ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — The odds are out for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete (12 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). Here’s a breakdown on who you should look at to win the 2023 NTT INDYCAR Series season opener.
This will mark the 19th straight year the series has been coming to St. Pete, but the second time since 2019 that this race will serve as the season opener. In 2020, the race was moved from March to the season finale in October due to COVID and in 2021 it was moved again from the season opener to late April in hopes of being able to host more fans by doing so.
- Penske has won 6 of the last 9 years here including 2 of the last 4 at that from Josef Newgarden. He was runner-up in 2021.
- 16 of the 18 years has the winner came from a top 10 starting position.
- 12 of the last 16 race winners at St. Pete started in the top five.
- Prior to 2021, just two times in 17 years had the pole winner won at St. Pete. The last one before then? 2010. The pole winner has now won though the last two years.
- 4 of the last 7 years this race has seen just 2 or fewer total cautions. We had 6 in 2020 and 3 in April 2021. Last year there was just one.
- Each winner with the exception of one since 2015 repeated the next year
- Juan Pablo Montoya won in 2015 and again in 2016
- Sebastien Bourdais won in 2017 and again in 2018
- Josef Newgarden won in 2019 and again in 2020
- Colton Herta won in 2021…4th last year
TRACK COMPARISONS/WHO’S BEEN GOOD ON THEM
With St. Pete being a street course is unique in the sense that we don’t have many of them on the schedule. In 2020, there was just one – here. In 2021, we added back a few more in Belle Isle, St. Pete, Nashville and Long Beach. The same were back the last two years with the addition of Toronto again this season and last.
These are the best comparisons to St. Pete in the fact that the top drivers on those places are also good here too.
If you go back to the start of the 2019 season, we’ve had 16 races on these tracks with 9 different winners. Josef Newgarden (4 wins), Scott Dixon (3 wins), Marcus Ericsson (2 wins) and Colton Herta (2 wins) are the only multi-time winners with 2 of Newgarden’s 4 wins coming here in St. Pete.
The big teams are strong on them with Penske winning 7 of those last 16 races, Ganassi with 4 and Andretti with 3. Arrow McLaren SP is the only other team to have won.
Penske won 3 of the 5 last year with Ganassi and Scott Dixon taking the other two.
13 of the top 14 starters belong to the Ganassi, Penske, Andretti and McLaren camps.
Colton Herta (+360)
He led 97 of 100 laps from the pole in taking this win in 2021 and was fourth last year. Street courses are where Herta is fast. He should have won at Nashville in 2021 and Long Beach last year. He made self-inflicted mistakes in chasing wins in both. He did win the 2021 season finale at Long Beach though too. Herta also had 4 top 8’s in all 5 street courses run in 2022 as well. He starts second and was second and first respectively in practice as well. The last two race winners here were quickest in the second practice session of the weekend, like Herta was today.
Romain Grosjean (+400)
5th last year and 2nd in Long Beach put him here. So does the pole on Saturday. The last two years were won by the pole winner.
Scott McLaughlin (+700)
This will be the fourth time that he’s been to St. Pete as he enters this season off of an emotional win here a year ago. McLaughlin started on pole and led 49 of 100 laps in the victory. He says he has as good as a car this time around and if not for a qualifying mishap, he could have been on the pole. He was second quickest in practice on Saturday morning.
Alex Palou (+900)
He had 3 podiums and 5 top 6’s in 5 tries on these tracks last season including a runner-up here. He starts 7th after being in the top 5 in both practice sessions.
Kyle Kirkwood (+1600)
Was 4th quickest in both practice sessions and starts 5th.
Josef Newgarden (+1800)
While he’s struggling this weekend, I like a strategy play to go in his favor. If so, you’re getting a driver with three top two finishes in his last four St. Pete starts, driving for an organization that’s won 6 of the last 9 years here, for these odds…
Felix Rosenqvist (+2000)
As a rookie, he started third and led 31 laps en route to a fourth place finish. Can he recapture that magic this weekend? He was only 17th last year but also had 1 top 5’s and 3 top 10 in 5 street races last season overall. Rosenqvist qualified 8th but has the pace that it takes to snag a win.
Rinus VeeKay (+6000)
VeeKay has a pair of top 10’s in three St. Pete tries, was in the top six of both practice sessions this weekend and the only reason that he’s not up front is he was being slowed up on his opening round hot lap.
Marcus Armstrong (+10000)
Getting a Ganassi driver, who’s starting in the top half of the field for these odds? He’s a rookie, but throw a $1 or $2 his way.
Pato O’Ward (+500)
He had a strong run in 2020 with a runner-up effort here. He also had a pair of podiums in Belle Isle including a win. If luck is on his side, O’Ward can win this race. He’ll start third. However, he was only 5th (Long Beach, Belle Isle) in 2022 and 12th, 11th and 24th respectively in the other three.
Marcus Ericsson (+850)
He won twice on street courses in 2021 and has a pair of seventh place finishes and 9th in the other in his last three St. Pete starts. While he’s a great fantasy play, he also scored just 1 top 5 in the 5 street course races in 2022.
Scott Dixon (+1000)
He’s 0-for-18 here and starts ninth.
Will Power (+1500)
9 poles here, 3 top 4 finishes in 5 street course races last year should have him on the favorites list. However, while being 3rd last year, Power hasn’t finished better than that in each of his last 7 St. Pete starts either. He’s been chasing his car all weekend and rolls off 10th.