With the Team Penske Chevrolet camp in the NTT IndyCar Series looking to dominate yet again in the 2020 season, there’s no better place to begin than Sunday’s upcoming Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Penske driver Josef Newgarden won last year’s season opener on the way to winning three more times and his second series championship, having won the 2017 title with Penske as well.
Along with Newgarden, Penske driver Will Power is a two-time event winner (2010, 2014) and holds five podiums at St. Petersburg, three of which came after starting from the pole. While Newgarden has shown more promise on the mile-and-a-half speedways, Power has excelled on the street/road courses in the IndyCar series with 26 of his 35 career wins coming on those types of tracks.
Fellow Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud is also a two-time St. Petersburg winner (2016-17), with 12 of his 14 career wins coming on street/road courses showing that he too has a prediliction toward those types of races. His strengths are more similar to Power’s than Newgarden’s, but with all three of the Team Penske drivers former winners at St. Pete’s, it’s a clear bet that they’re the safest bets to win come Sunday.
That isn’t to say there won’t be challenges elsewhere during the 100-lap event. Ganassi Racing’s all-time champion Scott Dixon has 24 of his 45 wins on street/road courses despite being winless at St. Pete’s, while former series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has eight wins on street/road courses. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Graham Rahal has six wins in the series but is a former St. Pete’s winner, having won there in 2008.
Five of Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi’s wins come on street/road courses including a huge defeat in the 2018 edition of St. Pete’s, where a late-race incident ended his chances while running up front. He’s Andretti Autosport’s strongest driver and he knows how to get around St. Pete’s, but in the end he’s yet to be as successful as the Team Penske camp.
With that said, the odds are in favor for the Penske Chevrolets, all of whom are not only St. Pete champions but series champions as well. With five victories in the event among three drivers, it’s not a matter of if they’ll win, but which one will win. This is coming on the heels of former Penske IndyCar drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves and their winning pedigree at St. Petes, as both drivers have a combined five wins among themselves while driving for Penske.
The race will begin at 3:30 p.m. EST, and will air on NBCSN live and on radio network affiliates, Sirius 211, XM 205, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.