Race Notes: Honda GP of St Petersburg 2009

Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg
Whitted Airport and city streets
St Petersburg, Florida, United States

Sky Sports Xtra live coverage is a GO at 7:30pm UK!

We’re with Keith Huewen, Johnny Mowlem and Christopher Tate in London and we jump straight into a feature on Dan Wheldon in the sleepy village where he grew up.

Dan wants a good championship run “but the number one thing is the Indy 500, I want another Indy 500”. He thinks Panther are in for a good year.

Do you realise you have a big fan base back in England watching you in America? “That’s certainly appreciated. I do feel that America is home” but he enjoys having the England flag on his helmet.
My coverage keeps dying on me. I have IndyCar Race Control running at the same time, just as a backup, but they only have a helicam with no audio for the next 7 minutes.


Message scrolling across the Race Control screen saying that all cars have been started.

7.46pm We’re back with Sky.
They went green at the most ridiculous time of 7.48pm (UK). Something wrong with starting on the hour when people can find it easily?

I didn’t see the start because all my coverage options have died on me.

* * * *
Note from the editor -At this point I lost all of the available online options. It is now Tuesday and I am reverting to a recording I’m borrowing. I will try to watch live again for Long Beach!

Take 2
We have Bob Jenkins, Jon Beekhuis and Robbie Buhl on commentary with pitlane reporters what’s his face and Lindy Thackston, headed by the immortal King of Pitlane, Jack Arute himself.

We join with captions for a grid run-down over a helicam shot of St Pete, with audio from a feature running in the US. When the feature ends and after a chat with Dario we have Bob Jenkins saying hi to the international audience! Hi Bob! Shame we don’t get the pictures of Dario or the feature but it’s pretty cool having the same audio for everyone instead of a different international commentary feed.

Start order:

Rahal (pole), Wilson
Kanaan, Briscoe
Franchitti, Power
Tagliani, Dixon
Matos, Manning
Wheldon, Conway
Doornbos, Hunter-Reay
Patrick, Viso
Meira, Andretti
Mutoh, Moraes
Barrett, Carpenter

The president of Honda Performance Development shoehorns a Honda mention into the start command. Holy crap the race control radio of the rows reporting in is geeky cool! Row 3 hot! Like we’re on an aircraft carrier.

First word from Jack Arute in the pits, talking about the black and red option tyres. Should I be saying ‘tires’ since we’re in America now? Arute mentions ‘pit central’, I have no idea what that is, I might have to borrow the domestic feed.

Cars are rolling. Mike Conway is pronounced “My Conway” in America, or maybe just by Jenkins.

Cycling through the onboard cameras. Lovely nose-cam!

“One more time before the green flag”. Fireworks!

Quick trip to the fridge: Cobra beer selected. This is the first IndyCar race of the year after two F1 races and an off-season watching recordings of GP2 and other European stuff, so I have to reset my brain to the IRL’s quirky rules. More on this later.

Pundit guys disagree on which is better to start with: Blacks or Reds?
Cars side-by-side for the rolling start.


Cars fan out WIDE. Bumping. Rahal got swamped! He’s off the track, pushed off.
Conway is off already, looks like the pit exit.

SAFETY CAR despite the road being clear, only pit exit blocked, hmm don’t agree with that one.
Replay: Kanaan punts Rahal off track, great nose-cam!

Conway is pushed back and restarted by the truck. Presumably the yellow is to allow the truck with the marshals to get to him. In the IRL they have guys on trucks as well as marshals at the corners, only the guys on the trucks are allowed to do anything.
In F1 the corner guys would jump over the wall and push Conway out of the way under local yellow. Requiring the truck to get him forces a yellow every time. IRL: just let the corner guys do it if it is safe to do so! But at least the IRL allows outside assistance, unlike F1.

Replay: Ooh Dario great move on the start! Several positions. I’m reminded how great the IRL’s 360-degree cameras are and wonder why F1’s cameras are static.

Jack Arute pit report says ‘look over here’ at Rahal’s wing but we can’t see him, we’re onboard with Kanaan.

Lindy Thackston talks really quickly.

Matos exits the pits. I get a shock because he exits into the safety car queue which is a huge No-No elsewhere! Commentary mentions the blend line and I remember they can actually do that..


Wilson leads, Dario 2nd
Kanaan passes Carpenter, TK at the back after a new nose. Rahal close by. Both clear Barrett.

We are on L5 of 100. Must remember the timing scroller shows current lap not most recent lap completed.

Jenkins talks about telemetry showing braking, accelerating on our screen – but it isn’t. Any chance the international feed can get the juicy stuff?

L7 Now he’s saying how we can see the red/black choices on the top of the screen. NO WE CAN’T!! We’ve got the standard ticker.
L8 Buhl notes the guys are swerving to avoid a huge bump before retaking the racing line for the next corner.

Short lap here of about a minute or so. This means my notes may have big jumps between laps, I haven’t fallen asleep!
L11 I’m getting used to who is in what car. Conway is out with damage.
L13 Shock and horror as we cover the field! Nice!

Announcers still can’t pronounce ‘Doornbos’ properly all the time. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. They make the good point that the A1GP car he is used to is just as fast over a lap but much lighter, which means it brakes later than these cars. Good job getting A1GP a mention when it doesn’t even have a US TV deal.

L14 I think it’s time I paid attention to who is on what tyre. We’re onboard with Danica in 11th on reds.
L15 I’d do a race order but the ticker moves too quickly.
Wilson, Dario and two Penskes up front.

L19 Mutoh pits for blacks, he’s the first stopper outside of those who called for damage earlier.

L21 We are lapping Barrett already after 15 green laps. Oh dear.
Viso pits to change from red to black.

So is Wilson in Bruno’s old car? It does seem strange seeing Rahal in Wilson’s car, but I suppose no different to seeing Justin in Sebastien’s colours last season.

L22 Lindy says Wilson will pit on lap 28 or so.
Buhl says Dixon will be a few laps later than that.
L23 Manni, err, Meira pits.

L24 Wilson over Dario by 1.2s. There isn’t much going on in terms of racing – this is already a strategy race based on tyre choice and fuel. Classic street race, then. There’s a reason I prefer road courses to these.

L27 Moraes is holding up Kanaan and Rahal. Moraes is in Servia’s car from last year and is 13th. I assume this is the closest fight on the road which is why we are watching it, this is much better than watching the top few drive away from each other!

L29 Apparently Moraes is up 7 positions since the start, although Jenkins fails to note how many cars stopped for damage. Beekhuis now makes that point, thanks Jon.
Rahal looks inside Kanaan but I think he’s trying to spook him, he wouldn’t have made it but he’s showing his intentions. Kanaan needs to be sure to look at both Moraes AND Rahal.

L31 Jack Arute says pitstops are coming soon.
L32 An orange car went the wrong way. Tags?
Mario Moraes spins and someone has a damaged car. Raphael Matos. Heavy damage.

FULL COURSE CAUTION (I’m getting my US terminology back into gear!)

So Moraes is at turn 4, Matos turn 13 or so, now we have Danica walking away! We can’t see her car or where she is. Replay time.

Danica passes Barrett and Matos is inside, ouch they both went hard into the wall.
Before that Meira tagged Tag which sent Alex off into the run-off area, he spun it around and continued.

L34 Guys say a Penske pitted before the yellow – Briscoe. Danica and Matos out of the cars together. I’d say his fault on the replays.

Replay: Moraes and Mutoh get together JUST avoided by Wilson!!

Danica and Raphael are talking about the crash.
One of the guys says it was a low-percentage pass, not much chance of it working.
Replay: Matos gets an overlap but he’s not fully alongside when she had to turn in. He needed to back out. Buhl says she would’ve been way out in the marbles.

L36 Much pitting ensues.
Wilson from red to black.
Dixon had to be pushed back to his box, he overshot slightly and he’s still too far away – he’s too far from the wall! You don’t want that on a yellow pitstop, sends you to the back, not good.

Replay: Aha, it was Power who overshot his pit box and Dixon had to go around him, putting Scott out of position. Not Dixon’s fault.

L37 Briscoe leads after pitting before the safet.. caution period.
Road sweepers on track.

Positions after 36 laps completed:
Briscoe, Wheldon (!), Viso (!), RHR, Doornbos, Andretti, Wilson, Franchitti, Manning, Rahal, TK, Mutoh, Carpenter, Power, Meira, Dixon, Tags, Barrett.
Out: Patrick, Matos, Moraes, Conway.

I don’t like this ‘Americans get to see the stuff from previous years and we don’t’ business. Americans saw something from 2005.

Nice to hear Jenkins say VERSUS will be covering qualifying and the post-race for the Indy 500.

Very long yellow, IndyCar fans lose the right to bitch about F1.
Danica didn’t seem too bad this time. Upset but not angry. Improvement.

Cars passing! Unfortunately everyone’s changed paint jobs so I don’t know who they are. Doornbos and someone.

Oh Dario has a great run on Doornbos, he’s through. Wilson passes RHR and immediately looks at Viso but thinks better of it.

L42 VERSUS take the stupid decision to go to a break just a lap and a half after a green flag. Isn’t that when most of the action is? Seems some things haven’t changed from last year. The camera work and commentary team are a huge improvement though.

L45 Everyone has used reds for the mandatory 2 green laps, apart from Ed Carpenter.
Oriol Servia is with Arute. Oriol has no drive, he’s hoping for one soon.

L46 Andretti pits for reds, off strategy.
Ernesto ‘EJ’ Viso is 3rd and Beekhuis says he had a bigger difference between red and black than any other driver in terms of balance of the car. It’s nice to know it affects different teams/drivers in different ways.

I’ve just remembered about the silencer muffler things. I hadn’t noticed earlier but the cars seem to have the same distinctive sound but a bit quieter. I think we’ll notice it more on the flat-chat ovals.

L50 Half-distance, I like the IRL’s crossed-flags idea. Furled green and chequered flags crossed. Not that the drivers can see what colours they are but it’s for show really isn’t it. I like it.

L52 Wilson passes Viso for 3rd! Makes Viso go the long way.

L54 Wilson opening a gap now. Barrett very slow as everyone laps him.
Half a lap later he’s stopped and brings out the safety car.


He’s in a dangerous position in the narrow twisty section at the back, on the outside of possibly a blind corner.

L55 Jon says now we get to watch people “dook it out”.
Viso pits. Remains on blacks.
Power is in. Blacks. Briscoe the leader did not pit.
Most cars stayed out.

Much shorter yellow, that’s better.
Wilson inside Wheldon, but no.
Helicam shot is useful to have for the airport section, not so good through the trees.

L57 Briscoe, Wheldon, Wilson, RHR, Franchitti, Rahal, TK, Manning, Doornbos, Mutoh, Dixon, Meira, Andretti, Carpenter, Viso, Power, Tags, Barrett etc

Not a bad top 10, switch Mutoh for Dixon and that’s a very good top ten.

They’ve gone to break on a restart again but it’s better than holding the race under yellow while they wait for ESPN/ABC to come back. The coverage should follow the race, not the race follow the coverage!

L60 Audio is of a montage of the race so far. Video is a rearward onboard from Wheldon. Hmm. I wonder if everyone outside the US is seeing what I’m seeing or if it just the feed I have here.

Wilson is still trying to work on Wheldon as Briscoe pulls away.

L62 Machine-gun Lindy says something about Panther.
L63 Beekhuis says as the track rubbers in the reds will work better. Same as F1’s softer tyre then. America is looking ‘the GoDaddy biggest movers’ but we aren’t.

We do now have a graphic showing fastest laps in “kph” which is American for “km/h”. I have no idea why they don’t show the much more useful lap times. Okay I’ll own up: I’m being picky for the sake of it now because I’m still pissed at missing this live.

L66 Dixon pits. Black tyres. Viso pits for reds. How many times has Viso pitted? Seems like a lot.

L67 Power in for reds. Mutoh also pitted.
L68 Briscoe and Wheldon pit from 1st and 2nd! Blacks for Danny. And for Ryan.
TK also takes blacks.

I like how you can actually tell the difference between compounds with the huge bright red line on the inside, rather than a tiny dark green line on the edges.

L69 Wilson is behind Viso and laps him so a green flag pitstop costs nearly a lap on a street course which is insane! This isn’t the Norisring! Justin needs to stop again.
Replay: Mutoh and Tags both pass Rahal into turn one.
L70 Dario pits for reds. Teams going different ways here. Rahal and Meira are in and Graham has blacks, he’s out alongside Dixon!
Graham out on cold tyres is passed by Dixon and Manning as he gets up to speed.
L71 Wilson pits from the lead and takes more blacks. Where’s he out? He beats Briscoe! Ryan is at speed on hot tyres though, now RIGHT up behind him!
L72 Nice driving to absorb that pressure Justin. Andretti pits from a brief lead.


Ed Carpenter hit the wall.
We’re told everybody already made their final stop – apart from Ed.
Jon says he may have hit the marbles from the softer tyres we’re using this year. Softer tyres work well on street tracks and softer tyres make lots of marbles (just watch Monaco every year).

L75 Pit reports. Fact attack! Wilson is happy! Briscoe will do what Wilson does! Wheldon loves his car! RHR was only hired five days ago! How the frik does she speak that quickly?
We’ve slowed to just 2x normal speed with what’s his name. Kanaan has made it up to 6th after dropping to last with that nose change. Lindy: Andretti can make it to the end. Viso has pitted after a pitstop problem earlier. He’s still there.

Seems Andretti had trouble qualifying.

L77 Still yellow. I’m not sure what the hold-up is.
Arute thinks Coyne vs Penske is great and that they’ll fight to the finish.
Lindy with Viso: “Failure with the car, steering or something. It was a big risk to stay on the track for me and for everyone.”
Jenkins says the first time he saw Viso was at the mini-marathon at Indy last May, the first time he saw the Speedway was when he ran around it.

Dario is in trouble, he got too wide on to the marbles and lost 2 or 3 places. It looks like Wheldon lost out more though as Dario is still ahead of him.
Looking at the ticker and it looks like Barrett got running again 4 laps down.

RHR taking a look for 2nd! Not quite. Doornbos inside Mutoh, Dixon on Andretti.
Passing on an IndyCar street track!

L79 Replays. Wheldon got well wide, RHR holds up Dario which slowed him and Kanaan finds his way past both to slot in behind RHR.

L81 Dario re-takes TK! Commentary suggests Dario’s reds have more grip than TK’s blacks. Someone in the wall. Dixon!! I’d seen the race winner result before this but I had no idea Dixon went out!

Same place as Carpenter’s crash. Replays: Scott inside Mutoh and pushes Hideki wide and breaks something on the left front, which sends him off at the next corner. LOVING the multiple replays!


L83 Lindy with Dale Coyne: “He’s been the fastest car all day, we were able to go 2 laps longer, really good. We’ve still got 16 laps to go we want that last lap.”

Long yellow to fix the tyre wall Dixon went into which is fair enough. Safety first.

Briscoe passes Wilson into turn one!
RHR is on Justin’s ass. Doornbos passes Wheldon and hits him hard! Mutoh runs in to Dan. Andretti touched one of them quickly.

Wheldon and Mutoh exit their cars. Doornbos is making his way back to the pits with damaged suspension. Andretti has damage too.

Doornbos was on the inside of Wheldon. Rahal was inside Mutoh a row behind which led him to hit Wheldon. Onboard Wheldon: Dan was doing what he could but ran out of room.

L89 order: Briscoe, RHR, Wilson, Dario, TK, Power, Rahal, Meira, Manning, Andretti, Tags, Wheldon, Doornbos, Mutoh, Barrett, Dixon, etc.

Arute says RHR’s car prefers the red tyres and they’ve been on them all day save for a short stint on blacks to fulfil their obligation to use both sets.

L91 Highlights of the Lights race on American screens but not ours. Jenkins said to look away if you don’t want to know the result because they’re showing it tomorrow – guess which network will have received a ton of complaints about it by now! Whenever ITV spoiled the GP2 results in their F1 coverage before they aired it a week later they always got complaints, yet they still did it.

RHR looks inside Briscoe but can’t make it.

L94 Twelve cars still running and Barrett is the 12th! Andretti is still running albeit a lap down so there wasn’t too much damage for him.

Robbie Floyd (ta for telling us his name now) with Dixon: “We had someone park in our pit which pretty much ruined us. Tough day, we had to always outbrake into one and we couldn’t get the car slowed down quick enough. Front wishbone was broken and it went straight ahead.”

L95 Tagliani hits Andretti and spins him around.
Marco tries to turn around and gets stuck.

Jon says Alex is too non-committal on that move, his fault. Andretti is pulled back and gets out of the car.

Single file through turn one, field looking pretty thin.

Dario takes a look at Wilson but he’s way too far back.

CHEQUERED FLAG – Briscoe wins!

Robbie Floyd with Roger Penske: “This one’s for Helio. Will did a great job, what a job Briscoe did there. Hunter-Reay did a hell of a job.”

Jenkins: “Penske’s 30th win in the IndyCar Series at the hands of Ryan Briscoe.” Um, no. This wasn’t Penske’s 30th win with Briscoe and he’s had a hell of a lot more in Indycar racing generally.
Cars roll back into pitlane on the cool-down lap.

Briscoe out of the car with Jack Arute: “This place has been bad to me, it feels good to get to the end of this race. Amazing strategy.” He does what Roger Penske tells him to do. Congrats to Wilson who was very fair. There’s some crazy mascot behind him which has a bird’s head with a visor.

My feed just stopped here so I think we’re done.

1. Briscoe – 100 laps
2. Hunter-Reay
3. Wilson
4. Franchitti
5. Kanaan
6. Power
7. Rahal
8. Manning
9. Meira
10. Tagliani
11. Doornbos
12. Barrett (Doornbos got him at the end??)

Andretti, Wheldon, Mutoh, Dixon, Viso, Carpenter, Patrick, Matos, Moraes, Conway

The next IndyCar race is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19th, the same day as the Chinese GP so another double-header weekend!

I’m looking forward to Long Beach which will be the first visit by this series but not for many of the teams or drivers. It should be a good race now we’ve “ChampCarified” the series with these reds and blacks. Hopefully there will be fewer snoozefests on the twisties this year, plus LB is a good street track with some wide open sections to build up some speed.

The better news? I’ve checked and I was completely wrong in my previous post – it looks like a 9pm start time over here, which is perfect!

Be sure to check out the race notes from my North American blogger friends on what sounds like a fantastic domestic VERSUS feed:
Pressdog, MyNameIsIRL & Meesh

These three were the inspiration for my note-taking so check ’em out RIGHT NOW! That’s an order!
I’m off to give my typing hands a rest because I swear I’ve never typed so fast in my life before.


2 thoughts on “Race Notes: Honda GP of St Petersburg 2009”

  1. Semantics, Pat my friend.”Penske’s 30th win in the Indy Car series at the hands of Briscoe”…30th IRL Indy car win…not counting the USAC and CART wins…and Ryan Briscoe happened to be at the wheel when it happened, yes? It would have been the Captain’s 30th win no matter who’d been driving as long as it was his car winning…Great report, Pat. I always enjoy your writing.


  2. Mike, I fully understood what was meant. He said it badly and I was taking the piss. Look up Ricky Gervais.He ought to have said “Briscoe takes Penske’s 30th IRL IndyCar win” to avoid all ambiguity.Thanks for the compliment.


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