Racing Returns to Downtown St. Petersburg
By Carl Wagenfohr
2009 IRL Champion Dario Franchitti (#10, left) passes Tony Kannan (#10, right) for 4th place during last year's St. Petersburg Grand Prix.
ST. PETERSBURG - Downtown streets will become a festival of speed this weekend, as the St. Petersburg Grand Prix hosts the opening North American round of the Indy Racing League (IRL) championship.
The three-day event will be packed with continuous on-track action. Support events include three open-wheel driver development series: the USF2000, Star Mazda, and Indy Lights. The World Challenge series will take the track for two 45-minute Sports/Touring/GT sprint races, featuring Corvette, Viper, Porsche 911, Mazda, Acura, Honda, Volvo, Scion, and Pontiac street car based racers.
The Indy Car race will be contested by many familiar faces, including last year's winner Ryan Briscoe, Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti, and last year's series champion Dario Franchitti, among others. 2008 St Pete winner, Graham Rahal, will be racing courtesy of a last-minute entry by Sarah Fisher Racing. A handful of drivers will be making their St. Petersburg IRL debut, including Canadian Alex Tagliani, former F1 driver Takuma Sato, Mario Romancini, and two women: Simona Di Silvestro and Anna Beatriz.
Friday's schedule includes practice for all classes, and World Challenge qualifying. Saturday will feature practice and qualifying, plus the first of two USF2000 and World Challenge races. Sunday is the primary race day, with all classes competing. The green flag will fall on the headline IRL race at 3:45 p.m.
Tickets, priced from $25 for Friday-only general admission to $110 for 3-day reserved grandstand seating, can be purchased at the gate.
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