It’s Race Day at St. Petersburg!

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Race Day started early for Mr. and Mrs. Oilpressure this morning. We had to be at the track early for the complimentary pace car ride offered to members of the media, which hard to believe – we qualify for. We had to be there at 7:30. With the time change, it was still dark when we got to the track. While standing in line, we met a longtime reader of this site named Steve from New Hampshire. He is a very knowledgeable fan an we had a great time talking to him. I would also like to mention another longtime reader we met yesterday – Paul and his wife, from nearby Sarasota, FL. They flagged us down when they spotted us. I always enjoy talking with people that have supported this site over the years.

We suited up with our helmet and HANS-device and lined up out on the track, three cars at a time. Susan was in the very first car of the day, and I was in the car behind hers. She will kill me for posting this selfie as we were in line.

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We were riding one at a time in Chevy Camaros. My driver was former USF2000 driver Ayla Agren from Norway. She did not hold back on our lap. In the early part of the course she was making her way through the esses when I could feel the back-end wanting to come around. She had quick hands and corrected it as she continued to attack the next corner.

I don’t print all of this to brag (OK…maybe just a little), but to point out that the ride gave me a whole new perspective and appreciation for this track. If you are like me, you watch races from street and road courses and never quite know where anything is in relation to the track. After walking most of the inside of the track on Saturday, I always knew exactly where we were the whole time.

As we headed down what is essentially the backstretch from Turn Nine to Turn Ten, my driver hit her marks on the apex on the shallow left-hander and then drifted out to the wall. Although she appeared to come very close to scraping the wall, she always seemed in control. Then we made the hard left-handed turn onto Dan Wheldon Way as she expertly weaved her way through the final turns. Then she navigated the hairpin with the tires screeching just a bit (and my helmet pulling me over to my left), as we drifted onto the runway. I wish I had watched the speedometer as we roared down the main straightaway, but I was too enthralled with the sheer speed and acceleration I was feeling.

Whenever I’ve done pace car or two-seater rides, I always come away with an increased appreciation for what these drivers go through in a race. For anyone to say that drivers are not athletes is pure nonsense.

As I have been typing, the NTT IndyCar Series has been going through the morning warmup. The two Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing cars of Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal led the session, respectively. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Matheus Leist rounded out the Top-Five. The fastest Team Penske car was driven by Josef Newgarden, who was sixth fastest. The quickest Ganassi car was Scott Dixon, who was tenth quick.

As we were walking to the media center, we walked through the paddock that I referenced yesterday. Much of the paddock is located in a parking garage, which is cool but very dark. Andretti Autosport even brought their own spotlights so that they can see to work on their cars.

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It’s early, but there was already a good crowd milling about at 8:00 this morning. It’s another beautiful day and I anticipate a huge crowd for the race later this afternoon. And for the record, I still stand by my original pick that Alexander Rossi will win today. He has not been flashy, but he’s been up there consistently every practice and in qualifying. But that can also be said for Ryan Hunter-Reay, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him come away with the win as well.

I’ll be back here after the race. In the meantime, for videos, photos and comments, please follow us on Twitter. You can follow me at @Oilpressureblog and Susan at @MrsOilpressure. Enjoy the race and check back here afterward.

George Phillips

3 Responses to “It’s Race Day at St. Petersburg!”

  1. I am interested in the crowd turn out today at GP St Pete . Seems like the city is a Excellent host for the series . Other cities interested in hosting should speak with St Petersburg or Long Beach about logistics and planning a Indycar event before a full commitment .

  2. Paul Woodarek Says:

    Thanks for the mention in your blog today and taking a few moments to chat with us. Hope the two of you had a great time in St Pete and make this one of your annual races. I never liked street racing until I saw it in person, it may lack the on track action, but I do enjoy the drama between racer and clock.

    • We appreciated you flagging us down, and I especially appreciate you reading this site from the beginning. You’ve been patient reading through a lot of drivel over the years, just for a couple of nuggets here and there. Thanks! – GP

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