Once again, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marks the start of the Verizon IndyCar Series. Fans will pack the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida on March 12th for the season-opener of America’s premier open-wheel racing series.
Juan Pablo Montoya claimed the race last year, making him only the second driver to win the event back-to-back. In second place was fellow Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud. Will Power, also of Team Penske, qualified in pole position and was favored to take the event, but had to skip the race due to injury.
Team Penske has dominated the season-opener since its inception, winning the race eight times. To put that in perspective, no other team has won at St. Petersburg more than once. This year they look as strong as ever with Montoya, Power, and Pagenaud (last year’s Drivers’ Champion) all returning. And then there’s also IndyCar veteran Hélio Castroneves, who has won the event a record three times, including back-to-back wins in 2006 and 2007.
If Team Penske’s reign over the event is going to be disturbed, it will likely be Andretti Autosport doing the ruffling. Andretti’s star youngster, Alexander Rossi, won the Indy 500 last season in his rookie year. He ended the season in 11th place and finished 12th at St. Petersburg, but the 25-year-old showed huge potential in 2016.
Fellow Andretti driver Ryan Hunter-Reay also stands a good chance after finishing third at St. Petersburg last year, denying Team Penske from sweeping the top three. Hunter-Reay finished the season in 12th place, just under Rossi.
Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing should also be in the mix after finishing fifth overall last season and taking a big win in Texas. He’s certainly a better bet than teammate Oriol Servià, who only raced three events last year and finished the season in a dismal 24th place.
After St. Petersburg, we’ll have a clearer idea of where the teams and drivers stand. But for now, it looks like Team Penske’s dominance over IndyCar is set to continue.
Odds to win 2017 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Hélio Castroneves (Team Penske): 4/1
Will Power (Team Penske): 4/1
Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske): 17/3
Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport): 9/1
Juan Pablo Montoya (Team Penske): 9/1
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport): 20/1
Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing): 50/1
Photo credit: Sarah Stierch [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.