LIVE BLOG: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on March 28, 2014 8:13 am
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3:25 PM – And we’re back! The severe weather has moved through and the warning has been lifted. The video screens are back up and running, and people are returning to the grounds.

The only casualty of the delay is Indy Lights qualifying, which will grid up by combined practice times collated from yesterday and today.

The track is reopening for activity at 3:30. Here’s the revised schedule: 3:30 – 3:50 Stadium Super Trucks; 4:00 – 4:50 Pirelli World Challenge (UPDATE — PWC has opted to cancel this race); 5:00 – 6:10 IndyCar qualifying; 6:20 – 7:30 USF2000 and Pro Mazda races. The James Hinchcliffe plaque unveiling at the Victory Circle monument has been postponed until tomorrow. The timing of the autograph session is still being worked out; stay tuned. (By the way, you’ll get our news instantly if you’re on Twitter — follow us at @MoreFrontWing.)

An interesting tidbit that came up during the delay: the entry for Juan Montoya is fielded by a company called “Penske Motorsports,” which is jointly owned by Jay and Roger Penske — the reason being that it allows Montoya to use the entrant points from Bourdais’s Dragon Racing entry from last year. A similar structure was used to allow EJ Viso to use HVM’s entrant points from 2012 going into the 2013 season. Hasn’t wound up playing into things today, but it’s interesting to note.

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1:50 PM – Derrick Walker spent some time in the media center reviewing the new procedures introduced by INDYCAR earlier today. (Check earlier in the live blog for the full list.) He didn’t say a whole lot over and above what was provided earlier except to say that race director Beaux Barfield didn’t have sufficient tools at his disposal and it wasn’t fair to make him a one-man show. Walker spent some time in Formula 1 race control with Charlie Whiting to review their procedures and decide what to carry over to INDYCAR. The result was a large off-season expenditure on equipment and the new steward system being introduced this weekend.

On the single-file restarts, Walker acknowledged that INDYCAR has not always been as willing to wave off restarts as it could have been, and being stricter about implementing that is a key part of ensuring that the restarts remaining entertaining. The pace car will remain on track as long as possible, and there’s a clearly marked acceleration line that drivers will be expected to respect. If they don’t, wave-offs and potentially penalties could result.

It looks now — unofficially — as though Indy Lights qualifying has been rained out. It is raining a little here, but what’s keeping the cars off the track is the tornado watch and threat of lightning. If IndyCar quals are rained out as well, which is a distinct possibility, the field will line up by entrant points from the end of last year. Thanks to @UKIndyFan on Twitter for pointing out that the pit lane assignments can be used to find out what that order would be — which, if you like, you can find in our Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Event Summary.

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1:10 PM – Pro Mazda qualifying has wrapped up with Orlando native Spencer Pigot carrying on from his Winterfest success by putting his #7 Juncos Racing machine on pole. Reigning USF2000 champion Scott Hargrove, Pigot’s teammate Kyle Kaiser, Shelby Blackstock of Andretti Autosport, and Mexican Jose Gutierrez of Juncos round out the top five. That means we have three Americans in the top five starting positions for Pro Mazda race 1 as well — and three of four Juncos Racing cars are in that top group as well. That race gets under way at 5:35 PM today.

…Theoretically. We’re currently under a severe weather warning with a tornado watch here at the track, and the grandstands have been evacuated as a precaution (which always happens when there’s threat of lightning in the area. There are people all over the place in the Mahaffey Theater and in the garage structure where the IndyCar paddock is housed. It feels a great deal like race day attempt 1 from 2010, the last time I was here. At least we’re getting it on Saturday this time and not Sunday!

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