News Notes: St. Pete

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A look at some news and notes going into this weekend's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race at the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. Helio Castroneves hopes for a three-peat, Scott Dixon looks for back-to-back wins for the season, and Dan Wheldon goes for his first win at St. Pete since the inaugeral event took place in 2005.

Castroneves hopes to dance in Victory Lane

Helio Castroneves, the winner of the past two races at St. Petersburg and the winner of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" last November, hopes to return to Victory Lane for a third consecutive season. The affable South Florida resident has led 135 laps at St. Petersburg the last two seasons.

Only two drivers have ever won three consecutive races at the same track. Dan Wheldon won three-in-a-row at Homestead-Miami Speedway (2005-07), and Scott Dixon has captured three-in-a-row at Watkins Glen (2005-07).

Hometown hero eyes return to Victory Lane

St. Petersburg resident, Dan Wheldon hopes to return to Victory Lane in St. Petersburg for the first time since 2005. After winning the inaugural Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Wheldon has finished ninth in 2007 and 16th in 2006. Wheldon is coming off a third-place finish in the season opener. A crash during qualifying forced him to start 22nd.

Comfortable surroundings

For the nine drivers transitioning into the IndyCar Series, the streets of St. Petersburg should prove to be more comfortable surroundings. Of the nine, only two had made more than five starts on ovals prior to last weekend's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Oriol Servia recorded the best finish at Homestead-Miami (12th). Servia and Junqueira competed in Champ Car's inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in 2003. Can one of the group break into the top 10?

Offseason changes to cars could play role at St. Petersburg

The IndyCar Series introduced two changes to the cars that will have a bigger effect on street and road circuits than on ovals. In 2008, all cars are outfitted with a paddle shift system that allows drivers to shift gears without removing their hands from the steering wheel. A variable assist steering system also has been introduced. The system eases the effort required to turn the steering wheel the farther the wheel is turned.

Race Facts & Figures:

  • Three Indianapolis 500 champions are expected to participate in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002), Buddy Rice (2004) and Dan Wheldon (2005).

  • Three IndyCar Series champions are scheduled to participate in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: Scott Dixon (2003), Tony Kanaan (2004) and Dan Wheldon (2005).

  • Drivers entered in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as of March 31 have combined for 52 IndyCar Series victories, 57 pole positions and 813 starts.

  • The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the fourth IndyCar Series event conducted at St. Petersburg. Helio Castroneves has won the past two races, while Dan Wheldon won the inaugural race in 2005. Both are entered in this year's race.

Season-to-Date:

  • Scott Dixon, last weekend's winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway, will go for back-to-back wins to start the season. He has finished second at St. Petersburg in each of the last two seasons.

  • Andretti Green Racing, which had a 1-2-3-4 finish at St. Petersburg in 2005, placed three of its four drivers in the top 10 at Homestead-Miami.

Milestones & Records:

  • Helio Castroneves can establish an IndyCar Series record for most consecutive seasons with at least one win should he win the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Castroneves is tied with Scott Sharp with victories in seven consecutive seasons.

  • Helio Castroneves will attempt to make his 95th consecutive IndyCar Series start, becoming the reigning 'Iron Man.'
    Helio Castroneves can join Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon as winners of three consecutive events at one track if he wins the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

  • Vitor Meira has gone 77 starts without a victory in the IndyCar Series, the longest drought of any IndyCar Series driver.

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