Big wheels put their own spin on grand prix

Published April 3, 2005

TIM: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg! We're here on a glorious afternoon for the running of this 100-lap race on a fabulous downtown waterfront track.

TOM: That's right, Tim, and what a track it is. This town has really put its best foot forward, and the drivers say the 1.8-mile course is in great shape.

TIM: As we get ready for the starter's signal, let's take a look at some of the competitors. Looks like St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is saddled up and ready to drive.

TOM: Absolutely. You can really see that competitive gleam in his eye. What does that slogan on the back of his car say?

TIM: It says, "The 2005 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Hah, Hah, And Not No Stinkin' Tampa Bay Or Anyplace Else Either, Nyah, Nyah."

TOM: Let's check out the rest of the field. I couldn't help but notice there's a convertible that appears to be filled with ... can that be right? It appears to be filled with women wearing skimpy swimsuits.

TIM: That must be the entry from the Holland & Knight law firm. You can tell by the "Feel My Pipes" bumper sticker. By the way, I've just been handed this news of a last-minute scratch: the Tampa Art Museum. Also, the Bay Pines VA Hospital's entry appears to be having problems with its onboard computer system and is questionable for the race.

TOM: What a shame. Speaking of the art museum, what kind of car is Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio driving?

TIM: Looks like a Ford, Tom ... Taurus, a nice, practical midsized car, I believe. Or maybe it's an Escort.

TOM: No, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are driving the Escort, which, if I understand correctly, is the least expensive car in the race. It's got good tires, but just before the race, team owner Vince Naimoli sold the front two to another team and pocketed the cash. The Devil Rays pit crew is throwing some older, washed-up tires on the car right now, hoping by some miracle to get a few more miles out of them.

TIM: We're just about ready for the green flag ... but wait, I see a small disturbance near the starting line. Let's go to our sideline reporter. Ted?

TED: The disturbance appears to be coming from the Juvenile Welfare Board car, fellas. The driver is refusing to line up next to a pink car.

TOM: Okay, looks like we're set now ... and there they go! The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has begun! Right away it looks like a three-way tie for the lead between drivers Charlie Crist, Tom Gallagher and Toni Jennings.

TIM: Looks like Jennings has been told to stick to the right, Tom. But I'm not sure she has her heart in it. Wait a minute - holy cow! Gallagher is already making a pit stop to load up on cash. Crist scoots ahead! Looks like his crew is signaling him to hold a press conference on the next lap.

TOM: Let's go to Ted downstairs.

TED: Tom, Tim, you're not gonna believe what's happening on the southern end of the track as the cars reach the closest point to the Dali Museum. Their tires temporarily lose their shape and seem to be oozing all over the track. It's costing them precious seconds to make the turn.

TIM: I see that the Pinellas School Board car, driven by Clayton Wilcox, pulling into the pits ... hmm, looks like one member of the pit crew is trying to throw a monkey wrench into the engine box.

TOM: And there's an exciting showdown under way between Rick Baker and County Administrator Steve Spratt, who's driving the county's car ... Spratt looks like he's about to pass Baker ... no, WAIT! OH, NO! Baker just ANNEXED Spratt's car into the city limits! Code enforcement specialists are swarming all over it!

TIM: Not a pretty thing to see on a racetrack, Tom. But these fellas knew the risks when they signed up.

TOM: Hold on, here, the official results are being held up for an announcement ... oh, my. It seems that Gov. Jeb Bush doesn't like the outcome of the race, and has just ordered the Florida Legislature to pass a law requiring the whole race to be run again.

TIM: Wow, talk about a caution flag! We'll be right back.