a sure bet that the 2014 series champion will come close to catching Andretti’s record this season, and don’t be surprised if his pursuit starts during NTT P1 Award qualifying Saturday afternoon.
St. Pete Second in Season-Defining Three-Race Stretch
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is the most diverse racing series on the planet, with a schedule full of permanent road courses, street circuits and ovals that challenge drivers like no other championship.
The start of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is representative of the season, with the first race coming last Sunday at the Barber Motorsports Park permanent road course, this weekend’s street circuit race in St. Petersburg and next weekend’s doubleheader oval event at Texas Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile superspeedway.
Each type of track demands something different from these athletes, but after this three-week stretch and heading into the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there will be some early indicators as to who might stand tall over the entire season.
This weekend will show who did their homework at off season tests at the rough and bumpy Sebring International Raceway and who we can expect to shine on street courses this season.
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Fast Facts
Race weekend: Friday, April 23 – Sunday, April 25
Track: Streets of St. Petersburg, 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit (clockwise) through downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, including a runway of Albert Whitted Airport.
Race distance: 100 laps / 181 miles
Push-to-pass parameters: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum single duration of 15 seconds. 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.
Firestone tire allotment: Six sets primary, four sets alternate. One additional set is available to rookie drivers for use in the Friday afternoon practice session.
Twitter: @GPSTPETE, @INDYCAR, #FirestoneGP, #INDYCAR
Event website: www.gpstpete.com
INDYCAR website: www.indycar.com
2020 race winner: Josef Newgarden, 2:06:12.5948, 85.572 mph
2020 NTT P1 Award winner: Will Power, 1:01.0369, 106.165 mph
Qualifying lap record: Jordan King, 1:00.0476; 107.914 mph, March 10, 2018 (set in Round 1 of qualifying)
NBC Sports race telecasts: Qualifying, 10 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN (tape-delayed); Race, noon ET Sunday, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey is the play-by-play announcer for NBC’s coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, alongside analyst Townsend Bell.
Peacock Premium Live Streaming: All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.
INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton and Nick Yeoman. Jake Query and Michael Young are the turn announcers. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 211, XM 205, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app, with qualifying also airing on XM 205.
At-track schedule (All Times Local/Eastern Time):
Friday, April 23
4:15-5 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, Peacock Premium
Saturday, April 24
9:45-10:30 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, Peacock Premium
1:45-3 p.m. – Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), Peacock Premium (Live)/NBCSN (Same-day delay, 10 p.m. ET)
Sunday, April 25
9:05-9:35 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock Premium
Noon – NBC Sports on air
12:35 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines”
12:42 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (100 laps / 181 miles), NBC (Live)
|1||2||Josef Newgarden||Nashville, Tennessee||Hitachi Team Penske||Team Penske||Chevrolet|
|2||3||Scott McLaughlin (R)||Christchurch, New Zealand||DEX Imaging Team Penske||Team Penske||Chevrolet|
|3||4||Dalton Kellett||Stouffville, Canada||K-Line Insulators / A J Foyt Racing||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Chevrolet|
|4||5||Pato O’Ward||Monterrey, Mexico||Arrow McLaren SP||Arrow McLaren SP||Chevrolet|
|5||7||Felix Rosenqvist||Värnamo, Sweden||Arrow McLaren SP||Arrow McLaren SP||Chevrolet|
|6||8||Marcus Ericsson||Kumla, Sweden||Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda|
|7||9||Scott Dixon||Auckland, New Zealand||PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda|
|8||10||Alex Palou||Barcelona, Spain||NTT Data Honda||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda|
|9||12||Will Power||Toowoomba, Australia||Verizon 5G Team Penske||Team Penske||Chevrolet|
|10||14||Sebastien Bourdais||Le Mans, France||ROKiT / A J Foyt Racing||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Chevrolet|
|11||15||Graham Rahal||New Albany, Ohio||United Rentals||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Honda|
|12||18||Ed Jones||Dubai, United Arab Emirates||SealMaster||Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan||Honda|
|13||20||Conor Daly||Noblesville, Indiana||U.S. Air Force||Ed Carpenter Racing||Chevrolet|
|14||21||Rinus VeeKay||Hoofddorp, Netherlands||Sonax / Autogeek||Ed Carpenter Racing||Chevrolet|
|15||22||Simon Pagenaud||Montmorillon, France||Menards/Australian Gold Team Penske||Team Penske||Chevrolet|
|16||26||Colton Herta||Valencia, California||Gainbridge||Andretti Autosport||Honda|
|17||27||Alexander Rossi||Nevada City, California||NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation||Andretti Autosport||Honda|
|18||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Fort Lauderdale, Florida||DHL||Andretti Autosport||Honda|
|19||29||James Hinchcliffe||Toronto, Canada||Genesys||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||Honda|
|20||30||Takuma Sato||Tokyo, Japan||Panasonic / Shield Cleansers||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Honda|
|21||48||Jimmie Johnson (R)||El Cajon, California||Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda|
|22||51||Romain Grosjean (R)||Geneva, Switzerland||Nurtec ODT||Dale Coyne Racing with RWR||Honda|
|23||59||Max Chilton||Reigate, England||Carlin||Carlin||Chevrolet|
|24||60||Jack Harvey||Bassingham, England||AutoNation/SiriusXM||Meyer Shank Racing||Honda|
- Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou kicked off the 2021 season with a bang, claiming his first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory at Barber Motorsports Park on April 18. The 24-year-old Spaniard outdueled series champions Will Power and Scott Dixon to claim the championship point lead for the first time. Can Palou emulate Dixon by starting a title-winning season with a multi-race win streak?
- The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the 18th INDYCAR SERIES race on the streets of St. Petersburg, dating to 2003. Josef Newgarden won last year’s race held on the streets of St. Petersburg, which was the championship-deciding race for the first time. Paul Tracy won the inaugural race on Feb. 23, 2003, under CART sanction, while Sebastien Bourdais started from the pole that year.
- The St. Petersburg INDYCAR race has been run every year since 2003 except for 2004. No driver has competed in every St. Petersburg race, but Scott Dixon has started 16 consecutive races. Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay competed in the first race in 2003.
- Scott Dixon seeks his first win on the streets of St. Petersburg. Dixon’s six NTT INDYCAR SERIES championships trail only the seven INDYCAR SERIES titles collected by A.J. Foyt. Dixon is third on the all-time INDYCAR SERIES victory list with 50 wins but has never won at St. Petersburg. He has four runner-up finishes at the circuit, including in 2019.
- Will Power (2010 and 2014), Sebastien Bourdais (2017 and 2018) and Josef Newgarden (2019 and 2020) are the only entered drivers to win at St. Petersburg more than once. Helio Castroneves won three times (2006, 2007, 2012), while Juan Pablo Montoya won in 2015 and 2016. Past winners Power, Bourdais, Newgarden and Graham Rahal (2008) are entered.
- Team Penske has won the pole position 10 of the past 14 St. Petersburg races, including nine of the last 11 poles by Power. Past pole winners Bourdais (2003), Rahal (2009) and Takuma Sato (2014) are also entered this weekend.
- Two drivers have won the race from the pole – Helio Castroneves (2007) and Will Power (2010). The St. Petersburg winner has qualified fourth in four of the last eight seasons.
- Team Penske has won at St. Petersburg 10 times, including six of the last nine races with Castroneves (2012), Power (2014), Montoya (2015-16) and Newgarden (2019-2020).
- Dixon has made 273 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in INDYCAR SERIES history.
- Three rookies are entered – Formula One veteran Romain Grosjean, seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and three-time Australian Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin. Grosjean and Johnson will make attempt to make their first NTT INDYCAR SERIES street course start this weekend at St. Petersburg. Dalton Kellett will also attempt to make his first start at St. Petersburg.
- Since 2012, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has averaged just under nine different race winners per season, including a record-tying 11 winners in 2014. There were seven different winners in the 14 races of 2020 with an equally tight competition projected for the season.
Drivers may engage their “push to pass” for a total of 150 seconds during the race, with a maximum duration of 15 seconds for any one 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 for 2021.