ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — The million dollar question leading into Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete (12 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) is, who’s going to win the second race of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season. Before we get to that, let’s get to the details for the race itself.
Race Day Schedule (All Times Local)
9:05-9:35 am: Warmup Peacock
12 pm: Cars To Grid
12:21 pm: Invocation
12:22 pm: National Anthem
12:24 pm: Drivers To Cars
12:35 pm: Command
12:42 pm: Green Flag
Coverage: 12 p.m. ET
Radio: INDYCAR Radio Network
Phone: INDYCAR App
Race Distance: 100 Laps/181 Miles
Race: 2 of 17
Track: Streets Of. St. Pete
Who Will Win?
Well, the trends say anyone coming from the top 5 Rows on Sunday will end up celebrating in victory lane. 14 of the 16 INDYCAR races on the streets of St. Pete have seen the eventual race winner come from a top 10 starting spot. Plus, 12 of the 14 races last year saw the winner come from a top 10 starting position. We’re 1-for-1 this year with Alex Palou starting third and winning last Sunday in Barber.
In respect to that, we can eliminate anyone coming from 11th on back. So, lets advance Colton Herta, Jack Harvey, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais, Pato O’Ward, Rinus VeeKay, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal and Alex Palou.
A reason for this trend is exactly half of the last six INDYCAR races overall went from green flag to checkered flag without a caution. In fact, there were 2 or fewer in 10 of the last 12 series races overall. In terms of St. Pete, we’ve had 2 or fewer cautions in 3 of the last 5 years. That in turn negates most of the pit strategy of possibly flipping the field due to an ill timed caution or at the very least lessens the prospects of one occurring. It can happen, which is what helped Bourdais recently, but there’s a better chance of it not.
Now, lets narrow it down even more.
11 of the last 15 race winners at St. Pete started in the top five but out of those four that didn’t, all came in the last five years. So, is it better to start between 6-10th rather than 1st-5th?
Recent trends on the track say, yes. Recent trends on the series overall say no.
The top three starters won 9 of the 14 races run last year including 8 of the final 9. Combine last Sunday, that’s 10 of the last 15 races run being won by someone coming from the top 2 Rows. 5 of the final 6 races last year were won from the front row at that. The only one not?
Just twice has the pole winner won at St. Pete, the last one coming in 2010. That doesn’t bode well for Herta who earned the pole on Saturday, but Herta has been fast this weekend in being third and fourth respectively in the two practice sessions too. Plus, among Herta’s three career wins, all came while starting from the pole, including all three coming consecutively.
The only two times that Herta won a pole and didn’t win the race came in 2019 at Road America and Portland. He’d finish eighth and fourth consecutively in them though.
Another trend is, since the new car came out in 2018, the “Big 3” have won 41 of the 49 races run (84-percent). Penske has won 22 times with Ganassi (11) and Andretti (8). But, RLL is next best with four victories while no one else has more than three.
Throw in RLL and you get 45 of 49 races won by these teams.
If you go back to 2016 though, that number stays the same. The “Big 3” have won 67 of 85 races run in that time frame. Throw in RLL and you get 74 of 85.
So, that means the winner likely comes from these teams. 3 of the top 4 starters are AA (1st) and Penske (3-4).
So, the winner is….I’ll buck some of the trends and go with Herta.
The top 5 finishers according to the trends:
- 26 Herta
- 2 Newgarden
- 14 Bourdais
- 22 Pagenaud
- 9 Dixon