ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Two weeks ago, Ed Carpenter was witness to the spirit of common cause prevalent during two days of preseason meetings between drivers and INDYCAR officials in Indianapolis.
This week, in his dual role as an IndyCar Series team owner, Carpenter will participate in meetings as team owners and event promoters gather with INDYCAR officials in the city that plays host to the season-opening event in two months.
“I’m sure the conversation will be a lot different from the drivers meetings though it’s the same topics,” said the owner of Ed Carpenter Racing, which enters its third IndyCar Series season. “It’s important for me to be involved in both of those. A couple of weeks have gone by since those meetings and a lot of what we were talking about will ultimately lead to decisions.
“I thought the meetings in Indianapolis were really productive and the flow of communication was really good. What’s important to me is that we take the positive communication out of all these meetings and use that to make fuel to make good decisions and help drive the sport forward. There was a lot of respect in the room going both ways between the series and drivers.
“I think (Hulman & Co. CEO) Mark Miles is doing a good job of building a new team of people to the point where we’re all rolling up our sleeves and starting to implement some new things.”
The March 28-30 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the 10th race on the scenic 1.8-mile temporary street circuit under INDYCAR sanction. The event was the first non-oval for the series that conducted its initial race 60 miles east at Walt Disney World Speedway in 1996.
“I’ve been looking forward to the race since we went checkered last year,” Grand Prix president Tim Ramsberger said. “It’s going to be another great year, and we couldn’t be more proud here in St. Petersburg to host the IndyCar Series opener and all the ladder series for the Road to Indy.
“We have a beautiful venue here, but we also have a community that is great to do business in and I think the community has responded very well to this event – not only from the standpoint of fans attending and getting behind it but our sponsorship program is just tremendous.
“We throw a party. The racing is the centerpiece of the entertainment, and it’s the party atmosphere that attracts the fans to come out and enjoy the weekend.”
Added Carpenter: “We enjoy bringing our whole family down here (from Indianapolis) every year; it’s one of my family’s favorite places to come to and I’m happy to see it as an anchor on our schedule and continue to grow.”
Bobby Rahal, whose son, Graham, in 2008 became the youngest winner of an Indy car race when he prevailed in the opening round at St. Pete, said he’s looking forward to starting the season on the circuit. Graham, 25, enters his second season driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
“I was just looking out over the harbor and it reminds me a lot of Long Beach,” Rahal said, referring to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach two weeks after the St. Pete race. “This I think is the East Coast version of that venue. The setting is special and the fan turnout is great. It’s a great place to start.”