Hot Fun @ St.Pete’s Indy GP

A Look back at the 2009 event

Danica and Dixon crash out, Justin and Briscoe duke it out!

The opening race of the 2009 Indy Car season, and the second under unification, was an adventure in staying off the tire barriers and out of trouble. The madness started on the opening lap in turn 1. Graham Rahal started from pole in his McDonald’s NHL Dallara-Honda but slowed early and the resulting chaos damaged several cars . “Dario dive bombed everybody and Graham tried to avoid him and he came to a stop. I couldn’t do anything,” said Tony Kanaan, who had to stop and replace a broken front wing on his7-eleven AGR car. Justin Wilson in the Sonny’s BBQ Coyne Racing entry lead the early laps over Ryan Briscoe in the Team Penske racer. After a brutal crash when Danica Patrick’s Motorola AGR Dallara-Honda contacted the sidepod of Rafael Matos’ Marines car sending both into the barriers at turn 12, and another incident retired Scott Dixon’s Target Ganassi racecar, Briscoe and Wilson traded the point onrestarts . On lap 87, the Penske driver took the lead for good and held off a charging Ryan Hunter-Reay (Izod Vision Racing) for a hard fought and tough win. “At the end there, we had some restarts and I was able to get Justin down on the inside,” explained Ryan after the race.

On Saturday, Scott Sharp and David Brabham scored a victoryin the ALMS AcuraSports Car Challenge in their Patron Highcroft Acura ARX_02a. The Flying Lizard Porsche of Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeistor won in GT2.

Shop for Firestone tires at Tire Rack.

For me, the fun started soon after my arrival. The Ponce deLeon is a boutique hotel near the marina on the bay side of St.Petersburg. My luck is that it is right alongside the race course at turn 8! On the street level is the Pincho y Pincho sidewalk café for early breakfast and coffee or late night beers. On the other corner behind the tire barriers and with a view of the race track, is the tapas restaurant Ceviches. From there, it was a short walk to another favorite place I found, the Central Avenue Oyster Bar. An upscale dining establishment with a long bar, very friendly staff, chatty clientele, fine food and yes…oysters.
At the track I moved around from my assigned seats in Stand 7 to thevarious corners seeking different vantage points to view the action. When not watching the racing, I rambled around the Honda Plaza where a band was on a stage to entertain the crowd. Near the track, the Widmer Bar was busy quenching an extremely thirsty throng. There I met several new friends. One fun loving gal called herself “turn 10” and of course we watched the sports car race from her anointed spot. Another raucous group hailed from Australia and was taking a break from crewing one of the many yachts moored in the port. A stroll through the paddock area afforded me the chance to watch the teams and drivers up close preparing for the practice sessions. Another fun spot was the Patron Tequilla tent, but beware…hot sun and too many tasty margueritas can be quite a challenge! 
It was a fun and exciting weekend and with the delightfully sunny Florida weather I returned home sunburned and with a longing to return soon.

thanks to ALMS and