ST. PETERSBURG, Fla – Now that we’re three practices and a qualifying session down, it’s time to predict who will shine for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete (12:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IndyCar Radio Network).
I wrote earlier in the week how I think that the oddsmakers got some of this wrong. Now, I think maybe they were right all along.
Alexander Rossi (+450)
He nearly won this race last year – finished third. He was among the top drivers all of last season and ended with a ton of momentum. Rossi, closed 2018 with seven straight top 10 finishes including three top two results over the final five races. He was fifth and sixth respectively in practice on Friday and battled understreer en route to a sixth place starting spot for Sunday’s race.
Josef Newgarden (+450)
Newgarden has scored zero top five finishes in St. Pete and has also failed to lead a lap too. That’s steep for a driver with the best odds. Plus, Penske has won just one of the last 10 street course races and they didn’t look any better on Friday. But, on Saturday, they had all three cars in the top five in practice and shared the front row between Will Power and Newgarden. In fact, Newgarden has been the top Penske driver this weekend overall in being seventh, ninth and second respectively in practice.
Will Power (+500)
We know he will be starting up front. Despite being 10th in both practices on Friday, Power has now scored seven poles in his last 10 St. Pete tries. He has three top 10 finishes since 2014 including a win and a runner-up. Watch out for Power. He starts first.
Scott Dixon (+500)
Dixon, has three straight top seven finishes at St. Pete but has never won in 14 St. Pete starts. He’s also failed to lead a lap in 11 of those 14 tries too. But, I think that ends on Sunday. Dixon, qualified fourth and was fourth, 13th and seventh respectively in practice.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (+900)
No one was as hot to end the year off last year than that of Hunter-Reay. He finished second in the penultimate race at Portland and won the finale at Sonoma. To counter that, the Florida native also has five consecutive top seven finishes in St. Pete including four of which being in the top five. He was in the top two in all three practice sessions this weekend and set the fastest time in qualifying on Saturday. He will start fifth.
Sebastien Bourdais (+900)
He closed 2018 hot too. See a theme here? Bourdais, closed out the year with four top six finishes in his final five starts on the season. At St. Pete, he’s won the last two years. Why not take him at +900? The reason he’s not a favorite is he was only 11th and 18th respectively in practice and starts 19th.
James Hinchcliffe (+1200)
He’s a good street course racer. Hinch, is a former St. Pete winner (2013) and heads to 2019 with some momentum. He was 13th and seventh respectively in practice on Friday and rolls off ninth.
Felix Rosenqvist (+1600)
He’s now Scott Dixon’s teammate. Yes, this is his first IndyCar start but he’s impressive. Rosenqvist, takes over a car that has been in contention at this race lately. Ed Jones finished eighth in it in 2018 while Tony Kanaan had three top 10’s in the years prior. He led the way in the first practice session of the season on Friday morning and will start third in his first IndyCar race.
Ed Jones (+4000)
Jones, has two top 10 finishes in as many tries at St. Pete. With a new team in a car that set the track record last year, why not take a shot at +4000? His best finish in 2018 came on a street race at Long Beach too.
Marco Andretti (+4000)
Andretti and Honda’s were fast on Friday. He was third in the second session. Heading into this year’s season opener, Andretti has three top 10 finishes in his last four starts. This is worth the risk.
Colton Herta (+12500)
He was fastest in three of the four test sessions last month at COTA. The one he wasn’t fastest in, he was second. His car is essentially an Andretti extension and those drivers have fared well at St. Pete. He was fourth in practice on Friday and if not for a fluke penalty in qualifying, he’d be starting in the Fast Six.