Lisa Davidson's take on last weekend's IndyCar season kick off in St. Pete.
The Big Picture: After a gnarly off season which included firing Randy Bernard as CEO and Steve Shunck as Vice President of Public Relations, the series produced a quality event with few glitches. (Note: the 2003 event was won by Paul Tracy, not Sebastien Bourdais as the broadcast indicated.)
Event: It’s either turning into the Long Beach of the Atlantic or the Dan Wheldon Memorial, I dunno which. We’re happy either way, because it looks like a solid event that is FUN!
Race: We’ll give it a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. There was a reasonable amount of passes for the lead and not too many endless yellows.
Track: Street circuits in general are less than ideal race circuits, but the festival atmosphere helps to make up for that. The good part of streets of St. Pete’s track is that part of it is on actual runways, making for some very wide turns.
Start: As Will Power implied, he wuz robbed. Will’s teammate Helio Castroneves clearly jumped the first restart. And we’re wondering why was this one green flagged? Paging Beaux Barfield!
Surprise of the race: Simona de Silvestro's awesome drive and how well she does running up front.
Hinchcliffe: We’ve waited years for the insanely funny and self-proclaimed Mayor of Hinchtown to win a race in the Izod IndyCar Series, but damn, this one felt good! And congrats also to Engineer Craig who used to work for Newman-Haas for a win with James 2.0
Chevrolet: A dominating performance. So dominating that Chip Ganassi is really annoyed.
Castroneves: Second was not the finish that the veteran Penske driver wanted, but he’s been around long enough to just take the points and smile with his pretty daughter after the race.
Andretti: Marco’s off-season coaching apparently did the trick. While he did not make the “Fast Six” in qualifying, he raced with intelligence and worked his way up to the front, earning the final spot on the podium.
Power: The bad luck he had at the season finale last September has lamentably followed him into the 2013 season. Yet, he won the pole handily and led as many laps as Hinchcliffe.
Andretti Autosport: And this team’s good luck from the end of the 2012 season continues for now.
Rookies: I predict that Tristan Vautier will win Rookie of the Year. I can say this because he’s the only rookie in 2013 for now.
NBC Sports Network: Loved that they included Miller’s infamous grid walk, they have a fairly cool set, and I can probably get used to Leigh Diffey. But I do miss Bob Jenkins.
Next race: Because it’s Easter Week, there is no racing next weekend. But in two weeks, our IndyCar circus arrives in Birmingham, Alabama, for a race at Barber. Bring your appetites because the Southern cooking is fine, but also bring your bug spray!