tampabay.com

The city's racing history

By Times staff writer
Published March 30, 2007


St. Petersburg has had many false starts with racing. Here is a recap on some of the Grand Prix's notable forerunners:

St. Petersburg Grand Prix

Years: 1985-90.

Car type: Trans-Am series.

Notable: This event and the competing Tampa World Challenge race did each other in after their 1990 races. ... The races encircled St. Petersburg's waterfront near the Bayfront Center.

Florida Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Years: 1996-97.

Car type: Trans-Am series.

Notable: The course covered 1.6 miles around Tropicana Field, then called the ThunderDome. ... After losing title sponsor Kash n' Karry, International Management Group pulled the plug.

Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Years: 2003.

Car type: CART.

Notable: Dover Motorsports, which runs the prestigious Grand Prix of Long Beach, backed the race. ... Veteran Paul Tracy won before 30,000 to 35,000 fans. ... After CART went bankrupt, Champ Car which acquired many of CART's assets, talked about a race in 2004 but was unable to pull it together.

Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Years: 2005-present

Car type: IndyCar

In 2005: IRL jumped in after CART left and uses the same course, around the Bayfront Center. Andretti Green Racing's Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta sweep the top four spots in the inaugural event. The top-four sweep was the first in IRL history and Wheldon won the first IRL street race in his adopted town. Wheldon was third on the final restart on Lap 90, but grabbed the lead two laps later in his No. 26 Dallara-Honda when leader Ryan Briscoe, a rookie, began blocking Kanaan, nearly sending him into a wall. Kanaan responded in Turn 10, braking deep in the corner and punting Briscoe into the barrier. Wheldon scooted through to take the lead and held on in what would be a championship season.