Firestone Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg–My Thoughts after Qualifying

The Verizon IndyCar Series is back!  And what a weekend it’s been already!!  For various reasons (a movie, shopping, a 7-mile run in the rain), today’s round of qualifying was the first chance I had to follow the action down in St. Petersburg.  Kudos to IndyCar for deciding to wait it out and hold a full qualifying session.  It was definitely worth the wait!

So many thoughts are going through my head right now and I’m really not sure where to start.

1) I was concerned by my initial inability to get the IndyCar Radio livestream to maintain a connection.  I tried on indycarradio.com, racecontrol.indycar.com, and the Verizon IndyCar 14 app on both my phone and tablet.  I could get the stream to start, but it cut out very quickly and I’d have to restart.  I was about ready to run out to my car and pull up the XM feed!  A quick read through my Twitter feed showed I wasn’t the only one having that problem.  Great job by the IndyCar Radio folks getting the technical issues resolved quickly!  I listened to everything from Round 1 Group 2 through the Firestone Fast Six uninterrupted.

2) How awesome was Pippa Mann on the radio broadcast today?  As badly as I want to see her in a car full time, she adds so much to every broadcast I would almost hate to see her leave the booth to race.  Almost.  Pippa is such an asset to IndyCar–she does more to promote the series and interact with fans than just about any other driver out there, all while pounding the pavement and working the phones to get herself a ride.  Her insight and analysis is invaluable and if she can’t be in a car, I’m glad she is there to explain everything from a driver’s perspective.  It’s awesome.  Especially since she has actually driven the DW12 and knows how the car handles.  My mission for this year’s Indy 500 is to finally meet Pippa–whatever it takes.  So, Pippa, if you feel like someone is stalking you around IMS in May, it’s probably me.  I promise to try not to be too creepy.  :-)

3) Rookies Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth showed they are here and ready to compete!  Both made it into Round 2 and almost made it into the Firestone Fast 6.  After last year’s single-rookie campaign, it’s going to be great to watch a real Sunoco Rookie of the Year competition again this season.  Munoz, Hawksworth, Mikhail Aleshin, and Carlos Huertas give us four full-time rookies.  I can’t wait to see how the season unfolds for those 4, and the other rookies (at least one as of now) will will join the field for the Indy 500!

4) Maybe my Andretti-to-Honda fears were unfounded.  With three Hondas and three Chevys in the top six, it looks like the engines are starting off on a much more level playing field than last year.  It will be interesting to watch the competition develop as the season gets underway.  One thing I can almost guarantee though–it will come down to the last few races before anything is decided there.  It’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around rooting against the bowties, but for my Andretti boys I will adapt.

5) How about that Firestone Fast 6?  As great as it was to see the rookies stepping up right away, I loved the veteran presence in the final round of quals.  If I remember correctly, that group has won 80 poles, with Will Power leading the way with 32 and Scott Dixon in second with 20.  And most of them are still very much in the prime of their careers.  I love seeing new drivers come onto the scene, but every series needs a core group of drivers who are consistent to build upon.  I believe IndyCar has that with Sato, TK, RHR, Power, Dixon, and Marco–and several others who were just outside the top six today (or would have been were the first round of quals run on a dry track).  It gives me a lot of hope for the future of the series.

6) I loved seeing the first pictures from the Indy Fans Tweet Up, but I admit I was sad I couldn’t be there and very jealous of those who were.  If you’re going to a race this year, make sure you follow them on Twitter so you’ll be in the know.  Some of my favorite memories of last year were meeting some of my IndyCar Twitter friends in Indy, and then seeing them again in Baltimore.  I can’t wait to see them again at Indy this year, and to hopefully meet some new ones!

7) HUGE props to Amy of IndyCar Mom, who not only surprised her awesome son with a trip to St. Pete, but who is doing a great job interviewing other families attending the race.  Her photos of young IndyCar fans meeting their favorite drivers–many of them for the first time ever–are just plain awesome!  I can’t wait to read all about her weekend.  Hope you’re feeling better soon, Amy, and keep up the great work!!

8) Finally, I have my own little excitement upcoming–in about 13.5 months.  My current Indy 500 travel buddy told me this week she will be unable to attend the 2015 race.  Me not going is just not even a possibility, so I asked a friend who is not an IndyCar fan but who lives within 2 hours of IMS if she would like to attend with me next year.  She excitedly said yes, she would go, and even said she’d watch a few races and try to follow along with the current season, so she knows who and what to look for next year.  So, Samantha, I hope you are ready.  I’m going to be pumping you full of information this year to get you ready.  Your first time at IMS is a magical experience, and I’m glad I’ll be there to share it with you!

I think that’s about all I have to say tonight.  In case you haven’t been following along on Twitter, the hashtags to look for tomorrow are #VerizonIndyCar and #FirestoneGP.  Use them if you have something to say about the race, and let’s get IndyCar trending right away this season!

Ciao for now, my fingers are crossed for a certain Andretti driver to collect his third win tomorrow!

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