Random Thoughts on St. Petersburg

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This will be somewhat abbreviated for a couple of reasons. First, I wrote about the race yesterday soon after it was over. Secondly, it is late Sunday night as I type this. We have a 9:30 am flight to catch and I’m tired. So this will be brief.

As far as yesterday’s race goes, I think I covered it as well as I can cover it having only seen it live at the track. If you’ve been to a race in person, you know that you don’t really get a full feel for what happened while you are there. Nowadays, we have the DVR to go back to when we get home. Before that we had VCRs. What is the world did people do in the seventies when they attended races? I guess they read the newspaper the next day to find out what they missed.

I suppose I could have watched the replay on NBC Sports Gold last night when we got back to the room, but we were too tired. We went for an early dinner near the hotel and then went back to the room and collapsed.

But in case you did not read my post-race write up yesterday, I said the race itself was sort of dull – at least from where I was watching it. We started watching the race from the pits, but after about five laps we moved to a section between Turns Nine and Ten – not because that was a racy portion of the track, but because you could see well and the backdrop of the bay and the yacht club worked well with race cars zooming by. Then we went back to the pts and stayed there for the last twenty laps of the race until we went to victory lane to watch the first winner of the 2019 season be celebrated.

Sometimes you get a dull race. It happens. Not every race at St. Petersburg is going to be like last year’s, when Alexander Rossi and Robert Wickens tangled on a restart with just a few laps to go; or the year before when Sébastien Bourdais went from last to first after crashing in qualifying. St. Petersburg was overdue for a snoozer and it just happened to be when we went for the first time.

But that doesn’t mean we didn’t like the event. Far from it. We loved it, and not just because we had left cold and nasty weather behind when we flew down. This was our very first temporary street circuit to attend in person. I really didn’t know what to expect. But I was fascinated by how well everything was done. It’s almost staggering to think of the logistical planning that goes into an event like this. It’s something I never really thought about while sitting at home on my couch watching a street race. There is a lot more to it than just erecting temporary barriers and fencing each year.

Like Barber, there are tons of volunteers that help pull off this massive event. Imagine the television cabling that must be done each year, along with all of the communications networks that have to be set up. The concessions and souvenir trailers all have to be set up. It’s really mind-boggling when you think about all the work and planning that goes into such an event in an area that will not look anything at all in a month, like it did this weekend.

When you walked through all of the separate fan villages and concession areas, you have to remind yourself that this is all temporary. But they have done a great job in making it all seem like it flows naturally as if these structures are there year round.

Last night on Facebook, I had posted this picture of the crowd two hours before the start of the race and I remarked how well attended the even was. Someone asked me if I would recommend going. My answer was a one-word “Yes!”.

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Some will say, “Oh but George likes every race he goes to.” Even though I tend to be happiest whenever I’m at a race track, I like some better than others. I was not a fan of the NOLA race in 2015. Although it’s close to Nashville and it’s well attended and organized – I wouldn’t say that Gateway is my favorite track. Mainly because it’s so hot, even at night. If the IndyCar Grand Prix were not run at IMS in May, I’m not sure we would continue to go. But I would put St. Petersburg up there with Barber and Road America. In fact, I would suggest that the fine folks at Barber Motorsports Park take a few tips from St. Petersburg regarding concessions. I cannot over-emphasize how impressed I was with the concessions there.

TV Coverage: I don’t mean to open a can of worms, but I saw a mixed bag on social media about NBC Sorts Gold and NBCSN’s coverage. Some said their Gold package was not even showing as available. Others said that the quality was poor. Others said it worked fine. I also heard that NBCSN had technical difficulties in their race coverage yesterday and Leigh Diffey sounded like he was broadcasting through a telephone.

Obviously, I don’t know. I haven’t watched a single minute of the Gold coverage and I’ll watch the DVR of the race when we get back to Nashville later on Monday. I would be interested to hear from you and what your experience was.

Good day for rookies: There were five rookies in the field yesterday, and really only one had what I would call a disappointing day. Ben Hanley was running his first IndyCar race for DragonSpeed and as far as I know, they did no pre-season testing. While finishing eighteenth in a twenty-four car field is nothing to get excited about normally, he brought the car home in one piece and finished the race, giving himself a lot of seat time.

Felix Rosenqvist, Colton Herta and Santino Ferrucci finished fourth, eighth and ninth respectively – giving all three reasons to be excited.

The only disappointment among the rookie class was Marcus Ericsson, who finished twentieth, after dropping out on Lap 56.

Good for him: It used to be commonplace up until sometime in the eighties for a driver that had fallen out of the race, to stay and watch the rest of the race from the pits. Sometime more than thirty years ago, that practice fell by the wayside. Nowadays, when a driver is out – he or she either retreats to a secluded part of the track or leaves the grounds entirely to get a head-start back home.

That’s why it was so refreshing to see Takuma Sato sitting on the pit wall after he fell out on Lap 75, watching the rest of the race at the end. It’s good to know that some drivers are interested in the outcome long after they are no longer a participant.

Sato watching

All in all: Although I wasn’t wild about the actual race, that happens sometimes. But it does not take away from what a great event the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was. I’m sure the perfect weather helped in my positive assessment, but I came away very impressed with the whole thing. We want to go back.

George Phillips

10 Responses to “Random Thoughts on St. Petersburg”

  1. Hey George, NBC totally lost their uplink from the track for about ten mins: video and audio. They managed to restore audio only for a while before finally getting the full uplink back. The reason Leah sounded like he was coming thru a phone is because he probably was actually on a phone just to get some audio out there until they get their uplink back.

    No idea why they lost the link, but it’s usually a catastrophic failure like a line cut, total power outage, etc. It’s every live event broadcasters nightmare.

  2. BrandonW77 Says:

    Looking forward to your opinion after you get to watch the replay. At no point did I think this race was a snoozer, it was actually good fun with a lot of interesting stories and strategies.

    I used NBC Gold on my Amazon Firestick and iPhone all weekend and never had any issues with it. Signal was strong, quality was good, and having the three amigos calling the action was so much better than what we got on the free stream. Yes, NBCSN had a slight hiccup for about 10 minutes but they handled it well and corrected it quickly. Didn’t bother me one bit.

  3. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    NBC had technical difficulties that affected the coverage on U-verse in Indy. It was a fairly boring race except for Rosenqvist passing Power early on. I’m also anti Penske and Newgarden is my least favorite driver with Penske so that made for a disappointing ending.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    This was sort of the standard street race, falling between a runaway and a wreck fest. Newgarden had the right strategy, sure, but he also had the speed necessary to make it work. Gapping guys like Dixon and Power is no small feat and I found it compelling to watch. Dixon did well to close the gap late.

    I used Gold on a Roku for some of practice, it worked well and I did enjoy hearing the tv booth covering the action. Gold’s greatest value is likely going to be for 500 qualifying and Lights races, as it seems the tape delayed Lights broadcasts have unfortunately ended.

    Also, somebody please find a four leaf clover for Ryan Hunter-Reay.

    • I used the Amazon Fire Stick for the first time. Gold provided a great picture. Glad I could see it on the big screen. I agree with you, Billy, that coverage of all the pieces of the 500 in May will be a plus for us.

      One of my highlights was seeing Robert Wickens at the race and his interview with Kelli. And yes, can we buy RHR some lucky charm.

      • BrandonW77 Says:

        Love my Fire Stick, I have one on all my TVs and that’s all I use anymore. I got DirecTV Now for $45/month that streams through my Fire Stick, along with Netflix, Hulu, etc. And the best part is easily being able to pull up old races on YouTube and watch them on my 9′ theater screen. 😀

  5. Mark Wick Says:

    I don’t have access to TV so I watched live timing and scoring and the in car cameras on the app, alternating between the two options I had, Rossi and Rosenqvist. That was an interesting experience, and ow I will follow the series this season.

  6. Sounds like Long Beach East. Like someone else said, I’m curious why those two street races have been so successful while others seem to flounder.

  7. I am so pleased you enjoyed your first street race. Now, come out west next year for Long Beach.

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