Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden quickest before qualifying

Henrietta Strickland
March 13, 2018

IndyCar heads into the season with a new American champion, a new vehicle, and the same hopes for a momentum-building year.

But that's all past history as the new season starts Sunday in St. Petersburg. Last season: Josef Newgarden won his first series title for Team Penske.

And while F1 and NASCAR have continued to lose at-track attendees and TV viewers over the last several seasons, IndyCar at the same time has been on an upswing.

"The 2018 vehicle is very different, I can tell you that", Hinchcliffe said.

"If I made Fast Six at all, it would have been wonderful and the fact that we topped Q2 was already a surprise". The people that he's worked with the last couple of years are all the same. That is our only thought this weekend: "going to Victory Lane". It's the opening race of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season and with a sleek, sexy looking aerodynamic package on the Dallara chassis, the sport exudes a positive vibe.

The 2018 vehicle was overhauled and completed with input from drivers and teams, who objected to the many pieces on the previous aerokits that created debris fields during crashes. Castroneves has joined former IndyCar driver Juan Pablo Montoya as the leaders of the new Penske IMSA sports vehicle effort.

Wickens turned a lap at 1 minute, 01.66 in a Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to win the pole at the buzzer for the Fast Six qualifying session.

But since OH native Sam Hornish Jr. captured his third Indy vehicle title in 2006, there was been only one other USA -born driver that earned an IndyCar title over the following 10 seasons: Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014.

"If you do your job and you nail the setup, you will be right there contending for wins", he said.

As if that isn't enough, there will be three new teams on the circuit this season, including full-time efforts from Carlin Racing and Harding Racing, and a part-time effort from Juncos Racing.

The Fast Six consisted of three rookies, two former series champions and last year's Indianapolis 500 victor. As a teenager, you don't get your first auto as a fixer-upper and put a bunch of time into it like you used to.

The series still has obstacles.

The past two seasons have been exhilarating for the 33-year-old driver.

The field has seven rookies this season, four of whom - Rene Binder, Jordan King, Matt Leist and Robert Wickens - will be making their series debut at St. Pete.

Ganassi has scaled back to two teams this year, and Ed Jones will join Scott Dixon in the lineup this year. Frankly it's just more wins. Fast facts: Newgarden won his first series championship in his debut with Penske. Castroneves will return for the Indy 500, and is the grand marshal Sunday in St. Pete, but he's a popular driver the series will have to replace. "We have to make the action on track entertaining enough that you don't have to be a vehicle person to want to watch IndyCar races".

"We are all refreshed", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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