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IndyCar Series: St. Petersburg Preview and Writer's Pool Predictions

Ryan WordenFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2010

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 05: Second place winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (L), driver of the #21 Vision Racing Dallara Honda drinks champagne along with Ryan Briscoe, driver of the #6 Team Penske Dallara Honda while celebrating Briscoes' victory in the IRL IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 5, 2009 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

The IZOD Indy Car Series got underway two weeks ago in Brazil, but Sunday will mark the start of the series in North America and the United States. 

The fastest show on Earth travels to St. Petersburg, FL for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. 

In addition to previewing the race, this will start a semi regular column here at Bleacher Report.

We will be starting a writers pool where writers will be picking favorites each week.

In addition to motorsports writers, we will have an employee of Bleacher Report who knows nothing about indycar to act as a control. 

But now, onto the preview.

The streets of St. Petersburg are the "oldest" street course in the IRL series. Intially the series began as an all oval excursion, until St. Petersburg became the first street race in 2005. 

In those fiveyears, Team Penske has won three of the races on the 1.8 mile track. Ryan Briscoe was the 2009 winner, while Helio Castroneves won in 2006 and 2007.  Castroneves was unable to compete in 2009, as he was on trial for tax evasion. 

Graham Rahal took to the course during his first try in 2008, winning his first IRL race.  He continued to do well on the course, winning the pole in 2009.

Turn four and turn 10 tend to be the most exciting on the track, because cars carrying too much speed will be hitting some tires or the wall.

The track features 14 turns, with a major straightaway down the airport runway. 

At the end of the runway going into turn one will be a major passing point during the race. 

Will Power was nearly a second faster than the field during practice on Friday, looking to continue his sucessful run after winning in Sao Paulo. Dario Franchitti was also showing fast speeds, before heading into the tire barrier at turn four. 

Graham Rahal returns to the series, running for Sarah Fisher Motorsports and posted top 10 times during practice.

Qualifying will get underway on Saturday at 1:20 eastern and can be seen through live video on indycar.com. ABC will start their 2010 broadcast schedule by televising the race on Sunday.

They will come on the air at 3:30 eastern, with the green flag expected at 3:45.

And without further ado, the start of our writers pool. Fair warning, writers reasoning might not always be as tame as my normal posts.

Writers will select the podium finishers, as well as a dark horse and finally the first racer to crash out. 

Selecting a driver who lands on the podium is an automatic three points, no matter what place he finishes. 

If the writer correctly picks his finishing position, it will be 10 points for first, six for second and three for third. So picking the correct No. 1 finisher would result in 13 points (three for podium +10 for first place exact). 

Additionally, any dark horse scoring a top five finish will result in five points. Correct pick of the first crash out will also result in five points. 

In the event multiple cars are involved (such as if Sato divebombs 1/2 the field again), all cars involved will be counted. 

If the first car to exit is for mechanical reasons and not an accident, they will not be counted, it is the first to crash. 

Let the picking begin.

James Broomhead, motorsports analyst for Bleacher Report

OK, here goes.

First Ryan Briscoe, Second Will Power, Third Dario Franchitti

So, these picks aren’t the greatest advert for Indycar, featuring only the powerhouses of Penske and Ganassi, but to do anything else is looking a gift horse in the mouth.

The leveller of Sao Paulo has gone as we’re back onto familar territory. Briscoe won at St. Pete a year ago and there’s no reason to doubt he’ll be a challenger again—and this week he’ll even avoid the tyre barrier when he passes Power.

Dark Horse: Justin Wilson

I’m not sure you can really call any pick of Justin Wilson a dark horse on anything that isn’t an oval, but his seat at Dreyer& Reinbold unfortunately sees him someway down the pecking order, but he remains of the series’ best road racers.

Also look out for Graham Rahal in the Sarah Fisher Racing car—another great driver, who won at the track on his debut two years ago, but in a smaller team. A win for Rahal would be a great story for Indycar.

First to crash: Tony Kanaan

OK, so I was really tempted to pick Sato again. The first corner at St. Pete is an accident waiting to happen as everyone filters down from the wide runway on the city streets.

It’s really a case of who is going to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could be anyone.

Chad Smith, Bleacher Report Analyst and Community Leader

Race Winner: Dario Franchitti
Place: Tony Kanaan
Show: Will Power
Dark Horse: Vitor Meira
First to wreck: Mario Romancini

 Christopher Leonen, Bleacher Report Featured Columnist

Race Winner: Will Power
Place: Dario Franchitti
Show: Graham Rahal
Dark Horse: EJ Viso
First to wreck: Milka Duno

Steve, Bleacher Report Employee, likely has never seen an IndyCar Race

First: Danica Patrick
I know less about IndyCar than I do about having class. I would nail Danica Patrick.

Second
: Alex Tagliani
Look at that cute little leaf on his flag. Somebody get this guy a bib.

Third: Hélio Castroneves
Castroneves was on Dancing With the Stars. Erin Andrews is on Dancing With the Stars.

First to Crash
: Dario Franchitti
He's married to Ashley Judd. This would normally bump you up a few pegs, but Judd's adopted career as a Kentucky Wildcat cheerleader is a curse to Franchitti.

If Karma exists, it's only a matter of time before everyone remotely connected to Kentucky basketball gets burned.

Darkhorse: Simona De Silvestro
Unlike Danica Patrick, Simona De Silvestro has yet to be photographed 92 percent nude on top of a car. This makes me a sad panda.

Ryan Worden: Writer of this article

First: Will Power

I was going to go with something more exciting than picking the guy who won the last race, but Will smoked the field in practice.  The Aussie is my choice in this one, looking to take a massive lead in the IRL standings.

Second: Tony Kanaan

TK finsihed fifth at this event last year. He had a really good run going down in Sao Paulo before getting punted by a chain reaction of Wheldon and Taggliani. 

TK also gets bonus points for the new IZOD IndyCar Music video, where they end it by yelling fire and then showing him get lit up (http://www.streetfire.net/video/2010-izod-indycar-series-music-video_742602.htm ). 

Third: Scott Dixon

I really wanted to pick Ryan Hunter-Reay here, he has proven to be really fast on road and street courses.  But, like James said, its hard to pick against the top two. 

Dixon gets the nod over Franchitti since he hit the tire barrier during practice. Dixie might be the best all—around driver in the series and won't often go back to back races without a podium finish.

Dark Horse: Alex Taglianni

I picked Sato last week and he didn't complete the first turn. He was fast though... until he slammed into all those cars that were braking to make the turn. 

Taggs started his own team and could be very tough on road courses. He was running well last week until Wheldon gave him the old chrome horn. 

Thought about picking Rahal here since he is with SFR, but I don't think a former winner could be a darkhorse.

First to crash: Rafa Matos

Common wisdom tells us that Milka will not be running when the checkers wave, but she usually isn't the first one out, because she usually isn't racing with anyone until she starts getting lapped. 

Matos speared Danica last year at St. Pete, taking them both out.  While he did win three times at the track in the Indy Lights cars, I see him getting a little too excited again this year and finding some sweet lady brick (or tire).

Thats the writers picks for this week. Thanks for reading. 

If you would like to make your own picks and compete with us, please feel free to include them in the comments section. 

If you would like to be included weekly, please direct mail me. 

Enjoy the race!

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