Via IndyCar.com

stpetephoto012

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (March 25, 2012) - A new season with new engines, new cars and new storylines await the IZOD IndyCar Series in the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (12:30 p.m. ET March 25 on ABC) at the highly popular 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course.

Here's some "hot spots" to watch during the race:

CURB SERVICE
Permanent curbs have been installed at several key areas of the race course, which will keep the drivers from short-cutting the turns. Hit the curbing could cause a broken suspension, meaning an early exit from the contest. That may change the style of some hard chargers.

“I think they have done a great job putting in permanent curbs, because the bollards were coming up and getting loose bolts, which was certainly a hazard,” Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe said, referring to the temporary bumps that were installed to keep drivers on course in the past. “I think this curbing is an improvement. There were a couple of corners where you just want to stay off them. I guess we will have to see in the race if that becomes a problem or not. So far, just for running and putting in lap times, I think they are quite good and you can make them. You can use a couple around the track."

“The curbs are only an issue if you hit them,” said four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti.

TURN 1
The field is at full speed when it charges down the front straightaway before entering the treacherous Turn 1, which has been the scene of opening-lap pile-ups in the past. With side-by-side restarts, it will also be a major hot spot. The frontstraight is actually a runway for the Albert Whitted Airport.

Turn 1 is also bumpy, giving the drivers a rough ride.

“Turn 1 is a mess on starts and restarts and it’s bumpy and wide and gives drivers a lot of options to run different lines,” Briscoe said. “That’s a major hot spot. It looks bumpy. I think we’ve gotten a better handle on the double-file restarts since we were here last year, so hopefully it goes a bit smoother. The bumps certainly add to the unpredictability here of getting into Turn 1; especially when you are running side-by-side.”

TURN 4
After a speedy exit out of Turn 3, the field hits the brakes before making a hard right-hand turn onto 2nd Avenue South (Turn 4). This is another key place on the track if a driver is able to pass another car in a heavy braking zone.

“Turn 4 and Turn 10 are good passing opportunities and now with the curbs there before you could run over them and give you a tiny bit more track to use but now if you hit them you are going to slide up and hit the guy next to you,” said James Hinchcliffe, who will makes his debut with Andretti Autosport. “It’s going to make passing in Turns 4 and 10 trickier.”

TURN 10
After the racers speed down Bay Shore Drive Northeast with the South Yacht Basin of Tampa Bay to the left and Pioneer Park, Progress Energy Park, the Mahaffey Theater and Honda Plaza to the right, a sharp left-hand turn is Turn 10. That portion of the race course has also been renamed Dan Wheldon Way in honor of the late two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 2005 IZOD IndyCar Series champion who was a resident of St. Petersburg.

“The braking zones like Turn 4 and Turn 10 are not awesome braking zones but if you get a run on someone everyone wants to have a try,” Briscoe said. “If you get squeezed into the curbs it’s going to take the two from wheels off the ground.”

Be careful on this area of the race course, warns two of the top drivers in the field.

“It’s a massive curb in Turn 10,” Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon said. “You can’t even touch that thing. Turn 10 is the hardest.”

“The big brake zones are places where you can get in trouble,” Hinchcliffe said.

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