‘Sense of normalcy’: Fans excited as Firestone Grand Prix begins in St. Pete

Pinellas County

ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The Firestone Grand Prix is underway in St. Petersburg. The energy is high, you can feel the ground shake and hear the engines roar.

“I love racing, mostly IndyCar racing,” said Jamie Halsema, who comes every year with his dad Justin.

But many things are different about this year’s race for those who consider themselves diehard fans.

“I really wanted to meet new drivers I never met before,” Jamie said.

But he can’t this year because the meet and greet paddock is closed.

Only 20,000 fans are allowed on the premises each day. Organizers say usually there are 200,000 fans through the weekend.

Other changes include mandatory masks, temperature checks, and a COVID-19 health questionnaire upon entry.

Fans News Channel 8’s Christine McLarty spoke with say it’s worth it.

“We just want to see some racing man. Some sense of normalcy,” said Justin, who loves watching with his son.

But some things never change.

“It’s still hot, that never changes!” said one fan laughing.

Race organizers made a huge announcement Friday, extending their partnership with the City of St. Petersburg three more years.

“Obviously without the support of the city, the mayor, city council, city staff, great partners like IndyCar and Firestone we wouldn’t be here,” said Kevin Savoree of Green Savoree Racing Promotions.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said the Grand Prix is important for the city as it puts the area in an international spotlight.

“It broadcasts all around the world. And it’s really a three-and-a-half to a four-hour commercial for the City of St. Pete. It really shows off the beauty of this city. The drivers love this track, it’s an incredibly competitive track,” Kriseman said.

Event organizers told News Channel 8 it’s a 1.8-mile race track spread out over 60 acres. They said the race is 100 laps, with cars traveling an average speed of 107 miles per hour.

Friday’s announcement means the Firestone Grand Prix will continue in St. Pete through 2025.

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