Welcome to St Petersburg, a picturesque street course featuring docked ships, a beautiful skyline, and weather so lovely that an oval racing fan like yours truly has been known to nod off in a state of total serenity a time or two. But we won’t need a fresh pot of coffee this year, not when the odds of something interesting happening have increased with the car count.
We may not have much passing on Sunday, but we should definitely have the not much passing involving more than a few new names.
This season we have all of these refugees who have spent years
not getting paid to drive making a living on road and street courses, so the twisties are where the competition really is in 2008. Sad but true. The refugee fans should perk up because despite what Oriol Servia says these teams DO have a chance to get to the front at this race. Quite honestly, a lot of IndyCar fans will probably be cheering for that to happen if for no other reason than to see someone other than The Big Three win a race.
And if that doesn’t fire you up then just consult The Manual.
Favorite: Helio Castroneves. Last year Spiderman drover nearly the entire race with Scott Dixon on his bumper, but since this is a street course Dixon had nowhere to pass. Helio has won the last two races here, so there’s no reason to think he won’t be up there this year ready to climb a familiar fence.
Contender: Scott Dixon. While he’s nearly unstoppable on road courses, in four IndyCar series street races Scott Dixon is still winless. In fact, the ’06 race here is the only street event where he’s ever led laps. So why pick him here? Because the Iceman has finished second here twice in a row to the guy above, and with 5 wins in the last 9 races there’s not hotter driver around.
Longshot: Will Power. Last year Ricky Bobby claimed the pole at Las Vegas, Houston, Edmonton, Surfers Paradise and Mexico City and won at Vegas and Toronto. By my count only Mexico City is not a street course, so if any refugee is going to make a charge the smart money is on Power. After early exits last week, Australians Power and Ryan Briscoe should figure prominently enough to pop open a Fosters.
Driver to Watch: Darren Manning. Danger Mouse was shocking the world by running in third here last year until a late mistake cost him dearly. Considering how much his owner grumps about these street circuits, it would be ironic and amusing though not unexpected to see him on the podium on Sunday.
Danica Threat Level: DanCon 5. Danica’s performances here go like this: 12th, 6th, 8th. Adding a bunch of road-course specialists to the mix isn’t going to help those results, so we’re at the lowest threat level of the year.
Stat of the Day: It has now been 37 races since the IndyCar series had a race winner from someone other than Team Penske, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, or Andretti Green Racing. (Jack Arute voice) Does the streak end this week?
Drinking Term: “Kanaan” You need to do something to spice up the street parades, and what better way to dull (or fuel, depending on your temperament) the outrage from last weekend than saluting this week’s antagonist. I’m not going hate the guy just because in the last year he has side-swiped Sam Hornish Jr at Watkins Glen, blocked for Dario Franchitti’s broken car at Infineon, and ignored orders to exit the track at Homestead, but, well, put it this way: P3 has told me “Tony Ko-NAHN” is his favorite driver, and I can see why since they’re both ebullient, competitive and prone to moments of inexplicable behavior...of course, P3 is also four-years old.
pressdog says: "The streak ends at 37! My boy Justin Wilson, 'World's Tallest Open-Wheel Driver' SHOCKS THE WORLD and wins. Look for bonus video of Carl Haas and his sausage-sized cigar."
We have our refugees selected so feel free to pick your own, and enjoy the show!
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