Race Preview Notes and Quotes: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Marco Andretti, Team RC Cola Chevrolet, No. 26The St. Petersburg Grand Prix will be the 100th career IndyCar start for the 25-year old Andretti, who is now entering his seventh season of IndyCar racing. Andretti commented on the upcoming season with Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe.
“We’re three guys with the same goal in mind. We’re all big-picture thinkers. We’re going to work together, we’re all going to be truthful to each other and we’re going to work to the last lap because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to beat these bigger teams… We all want to win races. It’s all business with us, and the business is racing. We’re going to just focus on winning races, period.”Andretti is excited about the racing debut of the new DW12 chassis and the twin-turbo Chevrolet engine, both of which match his aggressive driving style.
“(The new car has) been great. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s actually not that different from the old car. I always say it still has four wheels, so a lot of the things that worked on the old car are working now. It actually has more grip and more downforce, so that’s always fun for a driver. It’s been great working with Chevy. You can work with their engineers on boost maps and certain things to match (my) driving style.”Did You Know: Marco will wear a special helmet this weekend in tribute to his friend, the late Dan Wheldon. The paint scheme combines Andretti’s traditional look with a “Lionheart” design on the back of the helmet like Wheldon had worn.
James Hinchcliffe, Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, No. 27The 2012 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be Hinchcliffe’s first time racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series on the streets of St. Pete.
“I’m beyond excited to race in St. Pete this weekend. It will be my first time racing this circuit after sitting out last year waiting on sponsorship to come through. It’s such a good feeling being able to start the season with everyone else – knowing I have a secure ride with a great sponsor and I get to be a part of it all from the start. This is going to be a huge weekend for IndyCar with the new DW12 and three engines manufactures – it will be the most wide open season opener we’ve had in a long time. I’m anxious, excited and nervous but really looking forward to it.”Hinchcliffe is looking forward to a strong season in the No. 27 machine with the new relationship formed between the Canadian, Andretti Autosport and GoDaddy.com.
“It’s been awesome working with Andretti Autosport in the build up to the season, through all the testing and preparation. The chemistry is great right now. I feel like we have raced together for years and we haven’t even hit the first race yet! Working with Go Daddy has been such a blast as well. It’s one of the coolest sponsors in sports and we have already had a lot of fun together, but now it’s time to get results together.”Did You Know: James pays tribute to two open-wheel racing greats in his helmet design. Both the late Greg Moore and late Dan Wheldon are honored in his helmet’s paint scheme. The helmet also features a lighter as James is a collector of antique and unique lighters.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet, No. 28Hunter-Reay, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, is looking forward to racing on the seaside streets of St. Petersburg, and hopes his dart-throwing is accurate.
“The street courses are difficult because they’re constantly changing. You start the weekend with city streets and, because of the build-up of rubber, by the end of the event you have a full-on racetrack. But trying to predict that progression is like throwing darts blindfolded. It’s so unpredictable the key is to work to maximize each session. We’ve done our homework, and the Andretti team has always had good street-course set-ups, so we want to go right out and be at the front.”Hunter-Reay has already spent more than 30 days in a racecar since the first of the year, testing his IndyCar and racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. The constant action has the 32-year-old driver ready for this season like never before.
“This has been the most useful off-season I’ve ever had. Training is helpful (to stay in physical condition), but there is no substitute for seat time, no matter what kind of racecar it is. It’s the most useful way a driver can prepare. When I hit the track (for the first practice at St. Petersburg), I won’t have any rust because I’ve been in a racecar so much. It helps when your mind is constantly focused, working on set-ups and how to get the most out of the car each time.”Did You Know: Ryan scored nine top-10 finishes in the final 11 races of 2011, including a victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.