NTT INDYCAR Series
Grand Prix of St. Petersburg 2018 Preview
Momentum? Team Penske has won eight of the last thirteen races at St. Petersburg, so they walk in with their heads held high. They have also taken the checkers in 60 percent of all Verizon IndyCar Series events for the past two seasons. Momentum goes to Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power.
Needs A Good Run? The six rookies starting the race are most in need of proving themselves to the open–wheel racing community.
Sentimental Favorite? Sebastien Bourdais, who makes his home in St. Petersburg, and the 2017 race winner could not be more favored by locals.
Challenges? Everyone wants to make a good showing this first race, and so it’s a constant tension between being aggressive to run at the front and not doing anything stupid. Because it’s our first contest of 2018, we’re betting there will be at least one questionable move.
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m really looking forward to St. Petersburg. During the offseason, we did a lot of testing with the new car. We found some great speed and we feel pretty good about the package we’re bringing to St. Petersburg. Street courses are a lot of fun, and I really look forward to this one every year. We had a really strong finish there last year which helped us start our season on the right foot. Chevrolet has made a lot of progress on the engine, so I’m excited to go back and see what the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet team and I can do this year.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “Everybody always looks forward to St. Pete, it’s such a great place to start the season. I know every year we say it feels like a long offseason, but this offseason, for us, even though it’s been busy with all the testing for Honda, it really makes you miss racing that much more. At the end of the day, we’re not test drivers, we’re race drivers, and getting to that first race weekend is always special. There’s been a lot of change, not only with the 2018 aero kit but internally at SPM personnel-wise. So we’re really anxious to get ourselves into a race weekend situation to see how we all perform and start picking out how we can improve and build this team up to be regular contenders. I’m excited for (teammate) Robbie’s (Wickens) first race, (race engineer) Leena’s (Gade) first race, first race of the 2018 kit – there’s a lot of stuff to look forward to.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team Sealmaster Honda): “I live in St. Petersburg and am very proud to be a resident. Downtown is booming and our neighborhood is a great environment to raise a family. St. Pete is my home race and it is an honor to represent the city during race weekend. My first Indy car race was here in 2003 and I took the pole, but until last year I really didn’t have a lot of success. It took 15 years, and now I am the defending champion and that feels good. I don’t feel any additional pressure to do well, but it’s nice to be able to sleep in my own bed and have friends and family at the track.” (About the start of the season): “I am looking forward to the start of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. I want to thank Dale Coyne, Jimmy Vasser and (James) Sulli (Sullivan) for the opportunity to move forward with the program that Dale started a year ago with the support of Honda. I also want to thank Sealmaster and all of our sponsors for their support. This is a small team, but we have proven we can take poles and win races. However, I think we are now putting together what hopefully is a consistent program that can compete at the highest level and contend for a championship.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “I’m so ready to be heading to St. Pete for the 2018 season opener! I feel like a lifetime has passed since the checkered flag in Sonoma last year. In the span of six days back in December, we went from a real low – the Thomas Fire affecting my family’s home and ranch in California – to the high of announcing a new deal with Carlin and a 10th season partnered with Novo Nordisk. Then it was back to the reality of rebuilding from the ground up, both at and away from the track. Out in California, I was getting my hands dirty, installing irrigation equipment for the avocado orchard, and with Carlin, I was learning to work with a new group of people and of course the ins and outs of a new car. We had a few test days last week and while time is always limited, I think the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet will be in the mix once we hit the track this weekend. I’ve set high expectations for myself, and I know (team principal) Trevor (Carlin) and the team didn’t join the Verizon IndyCar Series just to make up the numbers-they want to win, too.”
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda): “The last preseason test is behind us now and I couldn’t be more excited for St.Pete. We’ve made big strides in the Group One Thousand One car over the last couple months, and I feel ready to show what we can do on the streets and start our 2018 campaign. I can’t thank everyone at Group One Thousand One, Andretti and my crew enough for the effort they put in over the winter, all in preparation for this weekend.”
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