The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season gets underway this weekend with the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg.
Team Penske head into the new season with Simon Pagenaud as the reigning series champion having done a superb job in 2016, a performance that the Frenchman will be hoping to build on this season.
Pagenaud, along with fellow Penske driver’s Helio Castroneves and Will Power welcomed a new team mate to the North Carolina based outfit over the off-season with former Ed Carpenter Racing driver Josef Newgarden replacing Juan Pablo Montoya in the No.2 Verizon Chevrolet for the 2017 season.
Newgarden who ended 2016 as the highest placed non Penske driver in fourth place is extremely excited to begin racing with Penske particularly with the No.2 Verizon crew due to the fact that the Verizon crew have won the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg with Juan Pablo Montoya for the last two seasons in a row and speaking ahead of the opening race of the season, Newgarden commented by saying:
I’m so excited that the season is here. It feels like the offseason has lasted forever. Obviously, I’m in a new place, but that adds to the excitement. There has been a lot to digest over the winter, but I feel good about it. The whole team has worked really hard and come together nicely. We’ve had a number of test sessions and I think we’re in great shape. We’ll continue to grow as the season gets started, but all teams do that. As far as St. Petersburg goes, I, personally, haven’t had great results, but this Verizon Chevrolet team has won the last two races there. I love the atmosphere and the vibe there. It’s a great environment.
Reigning series champion Simon Pagenaud heads into the season carrying the No.1 on his car and will have PPG Automotive Refinish as his primary sponsor this weekend and will be looking to start the season strong.
Speaking ahead of the new season following a busy off-season with plenty of media appearances, the Frenchman commented by saying:
It’s exciting to have everything reset to zero, now that a new season is underway. It has been a disciplined winter and we feel ready to attack our 2017 championship defense. The PPG Chevy team has worked countless hours to be at maximum strength when we hit the streets of St Petersburg. It is no secret, I love street-course racing and it goes well with the beautiful weather of Florida and the amazing crowd there. We will carry the PPG colors this weekend and I look forward to bringing my best.
Helio Castroneves is excited to get the season underway and speaking ahead of the opening race of the year, the Brazilian commented by saying:
I can’t wait to get to St. Pete. I just want to get this season started. I have a feeling that this is going to be a great season. I feel good about how we closed out the 2016 season and want to carry that momentum into this year. In the end, last season was good, but if this Hitachi Chevrolet team had gotten a couple of things to break the other way, then who knows what would have happened. It’s my 20th season in Indy car, but I feel great and am ready to compete at the highest level. I love the St. Petersburg event. The fans are great. The weather is fantastic. We’ve had good finishes here and we’re looking forward to getting off to a fast start this year.
Will Power heads to St Petersburg where he will compete for the first time since 2015 having missed last season’s opening race here following a inner ear infection and speaking ahead of the opening race of the season, he commented by saying:
The best part of going to St. Pete this year is being physically ready to race. I wasn’t able to do that last year, which put us in a little hole that we eventually were able to dig out of, but I just didn’t get out of the gate well. That’s all behind us now and the Verizon Chevy team is ready to go. Our tests have gone very well and we’re all excited about getting started. As with most street courses, qualifying at St. Petersburg is super important and that’s an area we’ve done very well over the last several seasons. The results have been good for the most part, but it sure would be great to start the new year off on a high note. Like I said, though, I’m so happy about being in a better place physically to start the season.