IndyCar’s Road to Miami Continues on St. Pete Streets

RHR Has Reason to Smile

Hunter-Reay—who was last year's runner-up at St. Petersburg—also is coming off a second-place finish at this season’s opener March 14 in Sao Paulo (photo courtesy: Ron McQueeney, IndyCar Media)

Having been sidelined for last year’s IndyCar opener at St. Pete, Helio Castroneves will be looking to break into the win column this weekend just four hours north of his Coral Gables home. His Team Penske teammate, meanwhile, will be looking to repeat his St. Pete performance of 2009: Ryan Briscoe led 46 of 100 laps and held off Boca Raton-native Ryan Hunter-Reay by 0.4619 of a second. Briscoe’s strong start went a long way toward his runner-up finish in last year’s IndyCar Championship standings, crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the fall.

Hunter-Reay—who was last year's runner-up at St. Petersburg—also is coming off a second-place finish at this season’s opener March 14 in Sao Paulo.

"It's pretty much a home race to kick off the U.S. races,” said Hunter-Reay. “This will be my fourth St. Pete event, and each time I find myself getting closer and closer to the front. After finishing a close second last year, we have our sights set on winning.”

And this on the heels of Hunter-Reay also finishing second two weeks back in Race 1 of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar season in the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Team Penske’s “super sub” Will Power made an ambitious maneuver at the end of the long backstretch to wrestle the lead from Hunter-Reay and win the March 14 rain-shortened IndyCar opener.

This year’s IndyCar Champion again will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 2). For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call (866) 409-RACE (toll free).

"Brazil was a great result for the IZOD team,” said Hunter-Reay. “Obviously, we feel it was a win that got away, so we are extremely determined to grab our first win together in St. Pete."

Another driver with aspirations of an encore performance at St. Petersburg is Graham Rahal, who begins a two-race stint for Sarah Fisher Racing with hopes of securing a full-time ride that will see him compete at Homestead-Miami Speedway during IndyCar Championship Weekend Oct. 1-2.

Rahal, the son of IndyCar legend and team owner Bobby Rahal, lost his 2009 ride with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing during the offseason after the departure of his primary sponsorship. On Sunday, March 28, he returns to the site of his historic 2008 IndyCar debut, at which he became the youngest winner in IndyCar history. He also started from the pole position in last year’s St. Pete race.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," said Rahal. "It's going to take a little bit for me to get back up to speed and a little bit for me to get comfortable. The test [last week in Sebring, Fla.] went great, and we've got a great bunch of guys. Certainly, we've got some work to do."

Rahal, Power, South Florida’s Hunter-Reay and Castroneves, and all the rest of the IndyCar field will resume the pursuit forfall glory in Miami in Race 2 with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 28, (3:30 p.m. EST on ABC). The race also will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211.

Both the IZOD IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights Series Championships will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway the weekend of Oct. 1-2. For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.

Open It Up: South Florida’s Indy Drivers

Kanaan Goes to Work

TK: “We are headed in the right direction”

South Beach-resident Marco Andretti escaped injury after being involved in a scary accident at the start of IndyCar Series Race 1 in Brazil on March 14. Andretti was hit by fellow-South Floridian resident Mario Moraes as they approached the first chicane after the green flag.

A former Firestone Indy Lights race winner at St. Petersburg (2005), Andretti in 2007 secured a front-row start and Top 5 finish at St. Petersburg in an IZOD IndyCar Series car.

"I've always enjoyed the St. Pete circuit, and I won there in Firestone Indy Lights so I'm confident that we can be successful,” said Andretti. “I was really pleased with our car in Brazil and, had we been able to race, I really do believe we would have been a contender at the finish.”

Key Biscayne’s Tony Kanaan stands as the only driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series to complete every lap at St. Petersburg during the previous five races. He endured a frustrating race in Brazil after Alex Tagliani—who led early in the race—slid into Kanaan after being touched from behind by St. Pete-resident Dan Wheldon following a red flag.

"The race in Sao Paulo gave us all a reason to feel like we are headed in the right direction,” said Kanaan. “Team 7-Eleven just needs a little better luck, and maybe that will go in our favor this weekend at St. Pete."

Also in Sao Paulo, Danica Patrick lost control of her car when it began raining to finish 15th at the “Sambadrome” in Brazil. She has posted a run of three-straight Top 10 finishes at St. Petersburg (2006-2008) until contact from another car sidelined her early in last year's event.

"With everything that I've been doing thus far in 2010, I think it will be great to get back to a place with which I'm familiar,” said Patrick, who will race both IndyCar (Oct. 2) and NASCAR (Nov. 20) at Homestead-Miami Speedway this fall. “Hopefully, we can get the GoDaddy.com car off to a good start Friday and build on it from there."

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