The 15th Annual Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
The 15th annual Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will return March 8-10 as the opening race for the NTT IndyCar Series for a ninth consecutive year. It will also feature five support racing series on track with four of the five opening their 2019 seasons in St. Petersburg. The Grand Prix is held on a temporary waterfront street course that includes a combination of adjacent downtown streets circling Pioneer Park, the Mahaffey Theater, Salvador Dali Museum and extending onto the runways of Albert Whitted Airport, which overlook the Tampa Bay and picturesque St. Petersburg Harbor and Marina. The NTT IndyCar Series is the premier open-wheel racing series in the United States. It offers one of the most diverse and challenging schedules in motorsports with races held on ovals, permanent road courses and temporary street courses. A new aerodynamic body kit was introduced to the series in 2018 at the St. Petersburg opener providing a sleeker, more aggressive-looking Indy car. Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the top step of the Road to Indy ladder system for drivers and teams striving to compete in the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. 23 of the 33 starters in the 2018 Indianapolis 500 were Indy Lights graduates, including 11 series champions. The Indy Lights champion receives a three-race IndyCar Series scholarship package valued at $1.1 million which includes the Indy 500. The Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires is the second step on the Road to Indy, bridging the gap between the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. The series’ champion is awarded a scholarship package worth $596,700 to advance to Indy Lights competition the following year. Graduates include Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and Graham Rahal. The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship is the first step on the Road to Indy. In addition to providing a vital training ground for rising stars just out of the karting ranks, the series champion will earn a $305,600 scholarship package to advance to the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Drivers who have honed their skills in the series include Indy 500 winners Dan Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr. and Buddy Rice. Some of North America’s top GT and Touring Car production-based racing will be featured with Pirelli GT4 America and TC America series part of the World Challenge Championship. Pirelli GT4 America with its Sprint race format and TC America’s TCR class will be featured at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.