Fast facts: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

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2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season opens on streets of St. Petersburg.

Series prepares for another competitive season

If the timesheets from the preseason Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park are any indication of what's to come, then 2014 is shaping up to be another competitive Verizon IndyCar Series season. The top 16 cars of the 23 car/driver combinations that participated in the test were separated by less than a second. Last season produced another competitive championship with 10 different winners and Scott Dixon rallying from huge mid-season deficit to claim his third championship in the season finale.

Dixon tries to cement his spot in history books

Scott Dixon's racing resume ranks with some of the legends of the sport. He's the active leader with 33 victories and ranks only behind A.J. Foyt, Andretti (Mario and Michael) and Unser (Al, Bobby and Al Jr.) on the career list.

Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Covy Moore

In 2014, he'll attempt to successfully defend his championship - something he's never done in his career - and join A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais and Dario Franchitti as the only drivers to win four titles.

· Should Scott Dixon win the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship, he will join A.J. Foyt, Dario Franchitti, Sebastien Bourdais and Mario Andretti as the only drivers to win four Indy car titles in his career. Foyt won seven championships in his career, while Andretti, Bourdais and Franchitti each won four titles.

· With his next victory, Scott Dixon will tie Al Unser Jr., for sixth on the all-time wins list. Dixon, the active leader for wins, won his 33rd race at Houston's Reliant Park in October 2013.

· With a victory in 2014, Scott Dixon will extend his streak of consecutive seasons with a win to 10.

· With one pole in 2014, Scott Dixon will extend his Verizon IndyCar Series streak to eight consecutive seasons.

Kanaan joins Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Replacing a four-time series champion isn't easy, but Target Chip Ganassi Racing has found its man in reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan. The 2004 IndyCar Series champion moves into one of the marquee cars in the series with hopes of maintaining its success. How will Kanaan fare in his opener with one of INDYCAR's top teams?

· Tony Kanaan has 276 starts, which is ninth on the all-time list.

· Tony Kanaan is the active leader in top-five finishes with 112, which is one behind Bobby Unser for eighth on the all-time list.

Montoya returns to open-wheel racing

After 12 years in Formula One and NASCAR, Juan Pablo Montoya is back racing Indy cars. The former Indianapolis 500 and CART champion is driving for Roger Penske, rather than Chip Ganassi, for whom Montoya raced in CART and NASCAR. As a 23-year old rookie, the Colombian won seven races and the 1999 CART-sanctioned championship. The following year, he added three CART wins, including the Indianapolis 500. Will his arrival at Team Penske alongside Will Power and three-time St. Petersburg race winner Helio Castroneves strengthen Indy car racing's most successful team?

Helio hopes to rebound

Helio Castroneves had a solid 2013 with two wins and the points lead for most of the season. But the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner came away disappointed after letting the series championship slip through his hands. Can Castroneves rebound from his 2013 disappointment to challenge for the championship again?

· With his next victory, Helio Castroneves will tie Rick Mears for 11th place on the all-time wins list. Castroneves won his 28th race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8, 2013.

· Helio Castroneves needs two earned poles to reach 40 career poles in his Indy car career. Castroneves is the active leader with 38 pole positions.

· Helio Castroneves istied with Rick Mears for 10th on the all-time list with 111 top-five finishes in his Indy car career.

Andretti looking to move up

After finishing a career-best fifth in the 2013 standings, Marco Andretti is looking to finish with a championship for the first time in his career. Driving for his father Michael's team, Marco hopes to add to his family's storied racing history in 2014.

The Ganassi-Andretti engine swap

Chip Ganassi has a habit of shaking things up for his team on a regular basis. This year, his Verizon IndyCar Series team switched to the Chevrolet engine. Meanwhile, Andretti Autosport, which won the 2012 championship with Chevrolet power and driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, has made the move to Honda. Although Honda and Chevy ended up nearly equal in terms of race wins in 2013 (Will Power's victory in the season finale tipped the balance in favor of Chevy, 10-9), Scott Dixon won the championship with Honda. For the first time since INDYCAR's 2.2-liter turbo V-6 specification was introduced, Honda will utilize twin turbochargers.

Generation Next

James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud and Charlie Kimball all scored their first win in 2013, finished top 10 in the championship standings and established themselves as the next stars of the sport. Will 2014 be the year a new young star becomes a champion?

Homegrown heroes

The Verizon IndyCar Series features a group of home-grown drivers who represent the stars and stripes in the most diverse series in motorsports. Former series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, race winners Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal and rising star Josef Newgarden all worked their way up the American open-wheel ladder to reach the Verizon IndyCar Series.

All-American effort

Second-generation driver Graham Rahal will look to return Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing back to victory lane sporting the colors of the Army National Guard. Rahal won his first race at St. Petersburg in 2008 and in 2009 earned his first pole position at the track. Can Rahal fulfill the promise he showed early in his career with another strong performance at St. Pete?

Seb steps up

Sebastien Bourdais started 2014 with a bang, winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The four-time Champ Car champion moves to KVSH Racing hoping to bring the Indy 500-winning team some of his championship success. Bourdais will be paired with young Colombian Sebastian Saavedra, who was his teammate at Dragon Racing last season, under the KV Racing Technology banner.

· With his next victory, Sebastien Bourdais will move into sole possession of eighth place on the all-time wins list. Bourdais is tied with Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy with 31 wins.

Briscoe returns to Chip Ganassi Racing stable

Ryan Briscoe returns to the team where he started in Verizon IndyCar Series career - Chip Ganassi Racing. The Australian, who has seven wins to his credit, will drive the No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, renewing the relationship that began at the Indianapolis 500 in 2013. How will Briscoe fare in his second go-around with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Power looking to move up

After finishing runner-up to the champion for three of the past four years, Team Penske's Will Power is looking to finish on top for the first time in his career. Power ended the 2013 season with back-to-back wins to finish fourth in the championship. Can he pick up where he left off in 2013 and propel himself to his first title?

Ed Carpenter Racing hopes to be threat at all tracks

Ed Carpenter Racing will use the platoon of owner/driver Ed Carpenter and road/street course ace Mike Conway in 2014 in hopes of being a threat to win at every race in 2014. Carpenter, the only owner/driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series, is a two-time winner on ovals. Conway is a two-time road/street course winner that won in nearly every series he raced in last year. Has the third-year team dialed up the right combination help the team get back to Victory Circle?

Mazda Road to Indy on display

The full Mazda Road to Indy ladder system, designed to groom the up-and-coming stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series, will be on display at St. Petersburg. Mazda will again provide scholarships for the 2014 champions of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires to advance to the next level. The scholarship program strengthens INDYCAR's driver development program by providing drivers the opportunities to advance based on talent, not financials.

Race Notes:

  • The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the 10th Verizon IndyCar Series event and 11th Indy car race conducted on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Previous race winners entered are James Hinchcliffe (2013), Helio Castroneves (2006, 2007 and 2012), Will Power (2010), Ryan Briscoe (2009) and Graham Rahal (2008).
  • Previous pole winners entered are Will Power (2010-13), Graham Rahal (2009), Tony Kanaan (2008), Helio Castroneves (2007) and Sebastien Bourdais (2003).
  • At least 17 drivers entered in the event have competed in previous Indy car races at St. Pete. Twelve (12) of those drivers have led laps: (Helio Castroneves 205, Ryan Briscoe 117, Scott Dixon 94, Will Power 93, Justin Wilson 70, Sebastien Bourdais 30, James Hinchcliffe 26, Graham Rahal 19, Tony Kanaan 15, Takuma Sato 11, Marco Andretti 5 and Ryan Hunter-Reay 4.)
  • Mikhail Aleshin, Jack Hawksworth, Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Munoz will compete in their first Verizon IndyCar Series race on the streets of St. Petersburg. Hawksworth won his Indy Lights debut on the track last season and won the Pro Mazda race in 2012.

INDYCAR

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About this article
Series INDYCAR
Article type Preview
Tags charlie kimball, graham rahal, helio castroneves, indycar, james hinchcliffe, juan pablo montoya, scott dixon, sebastien bourdais, simon pagenaud, st. petersburg, tony kanaan