With the first race of the 2019 INDYCAR season right around the corner speculation is already rampant in terms of who this season’s favorites are to win the opener. Led by Sebastien Bourdais, this group of drivers are the ones to watch to take the checkered at St. Pete.
Bourdais is the obvious pick for the win on Sunday, having won the last two races there. Counting his two victories at St. Pete, five of his six wins in the NTT IndyCar Series have come on road courses with 11 of his 12 career podiums coming on road courses. Considering that his main strength is road course racing (his sole oval win came at the Milwaukee Mile in 2015), and also noting the fact that he’s the reigning St. Pete champion two years running, it’s safe to say Bourdais may be the winner again on Sunday.
Rossi’s 2018 St. Pete performance is noted more for his late-race tangle with a dominant Robert Wickens, but that did not take away from his third-place finish. On top of that, three of Rossi’s five wins are on road courses, with six podium finishes coming on road courses. Rossi is a stellar oval racer, but as his strength lies in his roadracing expertise: Rossi’s brief 2015 stint in Formula One’s Ferrari group proved beneficial in his racing career. This was proven when Rossi earned a podium finish at Daytona with Penske’s DPi Acura team.
Rossi was a contender late in the going at St. Pete in 2018, so considering that led to a career season for his Andretti Autosport group, he could be in Victory Lane after Sunday’s season opener.
Hinchcliffe broke through in the win column in 2013 at St. Pete. He’s scored 11 podium finishes on road courses including a third in his INDYCAR debut in 2012. He also happens to be one of the most established drivers on the circuit, having had strong runs on every type of track on the circuit, on ovals, road courses, and street courses.
Two-time St. Pete winner Will Power (2010, 2014) is undoubtedly one of the greatest INDYCAR drivers to ever live, having a resume which boasts 33 wins since 2008 along with 64 podium finishes and the 2014 season championship. 26 of those wins were on road courses or street courses, and it’s already an established fact that Power is a contender everywhere he goes. It’s not a matter of if he scores a strong run on Sunday; rather, it’s how much of a strong run it’ll be. His third St. Pete win could be around the corner.
Dixon is undoubtedly INDYCAR’s goat in this current era. With 43 wins, 102 podiums, and five championships, Dixon could very well begin his championship defense with a win at St. Pete. What sticks out, though, is despite 43 wins on every type of track he has yet to win at St. Pete. Half of his wins are on road courses and street courses, so he is no slouch. But with four St. Pete podiums, it’s time now that Dixon seals the deal and goes after win No. 44 at Sunday’s season opener.