Chevrolet Ready for Verizon IndyCar Series Season Opening Event
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Plays Host to Race One of 17-Race Schedule
· Team Chevy is reigning Verizon IndyCar Series manufacturer, driver and owner champion
ᴏ Bowtie Brand aiming for seventh manufacturer title in a row
· Season opens with Chevy engine powering new universal aero kit
ᴏ Tested 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged direct injected V6 power plant is up to task
· Defending champ Josef Newgarden leads strong Team Chevy lineup
ᴏ Second-year Team Penske driver will carry No. 1 on his car
· Three rookies among 11 Team Chevy drivers in season opener
DETROIT (March 7, 2018) – Six months have passed in slow motion for Josef Newgarden since being crowned the fifth Verizon IndyCar Series champion in the past six years to drive a Chevrolet-powered race car.
Finally, it’s time to get back to business for the second-year Team Penske driver as the Verizon IndyCar Series season opens March 11 with Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the Streets of St. Petersburg (FLA).
ABC will telecast the race live at 12:30 p.m. ET. Three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves, a three-time winner on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, will be the grand marshal.
Eleven Team Chevy drivers will get behind the wheel of the tested 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged direct injected V6 Chevrolet engine powering the Dallara chassis with the new universal aerodynamic bodywork on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course.
Newgarden posted four of Chevrolet’s 10 victories and one of its 11 poles in the 17 races of the 2017 season. The Bowtie Brand, which has amassed 67 wins in 101 races since returning to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2012 and 178 Indy car victories overall since 1965, has won the Manufacturer Championship six consecutive years.
“I still have to pinch myself when I think about going to St. Pete as the Verizon IndyCar Series champion,” said Newgarden, who will be recognized again for his accomplishments March 8 at the Verizon IndyCar Series Celebration. “Any driver that gets an opportunity, like the one I got with Team Penske, will tell you they expect to win right away. I certainly did as well, but I think we were all surprised at how quickly we gelled together and made it happen.
“But that is last year. The drive for the 2018 championship starts at St. Pete, and it’s a track where I’ve never won before. That is our only thought this weekend: going to Victory Lane.”
Newgarden, 27, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, will carry the No. 1 on the sides of the Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet in the 110-lap race.
“To carry the No. 1, that adds a little bit more pressure, but the thing that I tell people is when you drive for Roger Penske, there’s always pressure, so whether you won a championship or not, I think that level of — not expectation but responsibility to do your job and represent the group well and trying to get the most out of yourself — I think that’s going to be there the same as it was last year,” Newgarden added.
Competition for Newgarden to become the first Team Penske repeat Indy car series champion since Gil de Ferran in 2001 will come from teammates Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 title-holder, and 2014 champion Will Power, among many others.
“I left No. 1 as a rental,” said Pagenaud, who was a close runner-up in the 2017 standings.
Team Penske has won the pole position for seven of the past eight races at St, Petersburg, with Power setting the track record in 2016. Chevrolet, which collected 11 Verizon P1 Pole Awards in 2017, has 74 pole starts since 2012.
“We were able to get last year going with a Verizon P1 Pole Award at St. Pete and we are confident that we will have speed this year,” said Power, who has supplied two (2014, ’10 from pole) of Team Penske’s eight victories at the track since the inaugural race in 2003. “We’ve won here, but we’ve had two rough races in a row. It’s time to get back in Victory Lane.”
Seven rookies are entered in the first of 17 events on the ’18 calendar, including Chevrolet drivers Rene Binder (Juncos Racing), Jordan King (Ed Carpenter Racing), and Matheus Leist (AJ Foyt Racing). Leist will team with fellow Brazilian, 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan, who returns to Team Chevy after a one-year absence. King, of England, will compete on road/street courses, while team owner Ed Carpenter will drive the No. 20 entry in the six ovals races.
New full-time Verizon IndyCar Series entrants Carlin, with veteran drivers Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton, and Harding Racing, with 2016 INDYCAR and Indy 500 rookie of the year Gabby Chaves, also will utilize Chevrolet-powered race cars.
Fans can see an impressive array of Chevrolet production vehicles, including the 2018 Traverse, Equinox, and Silverado High Country, and immersive displays at the Chevrolet IndyCar Racing Tour at Albert Whitted Park and the World Challenge paddock from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. March 9-10 and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. March 11.
Fans also can meet and ask questions of their favorite Team Chevy drivers at the Chevy Racing pit box in the display area in Albert Whitted Park: March 9 — 1-1:15 p.m. – Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton (Carlin); 2:15-2:30 p.m. – Gabby Chaves (Harding Racing); 4:30-4:45 p.m. – Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist (AJ Foyt Racing). March 10 — 9-9:15 a.m.– Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power (Team Penske); 12:45-1 p.m. – Spencer Pigot and Jordan King (Ed Carpenter Racing); 1-1:15 p.m. – Rene Binder (Juncos Racing).