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IRL: IndyCar to venture onto the streets

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IRL: IndyCar to venture onto the streets
Sep 3, 2004, 5:32 AM

Well before the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series pays its first visits to Infineon Sears Point Raceway or Watkins Glen International in 2005, the League is taking its show to the streets. The streets of St. Petersburg, FL, to be specific, where ...

Well before the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series pays its first visits to Infineon Sears Point Raceway or Watkins Glen International in 2005, the League is taking its show to the streets.

The streets of St. Petersburg, FL, to be specific, where many different racing organizations have been before, some with more success than others.

Practice action.
Photo by Michael Kim.
Most recently, in February of 2003 Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford held its season opener, an event few thought would occur. The inaugural race was a success at the turnstiles and in the media.

St. Pete's 14-turn, 1.806-mile road/airport circuit was also lauded by all 18 Champ Car drivers that weekend. They had plenty of run-offs; the circuit was well planned and executed. It was a lot of fun.

In the race, of course, leaner minds took over and, of five full-course cautions, five were for contact and/or spins.

After that well received contest, politicians conspired to lose the race as a Champ Car venue with ownership quibbles. As the date for the second inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg approached in February of this year, it got the axe.

At Kentucky Speedway during the Belterra Casino Indy 300 weekend, Fred Nation asked about the viability of the St. Petersburg circuit as an IRL IndyCar Series date. I told him I thought the track would be good for the League because of its driver-friendly and fan-conducive atmosphere.

How close was the League to having a 17th race at that time? Some dotted "I's" and some crossed "t's", Nation intimated. Tomorrow morning at 11:30AM EDT Tony George, several IRL drivers and the Florida city's leaders will all be at Bayfront Plaza in St. Petersburg to anoint the return of street racing for Indy cars on the same user-friendly circuit.

The announcement is expected to be for an April 3rd Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Barry Green, the former honcho at Team KOOL Green and Team Green in both CART and as the 1995 Indy 500 winner is involved. The Australian retired after the 2002 season when bought out by Michael Andretti, brother Kim Green and Kevin Savoree.

Barry Green doesn't work unless there's a good deal involved. This will be a good deal.

Meanwhile, on the ocean side of Florida, site of the Indy Racing League's initial road course test at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Hurricane Frances cancelled the September 2-4 practices.

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