Sunday, April 02, 2006

IRL Scores The First Street Scene Of Season - UPDATED

Photo: indyracing.com

This race comes just one week before the gran'daddy of all temporary street races - The Long Beach Grand Prix.

Today, the legends of American open wheel racing will be on and around the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. This race may be the only venue that the IRL will have that will remind racing fans of how good it was when American open wheel racing was unified and represented by one major series ... CART!

Back when CART was king, it was not uncommon for the first fifteen places on the grid starting the race on a closed temporary street circuit to have qualified within one second of each other. Today, when the IRL lines up, only the first six places on the grid will be that close.
Realistically, These first six places will be the racers to watch:

Grid Position - Car# - Driver Name - Speed - Sponsor, Team

1 - 27 - Franchitti, Dario - 104.054 - Klien Tools, Andretti/Green
2 - 09 - Dixon, Scott - 103.522 - Target, Chip Ganassi
3 - 11 - Kanaan, Tony - 103.493 - 7/11, Andretti/ Green
4 - 06 - Hornish Jr, Sam - 103.389 - Marlboro, Penske
5 - 03 - Castroneves, Helio - 103.270 - Marlboro, Penske
6 - 07 - Herta, Bryan - 103.058 - XM Radio, Andretti/Green

More about the St. Petersburg venue, this from indyracing.com -

Sunday, April 2, 2006
City invests in the long-term future of Honda GP of St. Pete
By Dave Lewandowskiindycar.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – When you live in the Sunshine State, where do you travel for spring break?

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and family packed their bags, put gas in the car and drove 15 minutes across town to a hotel for three days of fun on St. Petersburg Beach.

“Just getting out in the morning and walking on the beach, you feel like you’re in a different country,” said 10-year-old Julann Baker. “We do a lot of things on the beach and just have fun.”
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Coupled with spring break visitors on Gulf of Mexico beaches (about nine miles from downtown), Baker said the economic impact of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is akin to a Final Four.
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"I love the St. Pete course,” Cheever Racing’s Chris Festa said. “It's easier to drive than most street courses. It's not so bumpy. There's one big bump on the back section, but that's about it. And you can actually pass on this street course, which is unusual for street courses. I love coming here. It's like being on a regular road course."
Read All>>

We pray for a safe race.

This will be the first race of the year for the Rahal/Letterman team since they did not race last week due to the death of one of their drivers (Paul Dana). Their drivers, Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick will be starting Pos. #7 (1.31 sec. behind the leader) and Pos. #14 (2.23 sec. behind the leader) respectively.

UPDATE: This from indycar.com - "I Drove Like I Stole It!" (Castroneves)

Castroneves climbs to new heights with street-course victory
By Dave Lewandowskiindycar.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The fencing lining the 1.8-mile Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg temporary street circuit isn’t as high as many oval facilities, but Helio Castroneves nonetheless enjoyed the view.

Thousands of sun-splashed fans in the front stretch grandstand were treated to Castroneves’ eighth career fence climb after the Marlboro Team Penske driver won under caution on the streets of St. Petersburg.

Scott Dixon, who started on the front row and led 36 laps, was runner-up with Tony Kanaan third. The 2003 and 2004 IndyCar Series champions, respectively, won road-course races last year. Now Castroneves can boast, too.

“I was really pushing out there,” Castroneves said after climbing down from the fence but not necessarily returning to earth. “I was trying to go as fast as I could. Even when I was in the lead, I was getting too close to the wall, trying to make up time.”
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Scott Dixon, who started on the front row and led 36 laps, was runner-up with Tony Kanaan third. The 2003 and 2004 IndyCar Series champions, respectively, won road-course races last year. Now Castroneves can boast, too.
Read All>>

A tough race for all. A great venue worthy to be in any racing series. This will be a race to travel to or watch every year.

Castroneves leads all drivers by 23 points in the point standings after two of fourteen races.

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