The loud engines revving and enormous crowds reminded locals that the races were back in town. Each year, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg attracts visitors worldwide. Drivers race through a 1.8-mile track that weaves through Albert Whitted Airport and the downtown area.
The IndyCar series kicks off in St. Petersburg and then moves on to a number of other locations including China, California, Brazil and Michigan. This year’s event had a major theme: preserving the memory of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon. The 33-year-old driver died in a 15-car pileup at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last October. Wheldon was a cherished member of the IndyCar community, and called St. Petersburg his home.
Holly Wheldon, Dan’s sister, waved the opening green flag for the Izod IndyCar Series, the Grand Prix’s main event. Many fans attending the event also wore the color orange, Wheldon’s racing color. After winning the IndyCar Series, driver Helio Castroneves stopped at turn 10 during his victory lap, which was recently named Dan Wheldon Way.
Castroneves jumped up on the fence as he had done for his last two St. Petersburg victories. However, this time he touched the sign and kissed the barrier to honor a fallen driver and friend. Spectators roared in appreciation, ending another exciting St. Petersburg Grand Prix.
Argentinean Indy Lights driver Esteban Guerrieri puts on his helmet before race practice. Drivers wear protective gear to help keep them safe. In addition to a flame retardant jumpsuit and hood, they also have neck support to protect them during fast turns.
The St. Petersburg Grand Prix offers more than just Indy car races. The Pirelli World Challenge event features a variety of modified street cars including Porsches, Corvettes, Ferraris, Volkswagens, Nissans and Kias.
Izod IndyCar Series driver Sebastien Bourdais rounds corner one of the track. The Izod IndyCar Series runs 100 laps for a total of 180 miles and is the largest event of the Honda Grand Prix.
Team Penske take only seconds to tune up driver Will Power’s Indy car. Drivers depend on team members to quickly replace tires and refuel the cars.
The corner of Bayshore Drive and Albert Whitted Park was named Dan Wheldon Way last March to commemorate the local Indy car Driver. The sign was placed at turn 10, where Wheldon passed driver Ryan Briscoe to take the win in 2005.
Izod IndyCar series winner Helio Castroneves (center) celebrates his third St. Peterburg Grand Prix victory with second and third place winners Scott Dixon (right) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (left). Winners traditionally shake up bottles of champagne to celebrate after the race.
Driver Collete Davis wrecked her car at turn 10 during the USF2000 race. She escaped uninjured, and the track towing crew was quick to come in and remove the damaged car.
All photos by Daniel Mutter