By: Spencer Neff
March 7, 2019 | 11:52 AM
The NTT IndyCar Series returns to action this weekend. Kicking off the 2019 season once again will be the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Here are some of the possible favorites for the season opener in Fantasy IndyCar.
In 2003, Bourdais started his open-wheel career in America by earning the pole for the inaugural race here.
However, Bourdais did not achieve the results he desired early on. In his first seven starts at the track, Bourdais earned just one Top 10 finish (2015) and two additional Top 10 starts (2015 and 2016).
Since re-joining Dale Coyne Racing (now with Vasser-Sullivan) in 2017, the St. Petersburg resident has taken well to the track.
Despite not starting better than 14th in either event, the four-time Champ Car champion has won the previous two races. In those races, he has led 99 of 220 laps, the most of any driver. He should once again be among the contenders throughout the weekend.
Perhaps more than Bourdais’ win, the prominent memory from last year’s race is the tangle between Robert Wickens and Alexander Rossi on the Lap 109 restart. Although he did not win, Rossi’s third-place finish helped set the stage for his breakout 2018 season.
Following his three wins and runner-up championship finish, Rossi likely has redemption on his mind. Last year, he started 12th and led five laps. In his two prior St. Petersburg races, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner started 18th and 8th while finishing 12th and 11th (one lap down in each event).
2019 will see Jones with his third team in as many seasons. For this season, the 2017 Rookie of the Year will drive the Indianapolis 500, as well as all road and street course races for Ed Carpenter Racing (in a partnership with Scuderia Corsa).
Although qualifying has been far from Jones’ strength (18th and 17th), he has raced well here. In two St. Petersburg appearances, Jones has earned two Top 10 finishes (10th and eighth).
Last year, Jordan King set the track record in round 1 of qualifying while driving the ECR No. 20 entry. After making the Fast Six for his first IndyCar race, King would eventually start fourth. Jones could be in for a solid 2019 opener if he and the team can show similar speed.
Throughout his career, Sato has qualified well at St. Petersburg. In his nine previous starts at the Florida street course, the 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner has one pole (2014). He has also made the Fast Six in five of the last six races.
On Race Day, Sato has turned in some solid performances as well. He recorded a fifth-place finish twice (2011 and 2017), his best result at the track. If all goes well for Sato and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team this weekend, his first St. Pete podium is well within reach.
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Image courtesy of Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR Media.