By: Spencer Neff
March 13, 2020 | 8:25 AM
The long wait is almost over. After more than five months away, the NTT IndyCar Series returns to action – despite the whirlwind of stoppages that have been announced this week. For the tenth consecutive, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will host the season opener.
With Roger Penske taking ownership of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2020 is still shaping up to be an exciting time in the series.
Storylines to Watch
After winning his second championship in three seasons, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden will look to kick off the new decade with a repeat win. Newgarden looks to become the first driver since Dario Franchitti (2009-2011) to score consecutive titles.
Last year, Newgarden began his championship run with a win at St. Petersburg. For the first time since 2012, the race has been reduced from 110 to 100 laps, its scheduled distance from 2005 to 2012.
To find victory once again in St. Pete, Newgarden will have to beat out a stacked field. Included in this weekend’s 26 entries are sophomore sensations Colton Herta and Felix Rosenqvist.
Last year, Herta notched two victories and three pole positions in his 2019 debut. As Harding Steinbrenner joins forces with Andretti Autosport for 2020, Herta will look to take his craft to the next level.
During the 2019 St. Petersburg race, Rosenqvist started third and led 31 laps before finishing fourth. Although he has yet to win a race, the 2019 Rookie of the Year did win a pole position at the IndyCar Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
With five-time champion Scott Dixon and fellow sophomore driver Marcus Ericsson in the fold, Ganassi will be as competitive as ever.
As for this year’s rookie class, four drivers make their IndyCar debut this weekend. This season, three drivers are confirmed to be in the running for the Rookie of the Year crown. Alex Palou, Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay will begin their quest for the crown.
On Tuesday, Felipe Nasr was confirmed for the No. 31 entry at Carlin Racing and will make his IndyCar debut as well.
First Race for New Aeroscreen
Aside from the four drivers entered in this weekend’s event, there will be another long-awaited debut. Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the first race for the new Aeroscreen. Designed by PPG and Red Bull Technologies, the Aeroscreen will be run in its first event this weekend.
Although reviews have been positive, this weekend will provide teams, drivers and spectators to judge how the new safety addition performs throughout a race weekend.
Speaking of the weekend, here’s the latest info to get you set for the season opener.
Race weekend: Saturday, March 14 – Sunday, March 15.
Track: Streets of St. Petersburg, 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit (clockwise) through downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, including a runway of Albert Whitted Airport.
Race distance: 100 laps / 180 miles.
Push-to-pass parameters: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum single duration of 15 seconds. The push-to-pass is not available on the initial start or any restart unless it occurs in the final two laps or three minutes of a timed race. The feature increases the power of the engine by approximately 60 horsepower for 2020.
Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate.
Twitter: @GPSTPETE, @INDYCAR, #FirestoneGP, #INDYCAR, #ADifferentBreed
Event website: www.gpstpete.com.
INDYCAR website: www.indycar.com.
2019 race winner: Josef Newgarden, 2:04:18.2588, 95.572 mph (110 laps/198 miles)
2019 NTT P1 Award winner: Will Power, 1:00.4594, 107.179 mph.
Qualifying lap record: Jordan King, 1:00.0476; 107.914 mph, March 10, 2018 (set in Round 1 of qualifying).
NBCSN race telecasts: Qualifying, 10 p.m. ET Saturday (tape delayed); Race, 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday (live). Pre-race show begins at 2:30 p.m.
Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Jake Query and Nick Yeoman are the turn announcers with Dave Furst, Rob Howden and Michael Young reporting from the pits.
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 211, XM 205, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA.
All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app, with qualifying also airing on Sirius 216 and XM 205.
NBC Sports Gold Live Streaming: All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports’ direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.
At-track schedule (All Times Local/Eastern Time)
7:00 a.m. – NTT IndyCar Series Garage Opens
9:45 to 10:30 a.m. – NTT IndyCar Series First Practice
1:30 to 2:30 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series Second Practice
4:45 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series Qualifications
10:25 to 10:55 a.m. – NTT IndyCar Series Warm-Up, NBC Sports Gold
2:30 p.m. – NBCSN pre-race show begins
3:23 p.m. – Command to Start Engines
3:30 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg green flag (100 laps/180 miles), NBCSN (live)
Header Image By Chris Jones/INDYCAR