St. Pete Grand Prix
April 5, 2009
St. Pete Grand Prix
The St. Pete Grand Prix is actually comprised of a variety of races over the course of the weekend. The Indy Cars are the main attraction but there is also an American LeMans Series (ALMS) sports car race and two Indy Lights races. In addition there is a festival like atmosphere with concerts, air shows, rides and even a demonstration of drifting to keep the fans occupied.
Saturday, I headed over to the track early for a long day of activities, while Kathy opted to spend the day at the guest house, going for a massage at the spa, hanging out at the pool in the beautiful South Florida weather and doing a bit of shopping in town.
Adrian Fernandez instructs Luis Diaz
The schedule at the track was busy with Indy Car practice and qualifying followed by the ALMS race and then the first of two Indy Lights races. The Indy qualifying featured some surprises as Justin Wilson captured the pole in his first race driving for Dale Coyne racing, followed by last year’s winner Graham Rahal. Many of the traditional favorites faltered including both Danica Patrick and sadly Marco Andretti.
I was able to get down on the grid before the ALMS race and watch the cars and drivers prepare to start the race. The number of teams in the series has declined dramatically, but there was still plenty of interesting stuff to see. One of the highlights was watching actress Ashley Judd explain a race car to some young children. Her husband Dario Franchitti’s brother Marino drives for the Dyson race team. The race itself was fairly uneventful but it was cool to see the sports cars run on the tight twisty track.
Saturday evening we took our friend Jason out to dinner at a really good English Pub called The Moon Under Water. Jason is usually too busy to hang out with during a race weekend, so this was a nice treat. He was full of all sorts of interesting insider info bout the Indy car series and it was really great to be able to catch up.
Inside AGR race shop
AGR prepares Danica's car
Sunday, we checked out of the guest house and then walked over to see the Salvador Dali Museum. The museum, on the campus of the University of South Florida, is the largest collection of Dali’s surrealist work in the world and well worth the trip. We spent the morning there before walking over to watch the Indy Car race in the afternoon.
At the Salvador Dali Museum
The race was almost as surprising as qualifying. Justin Wilson dominated early and seemed on his way to a victory until a late caution bunched the pack and both Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay were able to get by with Briscoe going on to claim the victory. The race was crash-filled and very exciting and the weather was perfect. It was awesome.
Race Winner Ryan Briscoe
Briscoe & RHR
After the race, we were on our way to North Carolina to visit my mother Marta. Along the way, we stopped in Gainesville to have a late dinner with our friend (and UF student) Dakota, before continuing on towards Carolina.