Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Race Preview
March 27, 2014
Verizon IndyCar Series
No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
Juan Pablo Montoya
· HE’S BACK: Juan Pablo Montoya returns to the Verizon IndyCar Series for the first time since the 2000 season. After winning the 1999 CART Series championship and the 2000 Indianapolis 500 in his first attempt, Montoya bolsters the Team Penske lineup with his impressive racing resume that includes winning seasons in Formula One and NASCAR since his last IndyCar competition.
· STREET COURSE SUCCESS: Montoya has four street course wins in IndyCar Series competition, but this will be his first race on the picturesque, St. Petersburg circuit. He also owns a victory at the prestigious Grand Prix of Monaco in Formula One competition.
· BUSY OFFSEASON: To prepare for his move back to the Verizon IndyCar Series, Montoya participated in several test sessions with his Team Penske teammates, Will Power and Helio Castroneves, during the offseason. Beginning in November, Montoya began testing at Sebring International Raceway, Phoenix International Raceway, Auto Club Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and Barber Motorsports Park as he got comfortable behind the wheel of the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevy.
· FLYING THE VERIZON COLORS: Verizon Wireless will serve as the primary sponsor for Montoya and the No. 2 Team Penske car in nine of the 18 races that comprise the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA
YOU’VE RACED IN INDYCAR AND ALL OVER THE WORLD, BUT IS THERE A BIT OF NERVOUSNESS THIS WEEK AS YOU MAKE YOUR RETURN TO THE SERIES?
"A little bit, for sure, but it’s nervous excitement. I’ve never been on the St. Petersburg course before so I’m going to have to get up to speed quickly. But I’m with a fantastic team, the best team there is in Team Penske. I have the support of a sponsor like Verizon Wireless that came on board with us. It’s been a long offseason and I’m just ready to get back to racing. I’m sure the first lap of practice will get rid of any nerves that I will have and it will be business as usual.”
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO GET READY TO RACE ON THE ST. PETERSBURG STREET CIRCUIT?
“I've seen about a hundred videos of it. I watched the races. That's one of the hardest challenges, getting ready for the first time on a street course, like at St. Petersburg. I think it's going to be eye-opening. I think it's going to be a slow-building weekend, getting comfortable in the car. It's something I've been getting better at – work on the car. Going fast, it's easier. If you're not comfortable in the car the chances of getting it wrong are big and it will be very hard to try and figure it out.”
· NEW YEAR, NEW CHALLENGE: After narrowly missing out on the 2013 IndyCar Series title in one of the best seasons of his career, Helio Castroneves is focused on the new 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season and the goal of bringing a championship back to Team Penske.
· ST. PETE IS SWEET: Castroneves, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has felt right at home on the St. Petersburg circuit over the years. His three wins are easily the most in the event’s 10-year history as he is the only multiple winner of the race.
· HITACHI BACK IN 2014: Beginning with this weekend’s race, Hitachi will serve as the primary sponsor of the No. 3 Dallara/Chevrolet for eight races in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
· ST. PETE VIP LUNCHEON: Castroneves and Team Penske teammate, Will Power, will both be in attendance at the 2014 Green Flag VIP Luncheon on Thursday, March 27 at the Vinoy Golf Club beginning at 11:30 am as former winners of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
· CLIMBING THE LISTS: In a successful 2013 campaign where he led all drivers with 16 top-10 finishes and was the only driver running at the end of all 19 races, Castroneves continued to climb the ladder of all-time series records. Entering 2014, he ranks fifth all-time in pole positions won with 38, 12th in wins with 28, fourth with 32 second-place finishes and ninth all-time with 111 top-five results.
THE Q & A
AS THE DRIVER WHO HAS WON THIS RACE MORE THAN ANY OTHER, WHAT DOES ST. PETE MEAN TO YOU?
"There are several things. The first thing is after a long offseason, we start in St. Pete, so everybody's fresh, everybody's ready. Second is the atmosphere. I mean, the weather is great. The fans are amazing – over 120,000 people over the weekend. It's become part of a big party in the town. Then you put all these things together, it's a great event. Plus the track is fantastic. On the technical side, it’s a street course with an airport involved. It's not always a 90-degree corner like a typical road course has. You have high-speed corners, things like that. It's only four hours' drive from my home. So when the place suits you well, you tend to enjoy it much more.”
HOW EASY IS IT TO MOVE ON AFTER LAST SEASON?
"It’s very easy to turn the page on 2013. That’s old. That’s yesterday’s news. Now we're in 2014. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We're ready. We've tested a lot over the winter. I'm excited and ready, to be honest, to start the season because it's been a long offseason, in a good way.”
THE NEWS AND NOTES
· MOMENTUM IS KEY: After winning three of the final five races of 2013 – including back-to-back wins at Houston and Auto Club Speedway – Will Power is considered one of the heavy favorites to win his first Verizon IndyCar Series title in 2014.
· POLE PROWESS: Power has recorded four-consecutive pole positions at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. During that run he has recorded one win (2010) and a total of 93 laps led at the airport street circuit.
· CONTINUING PENSKE TRADITION: Since joining Team Penske prior to the 2009 season, Power has captured 18 wins and 27 pole positions – the most of any driver during that time span – adding to the winning tradition of Team Penske.
· BACK WITH VERIZON: Power will again pursue the Verizon IndyCar Series championship in the distinctive red and black colors of Verizon, which will adorn the No. 12 Dallara/Chevrolet for the full 2014 season.
AFTER THE WAY YOU ENDED LAST SEASON, HOW EXCITED ARE YOU TO GET 2014 STARTED?
"I’m very excited to start the 2014 season and I believe this Verizon team is ready to compete for the championship. I’ve finished second several times, so I’ve had pretty good seasons before. I do feel like I’m more of a threat on the ovals than ever before. I knew that would only come with time. I felt great about our race at Milwaukee last year and we won at Fontana. So am I confident? Yes, but I’m a confident driver.”
HOW BIG IS IT TO HAVE VERIZON AS THE SERIES TITLE SPONSOR?
“It’s really a big deal. I think it’s a game-changing moment for our sport. The amount technology they are going to introduce is going to change the way that our races are watched and, the way the fans interact with drivers and teams. I really feel that with the great racing we have in the Verizon IndyCar Series, this is exactly the type of series sponsor we need to get the sport out to the masses.”
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