Verizon IndyCar Series Opens Season In St. Petersburg

Josef Newgarden and Marco Andretti careen through turn 11. [Joe Jennings Photo]

Josef Newgarden and Marco Andretti careen through turn 11. [Joe Jennings Photo]

By: Joe Jennings

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – The Verizon IndyCar Series has arrived in St. Petersburg for its annual joust on the 1.8-mile temporary street course. Featuring new colors, driver changes and power plant switches, 21 teams participated in the opening two rounds of practice on the 14-turn circuit.

Leading the way on opening day was three-time race winner Scott Dixon in the blue GE LED Lighting Honda. His speed was 103.582 miles per hour.

Said Dixon humbly, “I think it started generally well. This weekend, we’ve done some good homework in the offseason for ourselves. I think tomorrow will be interesting once the other competitors turn it up. We’ll see where it goes. It’s Friday. It doesn’t pay anything, doesn’t mean anything. Hopefully what we learned today, we can continue on and help improve the car come tomorrow, and more importantly for the race on Sunday.”

Will Power crashed here a year ago, putting him out of action for the race. Today he crashed in nearly the same spot– actually 50 yards away – but without injury. After repairs were made, he bounced back to gain the second fastest time in his Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

“It was about the same lap I (crashed) last year, can’t believe I got in the wall again,” Power commented. “It was a good session (in the afternoon). Definitely made some progress on the car. Great to be here and great to start the season off. Yeah, the grid looks pretty nicely mixed up there with Honda and Chevy, great competition.”

Trailing the top two were Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Sebastien Bourdais.

Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud and Carlos Munoz were next in line.
Andretti led the first practice session.

Another round of practice precedes qualifications on Saturday afternoon.

Turn 3 of the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit for the 2017 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has been reconfigured, INDYCAR announced today.

The corner has been a fast, sweeping right-hand turn in recent years, but INDYCAR officials, in conjunction with Green Savoree Racing Promotions, decided to make modifications after several cars competing in Thursday’s support series practices crested a bump and lost control in the ensuing depression.

Approximately 180 feet of wall on the drivers’ left side has been moved back almost 40 feet. On the right side, curbing has been installed, which changes the apex and makes the corner a slower, traditional braking area.

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