Driver profiles, part 1
| Friday, April 4, 2008 | St. Petersburg Times
GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG
BY JIM TOMLIN
Times Staff Writer
The official entry list of drivers for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Hometown: Nazareth, Pa.
Noteable: Coming off a poor 2007, Andretti led a race-high 85
laps in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway and finished second, tying his best result since he won as a rookie in
2006 at Infineon. His fourth place in St. Petersburg was one of
only seven top-10 finishes in ’07.
Hometown: San Francisco
Noteable: Bell made 12 starts in the series from 2004-06,
including three straight top-10 finishes in 2004, after a stint in
Champ Car. He bounced around the ranks of various series,
including Indy Lights and Formula 3000. Bell, who’s splitting
time in this car with Milka Duno, makes his season debut.
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Noteable: He raced in Europe the past several years, with stints
in British Formula 3 and F3000 leading to two seasons in Formula One with Arrows. He made his debut in North American
open-wheel racing at Homestead, completing 149 laps before a
handling problem sidelined him.
Hometown: Sydney, Australia
Noteable: As a rookie, he led late in the inaugural IndyCar
race in St. Petersburg. That was the highlight of a tough year at
Ganassi that ended with multiple injuries after a violent crash at
Chicagoland. He had a long path back to IndyCar before his big
break came when Penske signed him to replace Sam Hornish.
Noteable: Once most known chiefly for being Tony George’s
stepson, Carpenter has emerged as a solid competitor, especially on ovals, where he had four top-seven finishes in 2007.
Saturday at Homestead he picked up where he left off last year,
matching his career best finish of fifth.
Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Noteable: The two-time defending winner in St. Petersburg set
a series record last season, earning seven poles. But a series
championship still eludes the two-time Indy 500 winner; his
best points finish was second in 2002. This was the site of his
only win in 2007, but he had four other top-three finishes.
Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
Noteable: After losing last season’s title when he ran out of
fuel on the last lap of the finale, Dixon reaffirmed his status as
a championship contender with Saturday’s victory at Homestead. Dixon has been runnerup in St. Petersburg the past two
Hometown: Hockley, Texas
Noteable: The still-young veteran had a career-high six top-10
finishes last season, including four in the final five races. He
started this season in the same form, finishing ninth at Homestead after having to start in the rear of the field because his
qualifying time was disallowed.
Hometown: Basildon, England
Noteable: Followed in the footsteps of fellow Englishman
Dan Wheldon by winning the U.S. Formula Ford title. Made
his major-series debut at Homestead, falling out after 50 laps.
He raced in St. Petersburg last year in the Indy Pro series, the
feeder series in which he won the season title in 2006.
Hometown: Boca Raton
Noteable: The former Champ Car driver spent a couple of years
bouncing around various series before landing an IndyCar ride
with Rahal Letterman toward the tail end of 2007. He was the
first American rookie in more than 20 years to win a Champ Car
race, taking the Surfer’s Paradise event in 2003.
Hometown: Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Noteable: This is his first IRL season but he knows at least a
few of the tracks very well; he has raced in four Indianapolis
500s (and was the pole-sitter in 2002) and will be very familiar
with the tracks IndyCar picks off the Champ Car slate. He was a
three-time points runnerup in Champ Car with Newman/Haas.
Hometown: Bahia, Brazil
Noteable: The 2004 series champion has finished on the podium in each of the three IndyCar races in St. Petersburg — second in 2005 and third the past two years. He captured five of his
12 series victories last season, making a late title charge which
fell 61 points short of good friend Dario Franchitti.