By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel
The INDYCAR season begins this weekend with the NTT IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. The Open Wheel will be on-site covering the action all weekend so stay tuned to this site and our Twitter page @openwh33l for all of the latest news.
Photo by Parker Hall/The Open Wheel
Indy Lights Preview: Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires (Entry List), Race 1 – Saturday, March 9, 2019 1:15PM (ET) & Race 2 – Sunday, March 10, 2019 10:05AM (ET) – Last year’s dominant trio of Patricio O’Ward, Colton Herta, and Santiago Urruita have all moved on from Indy Lights and the 2019 championship race should be as wide open as it ever has been. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Norman returns as the veteran of the series and finished fourth in the championship last year. Norman and his Andretti Autosport teammates Robert Megennis and Oliver Askew were lightning quick in testing and in my opinion will be as strong as anyone else throughout the year. Belardi Auto Racing features a strong veteran in Zachary Claman who has plenty of experience in both Indy Lights and the NTT IndyCar Series. Oval specialist Dalton Kellett is back in the series with Juncos Racing. Kellett is joined by teammate Rinus VeeKay, the Indy Pro 2000 champion who won both races in the series at St. Pete last year. New team and driver BN Racing and David Malukas will get stronger as the year goes on but I don’t think they’ll be ready to win in week one. My picks to win: Ryan Norman & Oliver Askew
Verizon IndyCar Series Preview: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – Sunday, March 10, 2019 12:30PM (ET) NBCSN – The season opener at St. Pete always contains plenty of drama. Last year’s wild qualifying session and late incident between leaders Robert Wickens and Alexander Rossi was no different. Previous driver experience shows four former winners at St. Pete in the field in Sebastien Bourdais (2), Will Power (2), James Hinchcliffe (1), and Graham Rahal (1). Bourdais has won in each of the last two years. Looking at box scores from 2018 and 2017, Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay are the only drivers to finish in the Top 5 in each of the last two years. Those two are joined by Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, and Marco Andretti. My pick to win: Ryan Hunter-Reay – Ryan Hunter-Reay ended 2018 with a win at Sonoma and has been as fast as anyone for the last couple years. What he’s lacked has been luck. I think that changes in a big way in 2019 and he’ll be a bonafide championship contender. That starts with a win at St. Pete based on his Top 5 finishes in each of the last two years and six in twelve years.
My fantasy.indycar.com picks: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, & Colton Herta – You know my thoughts on Hunter-Reay. Power has seven St. Poles in eleven starts and there’s no reason to think he won’t be a strong contender again this weekend. Bourdais has won this event the last two years and costs only $25, why wouldn’t he be on your team? Herta could be a great value pick at $18. He was always fast here in Lights and his Harding Steinbrenner Racing team showed plenty of speed at Sonoma last year and in preseason testing at COTA.