St. Pete Preview
Who runs well at St. Pete?
There have been eight winners in the 10 previous St. Pete races. Five of those winners are scheduled to compete this weekend:
Helio Castroneves (2006, 2007, 2012)
Paul Tracy (2003), Dan Wheldon (2005) and Dario Franchitti (2011) are the three other winners.
Castroneves has two second place finishes and one pole position in addition to his three victories. Power finished second in 2011 and is the all-time leader with four pole positions. Briscoe finished third in 2010. Rahal won pole for the 2009 race.
Although, he’s never won, Tony Kanaan has five podium finishes at St. Pete, 7 top-5s and won pole position for the 2008 race. Scott Dixon has finished second three times, while Ryan Hunter-Reay and Justin Wilson each have a second and third-place finish at the track. The only other driver in the field to have recorded a podium finish at the track is Marco Andretti, who finished third last season. Sebastien Bourdais won pole for the inaugural event in 2003.
What about teams?
The usual suspects. Team Penske is the all-time leader with five victories. Andretti Autosport has won twice, while Ganassi, Newman/Haas and Forsythe have each won once.
Also, the teams mentioned above account for all but 5 of the 30 podium finishers in the ten races. Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, KV Racing Technology, and Vision Racing are the only other teams to have recorded podium finishes.
Are there any drivers with a particularly unexceptional record at St. Pete?
Charlie Kimball, and Sebastien Bourdais have each made three starts at St. Pete. Kimball has a best finish of ninth, Bourdais 11th.
Who will be making their St. Pete debuts?
Rookies Mikhail Aleshin and Jack Hawksworth will be making their series debuts, while fellow rookie Carlos Munoz started three races last season. Juan Pablo Montoya will be making his first IndyCar start since 2000, and his St. Pete debut.
How important is qualifying at St. Pete?
Judging by prior results: pretty important.
While only Power and Castroneves have won from pole, eight of the 10 race winners have started in the top-5. Only Rahal and Wheldon, who both started ninth, have won from outside the top-5.
Who will be making their St. Pete debut?
Four drivers: Rookies Mikhail Aleshin, Jack Hawksworth and Carlos Munoz, and Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya, who will make his first Indy car start in 14 years this weekend.
Other than those already mentioned, is there anyone with a particularly strong qualifying record at St. Pete?
Who are the favorites headed into the weekend?
Castroneves has a sterling record at St. Pete, and seems to be a factor every year. While Kanaan and Dixon have never won, they almost always seem to run near the front. Ultimately, however, I think the favorite has to be Power.
The Aussie has won pole for the past four St. Pete races. This weekend, he parlays the momentum from a strong finish to 2013, and firmly establishes himself as the man to beat for the title in 2014.
Brian Carroccio is a columnist for AutoRacing1.com. He can be contacted at BrianC@AutoRacing1.com.
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