Speed records could be set at Grand Prix of St. Pete

By Rishi Barran, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 08, 2017, 5:04 PM EST

Construction is already underway for the 13th running of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

One grandstand is already up, and the first blocks were placed on Wednesday as the process begins to prepare the 1.8 mile track that runs through downtown St. Pete.

Grand Prix weekend will run from March 10-12 and feature 13 races, including the signature Verizon IndyCar Series race to cap off the festivities that Sunday.

The best drivers in all of IndyCar, including 2014 IndyCar Series champion Will Power, will be behind the wheel and ready to race on a new surface that has been re-surfaced for the first time in the last decade.

“I can’t wait to get on it, because when the track is re-surfaced, it brings a lot of speed into it- a lot more,” Power said.  “I think the lap time will be a lot faster here.”

Power, a two-time winner at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, expects the track record he set during qualifying last year to be shattered.

The infrastructure for the event is quickly being assembled for one of St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman’s favorite weekends of the year.

“It showcases the city in ways we could never hope to do,” Kriseman said.  “To not only this country on live ABC, but internationally, as it’s broadcast to over 200 countries around the world.  And they really get to see the beauty that is St. Petersburg.”

Sixteen-year-old Colton Herta, who will make his IndyCar debut in the Lights series at St. Pete, drives for Andretti Steinbrenner Racing.

Herta is well aware of the Steinbrenner family's local roots, and he wants to put on a show for them.

“It would mean a ton,” Herta said.  “I know he’s got a lot of friends and family coming out.  We might see some Yankee players out.  So it’s going to be great.”

It’s the seventh straight year the IndyCar series begins a new season on this downtown road course.

It's a tradition the drivers hope continues for a long time.

“I love starting here in St. Pete,” Power said.  “The weather, the setting, and the city.  It’s a really, really cool place.  I wouldn’t want to start anywhere else but here.”

Once the course installation is complete, it’ll be time to rev up the engines on race day again.