The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season kicks off after a long winter break this weekend at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg.

Speaking ahead of the race, defending series champion, Target Chip Ganassi Racing Team’s Scott Dixon commented by saying:

St. Petersburg is one of the best places to kick off the season. It’s around spring break time, they do a fantastic job of getting the community in and obviously the party atmosphere there, too, with different things going on during the day. All the different classes of cars that race there and all variety of things to do in St. Pete make it pretty fantastic for a lot of people. I live in Indianapolis and we finally get to have some sun and get to hang out in some warm weather. The track itself is always fantastic racing with big braking zones going into Turn 1. It’s also very wide, great for starts, restarts and overtaking throughout the race. I think it’s definitely been some great racing over the years and this year I expect the same. I haven’t won there either, so I need to work on that one. I’ve had three or four podiums but have never won.

Last year’s race was won by Verizon Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya and speaking ahead of the race, the Colombian commented by saying:

Last year’s win in St. Pete was a great start to the season and with winning at Indy and fighting for the championship, we had a good year. But that’s behind us now and we’re looking ahead to 2016. It’s great to be able to show off the new look and feel of the Verizon cars and I’m excited about racing the new No. 2 Verizon Chevy this weekend. We know what we need to do if we want to get back to the front in St. Pete. It should be a fun race Sunday and it will be great to get the season started.

Montoya’s team mate Helio Castroneves commented by saying:

I love racing at St. Pete and both the No. 3 Hitachi team and Team Penske overall have had a lot of success there. St. Pete is a fantastic place to start the season and we are all really excited for this year. With the 100th Running of the Indy 500 and Team Penske’s 50th anniversary season, it’s going to be a special year. We’ve been fast in pre-season testing in the Hitachi Chevrolet so we want to continue that and get off to a great start this weekend in St. Petersburg.

James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports who is returning to IndyCar competition for the first time since his accident at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year commented by saying:

This is probably the most excited I’ve ever been for the start of a season. I’m sure that’s not a surprise to anyone, but 10 months out of competition is a long time. St. Pete has always been one of my favorite events and this year will be even more special. The team has worked so hard over the offseason. Honda has worked so hard. I’ve worked hard. Arrow is back. There are just so many reasons why this is an exciting weekend for us. I’ve got a lot of friends and family coming out, so fingers crossed we can give them something to cheer for.

Mikhail Aleshin who returns to IndyCar with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2016 commented by saying:

I’m super exited to be back in (the Verizon) IndyCar (Series), driving the No. 7 SMP Racing car again with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. It’s an amazing feeling. I like the track at St. Petersburg and will do my best to score some good points to start the season strong.

Verizon IndyCar Series rookie and former Formula One driver Max Chilton who will make his debut this weekend in the No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Team entry commented by saying;

I’m super excited to be starting my first Indy car race with such an iconic team and teammates to match. I loved the track last year here at St. Petersburg in Indy Lights and I am hoping to get the year off to a good start with Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing, which makes things flow easier for the rest of the season.

Chilton’s team mate, Tony Kanaan commented by saying:

I couldn’t be more excited to get the season started this weekend in St. Petersburg. We’ve been testing a lot as a team in the offseason and have been able to pull together some solid data leading into this first race. The No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet felt really quick in Phoenix at the open test and at our last test in Sebring, so the whole NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing team is feeling confident heading into the season opener. I know the fans are just as ready as we are to get back into the racing season, so hopefully we can give them a good show at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Sebastien Bourdais of the KVSH Racing Team commented on his home race by saying:

I am looking forward to the start of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. We’ve had a long offseason, so it will be good to be back racing in the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut Chevrolet/Dallara/Firestone car. We only tested once at Phoenix and once at Sebring a week ago. Now it is go time and I wish we could have done more. We also lost a lot of good guys, but thankfully my race engineer stayed with me and we should be able to hit the ground running, leaning on the good base setups we found last year.” (About racing in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg): “I live in St. Petersburg, so it is my home race and it is an honor to represent the city during race weekend. Other than a pole in my first race in 2003, I haven’t really had the success I would like. I don’t feel any additional pressure to do well … but it’s nice to be able to sleep in my own bed and have friends and family at the track.

2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power commented saying:

I think we’re all really excited for the start of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. I know I’m looking forward to racing the new No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy on the track. It’s definitely going to look fast out there with the new design. We know it’s going to be another fun season on track and it will definitely be tough with all the great competition out there. We’ve really been ramping up here lately in testing and we expect to have a strong start this weekend.

AJ Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato stated:

I’m not really affected by the concrete walls. Obviously with a new package, there is always a short supply of parts at the beginning of the season so we have to be careful not to damage them. It is always exciting and fun starting a new season. The race can be rough and aggressive, but the course is fun to drive and race on.” (About starting the season in St. Pete): “It’s in Florida. Who could complain about that? I think St. Pete is a great venue for opening the season. The fans are very enthusiastic, the restaurants have great food and normally it’s warm good weather. Also, the racing is very exciting, the street course is unique, technical and has a few places with great overtaking opportunities.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal commented by saying:

St. Petersburg is a great track for me. It’s definitely one of my favorites of the entire season. Obviously with starting my career off and getting my first win (2008) and my first pole position (2009) there, it holds a special place in my heart. The atmosphere and the fans make it such an enjoyable weekend and such an enjoyable place to go race, I just can’t wait to get back and get the season started. Last year did set a tone for our competitiveness. I felt like we had a great car in the race, just got a little bit unlucky with the penalty. I think this year we should be even better. We should be able to qualify right up toward the front and hopefully get our season started off in the right direction. I think there’s a lot of momentum behind INDYCAR this season. We have seen a great amount of success with sponsors in the offseason and I think that will only continue to grow. I’m really eager to get the 2016 season under way and continue to do the best we possibly can and make all of our sponsors and team partners proud this season.

Rahal’s team mate and IndyCar Series rookie Spencer Pigot commented by saying:

St. Pete has always been a great track for me. I’ve won there five times now (in support series) and never finished worse than fourth, so I’m hoping to keep the run of good finishes going. I think if I were able to finish in the top 10 this weekend that would be a good result. Since I was 6 or 7, I have been watching Indy car races, and when I started karting a few years later, I haven’t wanted to do anything else but be an Indy car driver. Indy car became a serious goal when I started racing cars at 16 and I’ve been working toward it ever since. I thought Indy Lights was going to be a two-year program and that hopefully I would be racing in the 2017 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but we were able to win the championship in our first year, so I’m here a year earlier than I expected. On track the cars are very different (Indy Lights vs. an Indy car). The Indy car is much bigger, more powerful and has a lot more downforce than the Indy Lights car. The races are twice as long with pit stops, different tire compounds and strategies, so there will be a lot for me to learn in my first race at St. Pete.” (Will he be more nervous than usual for your debut?) “Sometimes I get a little nervous before a race. Maybe a 3-4 on the scale of 1-10. It might be a little higher at St. Pete because it’s my first race, but the nerves always go away as soon as we take off for the formation laps.

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Josef Newgarden said:

I can’t wait to get down to St. Pete and kick things off. It’s been a fun offseason getting to work with the Ed Carpenter Racing group, but you can’t really simulate a real race weekend. It will be nice to see how well our homework has paid off over the offseason and hopefully we’re in a good place to start. I’ve got a lot of faith in our entire Fuzzy’s Vodka crew and we’re looking to start the year with a strong result.

Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske had this to say:

It’s been a long offseason and I’m really excited to get to St. Pete and get on track in the No. 22 HP Enterprise Chevrolet. I definitely learned a lot in my first season with Team Penske last year and I’m ready to take the next step forward in 2016. I know we have some really fast race cars and hopefully we’ll get a chance to show what we can do on Sunday. It will be awesome to share the excitement with all the great fans in St. Petersburg and get the Verizon IndyCar Series season going.

Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz stated:

Finally the season is starting. We’re heading to the first race of the year and I think we are coming into the race in a better position than last year. The team, myself and Honda have worked hard to be 100 percent ready. Looking forward to a good beginning to the year. It is always important to start strong. We will see where we are. We have to do the best job possible. St. Petersburg is like a home track for me so it is good to be back.

Marco Andretti commented:

We’re heading to the season opener coming off of a few good tests for the No. 27 Snapple Honda. We are ready to go racing. I feel as prepared as ever physically, and in a good place with my driving. Honda has been working hard and has closed the gap as well, so we are in a good position all around. St. Pete is the perfect setting to kick off the 2016 season and the Snapple team is ready to get things going.

Ryan Hunter Reay in the No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda stated:

After a long offseason, I can’t wait to get back to racing behind the wheel of the No. 28 DHL Honda. We concluded the 2015 season with great momentum, capturing two race wins. As a team we’re ready to build on that form with a revised aero kit from Honda on the road and street courses. The new aero package will take some tweaking and working with to find the sweet spot to suit the specific needs at a track like St. Pete, but we’ve had some productive tests leading up to the season opener. It’s hard to believe this will already be my seventh year with Andretti Autosport, we’ve won 13 races together and we’re hungrier than ever for more.

AJ Foyt Racing’s Jack Hawksworth stated:

St. Pete has been good to me in the past. I won there in both Star Mazda and Indy Lights consecutively and I have always been very comfortable at the circuit. The weather is good and the crowd is usually strong. I will look to stand in victory lane with the ABC Supply team under the Florida sun come the weekend.” (About his preparation during the offseason): “My preparation has been relentless for this season. I have worked on every single aspect of my game and I will arrive not only in physically phenomenal shape for St. Petersburg, but also mentally relaxed and focused on the key elements to executing every single race weekend. I have left no stone unturned and I am ready to pounce on any opportunity and take absolute advantage of the strides the team has taken over the winter immediately.

Charlie Kimball who will once again drive the No.83 Chip Ganassi Racing Team entry commented by saying:

The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team is going into the season opener in St. Pete with a lot of momentum. The Verizon IndyCar Series Championship really starts in the offseason … it’s the hours in the gym, all of the crew’s hard work at the shop, the on-track testing, the little gains here and there. We had a really good test session last week, so it’s really positive to feel that the entire Ganassi team is already gelling before we even see the green flag. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has some tight corners but also that long front straight; we always say ‘just get through Turns 1 and 2’ on the first lap, then go to work from there.

Verizon IndyCar Series rookie and former Formula One test driver Alexander Rossi stated:

Finally racing season is upon us after what has been a very interesting winter for me. I haven’t been a part of the team for very long, but I think that we are making progress as a group on a daily basis, and I cannot wait to get to St. Pete and continue building on what we started last week in Sebring. I don’t really know what is waiting for me this weekend or really this year, but I have always had very high expectations of myself and I will be looking to put the No. 98 in a positive position right from the beginning. From what I have seen, the track looks great to drive and is in a fantastic city, so it should be a pretty special season opener.

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