Now this is a unique birthday present: Ana Beatriz, who has made 22 IZOD IndyCar Series starts over three seasons, will compete in the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the Honda-powered No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing car.
Beatriz, who turned 28 on March 18, tested for the team for three sessions last week during an Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park. Justin Wilson, driving the No. 19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q car, will return for his second season with Dale Coyne Racing.
Beatriz started 20th and finished 11th on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit at St. Petersburg as a series rookie in 2011 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Beatriz competed at Sao Paulo and Indianapolis last season for Andretti Autosport.
Beatriz earned two victories in Firestone Indy Lights competition, finishing third (2008) and eighth (2009) in the championship standings.
Click it: Entrant list | Driver performance chart at St. Petersburg
Twenty-five cars are entered for Round 1, including the No. 55 Florida Lottery for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for Tristan Vautier, who will make his IZOD IndyCar Series debut. He won the Firestone Indy Lights race at St. Pete last March.
Thirteen drivers entered have led laps at St. Pete, and Vautier is the only driver not to have competed on the circuit in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Helio Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske car, is the defending race champion and only driver to have won the race multiple times. Teammate Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car has started from the pole in each of the past three years.