St. Petersburg, Fla – The start of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season is upon us. Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete (12:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IndyCar Radio Network) will mark the first race of the new year. With that being said, it’s a tough race to predict.
See, we’ve had zero actual meaningful laps turned in 2019. Yes, there have been a handful of test sessions that have taken place between last year’s season finale in September (Sonoma) and this weekend’s season opener (St. Pete), but those are just that – tests.
With no laps turned on the street circuit in 2019, how can you realistically predict who wins on Sunday?
Yes, the odds are out, but if you can hit on something now before anything starts – you’re likely in for a good pay day.
We’re now one practice day into the weekend with just one practice left.
Here’s who to watch and who to steer away from.
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.
Will Power (+500)
We know he will be starting up front. Despite being 10th in both practices on Friday, Power has scored six poles in his last nine St. Pete tries. He has three top 10 finishes since 2014 including a win and a runner-up. Watch out for Power.
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 both practice sessions on Friday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spencer Pigot (+10000)
He had a boat load of confidence heading into this season and wants to perform on what he considers his home track. Pigot, was second fastest on the overall speed charts on Friday.
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 seventh and fourth respectively in practice on Friday.
Josef Newgarden (+450)
It’s tough to not have him as a favorite and I could regret that on Sunday, but 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.
Scott Dixon (+500)
Again, this could be a regrettable decision. 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.
Simon Pagenaud (+800)
He closed 2018 hot too but this is a tough one. Pagenaud, had 10 straight top 10 finishes, including nine consecutively in the top eight. At St. Pete, yes, he finished 13th last year, but he had four straight top five finishes prior including runner-ups in 2016 and again in 2017. In practice on Friday, he was only 12th and 17th respectively. Furthermore, see Penske’s street course stats above with Newgarden.
Graham Rahal (+2500)
Yes, he finished runner-up last year but that was his first top five since his win in 2008. He hasn’t led a lap at St. Pete since his win either. He was eighth and 11th in practice on Friday.
Takuma Sato (+4000)
Rahal’s teammate has just two career top fives at St. Pete, none actually being better than fifth. Does that change on Sunday? Not likely. He was only sixth and 12th respectively in practice.
Tony Kanaan (+6600)
AJ Foyt Racing’s last win came on a street course (Long Beach). Kanaan, is strong at St. Pete in scoring 11 top 10 finishes in 14 tries. He finished 11th in a rebuilding mode last year. Imagine what he can do with a year under his belt in the No. 14 Chevrolet.