IndyCar kicks off season in St. Pete

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, Last Updated: 1:21 PM ET

St. Petersburg, FL – The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season gets underway this weekend on the 1.8-mile street circuit in St. Petersburg.

Seventeen races make up this year's IndyCar schedule, but nine of them take place on road/street courses. The series' first oval race is the May 29 Indianapolis 500 -- the centennial anniversary of that event.

Will Power from Team Penske dominated on the road and street courses last season, winning five of the them. Power won the season-opener in Sao Paulo, Brazil and then claimed the victory at St. Pete for a 2-0 start to the season.

"I'm looking forward to getting the season started," said Power, who won IndyCar's inaugural road/street championship in 2010. "All three Team Penske cars had a great test at Barber [Motorsports Park], and the Verizon crew [Power's team] is ready to go. I am excited to finally race again, and I'm looking forward to trying to defend our win at St. Pete. The competition is going to be fierce."

Power's teammate, Ryan Briscoe, won the 2009 race at St. Pete. Power finished sixth in his debut with Penske that year. He drove the No.3 car in place of Helio Castroneves, who was in the tail end of his federal income tax evasion trial.

Last year, Power finished five points behind Dario Franchitti, who captured his record-tying third IndyCar championship. Franchitti has yet to win at St. Pete, but has recorded four top-five finishes and one pole in five starts here.

In this race one year ago, Franchitti started 13th but fell to 23rd when he spun on the first lap. The race was delayed one day due to heavy rain, and the track was still wet in some areas at start time. Franchitti worked his way up to sixth before a flat left-rear tire forced him to pit unexpectedly, dropping him to 19th. He made a remarkable comeback, as he passed seven cars in the final 11 laps to finish fifth.

"The car was quick enough to win this thing, but between the flat tire and me screwing up, it wasn't a bad day to finish fifth," Franchitti recalled.

Graham Rahal, the 2008 St. Pete winner, makes his first start for Chip Ganassi Racing. Ganassi expanded his IndyCar operation this year, with Rahal and series newcomer Charlie Kimball teaming up with Franchitti and Scott Dixon.

Rahal, who is the son of open-wheel racing legend Bobby Rahal, became the youngest driver to win an IndyCar race when he made his series debut in 2008 at St. Petersburg.

"St. Pete is my favorite circuit," Rahal said. "I absolutely love going there, and it's my favorite event. It's right on the water, and there's nothing like it. I think if I could race at St. Pete twenty times a year, I would be happy to do so."

Twenty-five teams are on the entry list for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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Series: IZOD IndyCar.

Date: Sunday, March 27.

Race: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Site: Streets of St. Petersburg.

Track: 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit.

Start Time: 12:30 p.m. (ET).

Laps: 100.

Miles: 180.6.

2010 winner: Will Power.

Television: ABC. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.


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