Start Your Engines! The St. Pete Grand Prix is Coming

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World-class Indy Car racing will be roaring through the streets of downtown St. Petersburg March 9-11, promising the same high-energy excitement as in previous years.

Three days of championship racing will feature 13 different races including the Verizon IndyCar Series, Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, Pirelli World Challenge Championships and Robby Gordon’s  SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks.

Taking place along the spectacular downtown waterfront street course, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is among the most respected motorsports events in North America. More than 120,000 visitors are expected to converge on the Sunshine City; festivities will include a Spectrum Speed Zone with interactive games and exhibits,  a Fan Village, beer gardens, driver autograph sessions and other events to be announced.

The star Verizon IndyCar Series Race will take to the streets on Sunday, March 11, for a 198-mile shoot-out on a 1.8-mile  course with 14 turns. Last year, hometown driver Sebastien Bourdais with Dale Coyne Racing  won the Verizon Indy Car race trophy to the wild delight of local fans.


Months of planning and thousands of workers and volunteers go into the laborious job of creating a city street course for a grand prix race.  At the helm of the logistics for the City of St. Petersburg  is Tony Leno, manager of Event Recruitment and Management.  Leno has been behind the scenes making the race happen since the first one 14 years ago.

As the city liaison, he works with city staff and race management on the massive logistics of planning and construction of the track, overpasses, bleachers, garages, vendor areas and countless other details. He also works with downtown businesses to ease the inconvenience of street-closings, construction issues and parking.

While race weekend can be a pain for some, Leno feels the benefits of spotlighting St. Petersburg as a major international race destination are undeniable.

“Most streets downtown with the exception of Bayshore will remain open until the four days of race weekend,” he said. “We really do our best to try to keep downtown businesses running uninterrupted.”

Here are a few interesting facts about building a race track from Leno:

  • The St. Pete track enlists some 250 construction workers and takes early 32 days to build. Tear-down and removal can take up to three weeks.
  • Building the street course safety wall system takes 18,000 feet of steel-reinforced concrete block, 44,000 feet of chain-link fencing and over 12,000 tires.
  • The course includes six race car paddocks and eight grandstands for spectators.



A memorial downtown honors St. Pete resident Dan Wheldon, 2005 IndyCar Series Champion and two-time winner of the Indy 500, who lost his life in a racing accident at the end of the 2011 IndyCar racing season in Las Vegas. Look for the tall concrete memorial along Bayshore Drive at Albert Whitted Park (Turn 10); it stands alongside the Victory Circle Monument honoring the winner of each race in St. Pete.

Get Down On It

Kick off race weekend by running or walking  part of the course on Friday, March 9, at the 6th Annual Firestone Grand Prix 5K Run presented by Modern Business Associates. Race time is 6:15 pm; proceeds benefit the Police Athletic League of St. Petersburg. For more information, go to

Getting there and Getting Around

For updated info go to

Park Downtown: City parking garages are a $5-all-day event rate on Friday and a $15-all-day event rate on Saturday and Sunday.  

Park and Ride Shuttle from the Trop: From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. there is a free shuttle service from Tropicana Field to the race course. Park in Lots 1 and 2 at Tropicana Field, the cost will be $10. The shuttle picks passengers up on 16th Street S. and drops off passengers at Second Street S. and Fifth Avenue S. The shuttle operates all three race days from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Take the St. Petersburg Trolley: The Looper Downtown Trolley  and Central Avenue Shuttle  (St. Pete’s trolley system) offers rides throughout Grand Prix weekend for .50 per person. The Looper provides a circular route between the city’s parking facilities, hotels, restaurants and attractions.

 For updated information on parking, street closures and other transportation issues, go to the City’s website at

All information in this article is subject to change.