2019 Firestone Grand Prix of St.Petersburg Preview

Jordan King (20), Robert Wickens (6) and Alexander Rossi (27) battle for position at the Grand Prix of St Petersburg. [credit Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

Jordan King (20), Robert Wickens (6) and Alexander Rossi (27) battle for position at the 2018 Grand Prix of St Petersburg. [credit Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]


by Paul Gohde

Two-time Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais will pilot his Dale Coyne Dallara Honda down an airport runway and sneak a peek at the Salvador Dali Museum with its modern art work on each lap of Sunday’s race; surely the only North American race course with that set of challenges which the Frenchman and his fellow-competitors will face during the 2019 NTT IndyCar season.

  • Race Facts: The NTT drivers will race for 110 laps around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn airport/street course along the Tampa Bay waterfront. The 198-mile chase is race #1 of IndyCar’s 17-race, March- September season. Qualifying lap record: 2018, Jordan King, 107.914 mph. Race record (198 miles): 2017, Sebastien Bourdais,2:04.32, 95.391 mph.


  • Race History: Bourdais won here in 2017 & 2018, beating Penske’s Simon Pagenaud and Ganassi’s Scott Dixon two years ago after starting last; a strong showing for the smaller Dale Coyne team. In 2018 Canadian rookie Robert Wickens took the pole in his first IndyCar race and led most of the way until a hard-charging Alexander Rossi tried an aggressive pass, spinning the leader out on the last lap, and handing the win to Bourdais. A disappointed Wickens finished 18th while Graham Rahal moved to second and Rossi third. Indy car racing began here in 2003 (a CART event), with the IndyCar (IRL) taking over in 2005. The event has opened the series’ schedule nine times since. Team Penske has won eight of the 15 races held. Will Power and Bourdais have two wins each while James Hinchcliffe and Graham Rahal each have one win among active drivers. Honda powered entries have won nine of the IndyCar-sanctioned events, while Chevrolet has five.


  • The Coming Season: Seventeen races make up the NTT IndyCar Series schedule. Phoenix is gone and Laguna Seca replaces Sonoma for the championship finale. The Circuit of the Americas (COTA), home to the United States F1 Grand Prix, replaces Phoenix.


  • Sunday’s Field: Twenty-four entries will make up St. Petersburg’s grid; the same number as last year.

AJ Foyt Racing: (Chevrolet) Matheus Leist / Tony Kanaan

Andretti Autosport: (Honda) Zach Veach/ Alexander Rossi / Ryan Hunter-Reay / Marco Andretti

Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport: (H) James Hinchcliffe / Marcus Ericsson (Rookie)

Carlin: (C) Charlie Kimball / Max Chilton

Chip Ganassi Racing: (H) Scott Dixon / Felix Rosenqvist (R)

Dale Coyne Racing: (H) Santino Ferrucci (R)

Dale Coyne with Vasser-Sullivan: (H) Sebastien Bourdais

Dragon Speed: (C) Ben Hanley (R)

Ed Carpenter Racing: (C) Spencer Pigot / Ed Jones

Harding Steinbrenner Racing: (H) Colton Herta (R)

Meyer Shank: (H) Jack Harvey

Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing: (H) Graham Rahal / Takuma Sato

Team Penske: (C) Josef Newgarden / Will Power / Simon Pagenaud


  • Notes: Last year’s pole winner, Robert Wickens, is still recovering from his terrible Pocono wreck. His seat at Arrow Schmidt Peterson is being held open for his hoped-for return at some later date. Wickens plans to be at St. Pete on Sunday…2018 series’ champion Scott Dixon has never won at St. Petersburg, though he has been a runner-up three times…Dixon and Tony Kanaan have each raced in 14 of the 15 IndyCar races held here…Team Penske’s Will Power has captured the pole in seven of the last nine Firestone Grand Prix races here.


  • Our Take: One must look at the Dale Coyne team and its two recent opening-race wins here with Bourdais as a model when trying to pick the opening race winner. Pre-season testing is just that, testing. Team Penske, Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing have more resources than most entrants and will likely field the champion at the end of the 17-race schedule. But, having said that, we’ll go with an unlikely winner for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Honda and its former F1 pilot Marcus Ericsson. If Chevy takes the win it will of course be Team Penske’s Will Power (I think).


  • Final Words: Takuma Sato (No. 30 Panasonic/ Seeman Holtz Honda). “I am excited about the new 2019 season. I had a great off-season in both the U. S. and Japan, but it was really non-stop as usual, so I feel it quickly turned around in March. The team did a lot of winter development and preparation and think we had very productive preseason tests (at Sebring and COTA). St. Petersburg is the perfect venue for the opening race. It has such a great atmosphere and the track presents an exciting race all the time. I feel really good about this year as it’s my second with RLL.”



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