ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Troy McFadden was a human pogo stick as the 26-car field made its way into the sharp left-hand Turn 10 on its way to the green flag for the eighth Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The 7-year-old from Lakeland, Fla., cheered on no driver in particular, though he pointed out the “black and gold” car of Sebastien Bourdais each time it passed by their location facing the Acura Yacht Club on a sunny day on the bay.
His father, Steve, attended the IZOD IndyCar Series race with Troy last year, but there was something definitely different this time out – namely the noise level. Steve McFadden brought headphones for his youngest son, but they remained wrapped around his neck.
“We bought tickets early, wanting to see the new cars race,” said Steve McFadden, who noted he preferred to walk the circuit over a grandstand seat. “And when we got here for the morning (warmup session) I was pleased that the engines were quieter. You can carry on a conversation in almost a normal voice while the cars are on the track.”
The 2.2-liter, turbocharged V-6 engines are the reason. They produce a less throaty sound and the decibel level is noticeably lower, though the performance – as evidenced by Will Power’s IZOD IndyCar Series’ track qualifying record – has been upped.
“From what I’ve heard, everything is great,” INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard said of reaction from the weekend crowd.
“Great atmosphere and a great day,” Steve McFadden said as he gripped Troy’s hand and smiled.
Birthday wishes extended to Patrick
As only James Hinchcliffe could/would do, he wore a dark wig when introduced on the pre-race stage and wished Danica Patrick a happy 30th birthday.
Hinchcliffe, making his debut in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com car, was selected in the off-season to replace the Go Daddy Girl at Andretti Autosport.
Viso soldiers on through illness
E.J. Viso gained seven positions relative to his starting spot to finish eighth. It wasn't an Sunday drive.
"I was very sick last night, so I had very little energy during the race," Viso said. "Despite that we had a pretty good event. This was the first time Jimmy (KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser) called one of my races and he was a big help. I am excited how we started the season and am looking forward to next weekend at Barber."
Foyt back at the helm
A.J. Foyt was at his familiar spot in the No. 14 ABC Supply pit box during the race weekend. Foyt continues to recover from surgery in January to remove bone spurs near his artificial knee and the staph infection that ensued.
"I'm still far from 100 percent but I'm gaining every day, so I'm glad about that,” he said. “It turned out to be a lot tougher on me than I thought it would."
Kimball in the news, writing his own
Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball is featured in Men’s Fitness. CLICK HERE to read.
Kimball is live blogging to provide an insider's view of the race weekends. CLICK HERE to read.
Holly Wheldon, sister of the late Dan Wheldon, waved the green flag and presented the trophies to the podium finishers. Wheldon, who died from injuries suffered in a race crash in October, was the 2005 winner of the IZOD IndyCar Series race at St. Pete and a resident. A video tribute to Wheldon was played on the large video boards circling the course and ABC produced a tribute during the broadcast. … Clay Aiken and Aubrey O’Day performed a duet of the national anthem. Actor/singer Jack Wagner and his “Dancing with the Stars” professional partner Anna Trebunskaya were the grand marshals. Watch “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC on Mondays and Tuesdays (check local listings). … Also among the celebs watching the race up close was Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing co-owner David Letterman. … Lee Bentham is working as Ed Carpenter’s driver coach.