IRL: St. Petersburg makes 17 races in 2005

With the official announcement this morning in the City of St. Petersburg, Florida that the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place April 3, 2005 on the 1.806-mile, 14-corner street circuit, the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series has...

With the official announcement this morning in the City of St. Petersburg, Florida that the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place April 3, 2005 on the 1.806-mile, 14-corner street circuit, the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series has three road/street courses on the docket for a 17-event 2005 season.

This is the same configuration used by Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford in 2003, a successful venture. in itself -- but political infighting did not permit the Champ cars to return to this "Sunshine City" on the west coast of Florida.

The circuit features plenty of run-off areas as it incorporates parts of the Albert Whitted Airport and ventures past the St. Petersburg waterways, making the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course a scenic venue for drivers and fans. St. Petersburg features 234 miles of shoreline along Tampa Bay, Boca Ciega Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and Florida's intracoastal waterways.

"I'd like to thank Mayor Rick Baker and the City Council for their pursuit of this event on behalf of the people of St. Petersburg," declared IRL president and CEO Tony George. "Today's announcement brings us to a major market that has considerable interest in motorsports.

"The addition of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg allows the IRL to achieve two of its goals as they relate to scheduling," George continued. "We are continuing to enhance our schedule with the addition of road and street-style events and the St. Petersburg [event] allows the IRL to compete in another warm-weather market in advance of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

"This is an historic day for the League," George indicated. "This race in St. Petersburg will be our first non-oval contest and it will be held in a beautiful setting. The 2003 race here opened my eyes to the fact that this was an obvious venue for the IRL. Coming to St. Petersburg fulfills two goals: we are extending our pre-Indianapolis schedule and building momentum," by having four events on the schedule prior to the Month of May.

Embarking on its tenth anniversary tour, the Indy Racing League's 2005 schedule begins, for the fourth consecutive year at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 6th. Two weeks later the IRL ventures to Phoenix International Raceway (March 19th) for a Saturday contest and then travels back to Florida for the inaugural Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. A long trip to Japan and Twin Ring Motegi on April 30th allows the League continuity leading up to the 89th Indy 500 on May 29.

Today's announcement was made at the City's picturesque Bayfront Plaza. In addition to Tony George, officials on-hand included Mayor Rick Baker; members of the City Council; Michael Andretti, co-owner of Andretti Green Racing (AGR); former CART team owner Barry Green, who retired when Team Green became Andretti Green Racing and who returns to major otorsports as managing director for the race; AGR team driver Dario Franchitti and Tom Elliott, executive vice president of auto operations for American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

"On April 3, 2005, the Indy Racing League drivers will race on a street course for the very first time," noted Mayor Baker. "We're thrilled that the League's inaugural street-circuit event will take place right here in beautiful downtown St. Petersburg," a prime spring tourist destination.

Andretti Green Promotions, an affiliate enterprise of AGR will serve as race promoter under the direction of Barry Green, the older brother of AGR co-owner Kim Green. "Andretti Green Promotions is thrilled with the opportunity that lies ahead in St. Petersburg," Barry Green said.

"It's a terrific venue and has all the elements necessary to create a successful event for the City, the fans, the competitors, a national television audience and the Indy Racing League," the Australian former driver, mechanic, team manager and team co-owner stated. He'll be joined in the management by London, England-based CSS Stellar, a full-serve global marketing and communications group with a broad base of marketing and promotion experience.

"This is a great day for me," Green insisted. "I think I have an understanding of what goes into putting on a street race and, with CSS Stellar's wealth of knowledge, we've got a great group in place. Mayor Baker and his team wanted the IndyCar Series race in their city and that made me very interested. American Honda, too has been a great partner in this venture."

The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will mark the second event sponsored by American Honda in the IndyCar Series; it also sponsors the Honda Indy 225 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Honda clinched its first Indy Racing League manufacturers' championship on August 15th at Kentucky Speedway, with Adrian Fernandez' initial IRL victory. The company has secured wins in 12 of 13 IndyCar Series events held to date.

"This year has been great for American Honda and Honda Performance Development. Winning our first Indianapolis 500, taking victory in Japan at Twin Ring Motegi and claiming the manufacturers' championship are terrific," noted Tom Elliott on behalf of American Honda.

"We are quite happy about the chance to sponsor the IRL's first non-oval contest and we are very, very pleased with the support of the City of St. Petersburg for this venture. I think the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has the potential to be a fantastic event.

"We're looking forward to bringing the excitement of IndyCar Series racing to the west coast of Florida," Elliott said. "Honda has a long history of supporting open wheel racing in America and a tradition of sponsoring major sporting events in Florida."

In addition to this motorsports venture, American Honda has a 23-year tenure as sponsor of the Honda Classic, a PGA Tour stop that has, for the past two years been held at Mirasol Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens. Honda's Acura division is the primary sponsor of the annual Southern Ocean Racing Conference (SORC) sailboat races off Miami's shoreline.

"The opportunity to combine these two traditions in the St. Petersburg market should provide a thrilling show for Florida's many motorsports fans," Elliott stated. "We also appreciate the strong support from the City of St. Petersburg and look forward to sponsoring this race for several years to come."

Franchitti added, "The combination of street and airport lends to great racing and diversifies the championship. I think it's going to be a great challenge. Michael Andretti concurred as he stated, "This is one of the biggest days in the IRL's history. This opens diversity for drivers and teams and makes the championship more challenging. The venue is beautiful and I think you'll see plenty of passing and great racing. This seems to be a superb street course," after touring much of the 1.806-mile track this morning.

The Indy Racing League embarks on its tenth year of competition in 2005. With the addition of St. Petersburg, the schedule featurea 14 oval contests, two road courses (Infineon Raceway in California and Watkins Glen International in New York) and one temporary street circuit, the most events in IndyCar Series history for a single season.

Races at Infineon Raceway Sears Point (August 28) and Watkins Glen (September 25) mark the League's first outings on a permanent road course. Chassis makers Dallara, who earned this year's constructors' title at Nazareth Speedway last weekend and Panoz G Force have chassis re-designs ready for initial testing at a venue to be named later. An initial road-course test set for today through Friday had to be cancelled due to inclement weather at Homestead- Miami Speedway.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Adrian Fernandez , Kim Green , Barry Green , Tony George