Another clear sign the 2023 season is right around the corner appeared Thursday in St. Petersburg, Florida, as NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver Romain Grosjean and INDY NXT by Firestone driver Ernie Francis Jr. joined local and event officials for the ceremonial start of building the street circuit for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES and INDY NXT by Firestone seasons both will start Sunday, March 5 on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit that winds through the streets of downtown St. Petersburg and includes a runway at Albert Whitted Airport.
Andretti Autosport driver Grosjean moved with his family from Switzerland to Miami after 2021, his first season in the series. His primary sponsor, DHL, also is headquartered in South Florida. He said his initial race at St. Petersburg, in 2021, played a big role in a major decision for him and his family.
“I raced here, loved it so much that I flew back home and told my wife: ‘You know what? We’re buying a house in the U.S., and we’re moving,’” Grosjean said. “It’s pretty much the place where I decided that I wanted to come full time in INDYCAR and try to give it a go.
“Last year was my first here with Andretti and DHL colors. I think we had a decent weekend. I love coming here. It’s a special place. The weather, the landscape and just the way the racetrack is. I’m excited to come back. I think we should have a stronger package. I truly hoping that I can bring back on my plane the trophy of the winner back home.”
Francis, from Davie, Florida, will make his second St. Petersburg start in INDY NXT, this season in the No. 99 HMD Motorsports entry.
“Being from South Florida, this is always a fun event to come to,” Francis said. “I started my racing career here 10 years ago, when I was 15 years old. Last year was a big eye-opener for me, my first real open-wheel racing season. I decided to come back here for year two.
“I got a lot of experience under my belt last year, and I’m ready to come out here and turn some laps. It’s a home track for me. I have a lot of friends and family coming out and am excited to put a show on for them.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch was among the other speakers at the event today in the city.
In other Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg news, event officials announced INDCYAR Party in the Park will kick off the event weekend Thursday, March 2. The free community event will take place from 5:30-8 p.m. ET in North Straub Park, between Bayshore Drive Northeast and Beach Drive Northeast along the waterfront.
Open to the public, the second annual INDYCAR Party in the Park will feature special guests, including NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, and music, giveaways, food and drink. Race cars running on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding weekend schedule will also be on display for fans to view up close.
Three-day tickets to the 2023 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding are on sale to the public. The 19th annual event is set for March 3-5 in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.
Tickets are available online at gpstpete.com or by calling 727-898-4639, with pricing starting at $125 for reserved 3-Day Grandstand seats and $65 for 3-Day General Admission. Additionally, junior pricing is available for fans ages 12 and under. Pit and Firestone Paddock Passes also can be purchased. Single-day tickets will be released for sale in early 2023.