INDIANAPOLIS – Team Penske has by far been the team to beat whenever we start the Verizon IndyCar Series season off on the streets of St. Pete. They’ve won the last three season openers at St. Pete and four of the last five. In fact, in the last two years, Penske drivers have qualified 1-2-3-4 in each of the two seasons and have led 90-percent of the overall laps there.
No one has been able to touch them. The only drivers other than Penske to lead at St. Pete the last two years are Jack Hawksworth who led five laps in 2015 and Conor Daly (15) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (3) in 2016.
With an aerokit freeze this offseason, expect another Penske dominated race weekend this year. But, the only one that could hinder their efforts and breakup the Penske party up front is Hunter-Reay.
Last year, Hunter-Reay was strong and making some bold moves en route to a third place finish in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete. In 2014, he came home second to give him two podiums in his last three tries there. If you go back to 2012, he has three podiums in five tries as he came home third in 2012 too.
“There’s no better place to kick off the Verizon IndyCar Series season than the streets of St. Pete,” Hunter-Reay said ahead of this weekend’s season opener. “Not only is it one of my favorite street courses, it is essentially my home race and the perfect place to start the year. We’ve finished runner-up in St. Pete on a couple of occasions, so we’re looking for that breakthrough win.
So, if anyone is going to shock the world and beat Penske at St. Pete, don’t look any further than Hunter-Reay and his No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda. He’s got the best chance to do so. If not, maybe the Ganassi camp in Honda’s has something for them, but other than that, it’s all really up to Hunter-Reay.