The Indy car record book is laden with statistics covering every facet of competition including drivers, teams and tracks. The 2018 edition of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will make its mark with records of its own.
The debut of the universal aero kit kicked off in unorthodox fashion with a surprise Practice 1 pacesetter in rookie Matheus Leist, a surprise track record by rookie Jordan King and a surprise pole by rookie Robert Wickens.
The twists and turns continued into the 110-lap race itself with five cautions before the halfway point and three over the final eight laps, totaling eight to set a new record at the St. Petersburg event. Prior to this year, the most cautions the 1.8-mile circuit had seen in its 14-year history was seven in 2009.
The new bodywork’s promise of closer racing and more passing was borne out in a post-race statistic shared by INDYCAR: There were more on-track passes in this year’s race than ever before.
The new universal aero kit has delivered more passes than ever before on the streets of St. Petersburg. By the halfway point at Lap 55, there were 248 on-track passes. The previous record was 243. #FirestoneGP #IndyCar
— IndyCar—The Apex (@ApexIndyCar) March 11, 2018
The achievement is slightly misleading, however, since the previous record from 2008 was set over 83 laps, creating an average of 3.89 passes per lap. The new record of 366 passes equates to a lesser average of 3.33 passes per lap.
One record that Wickens — who lost his chance at a win with two laps to go — might like to forget is that of lead changes. The previous mark, set in 2010, was 10 among eight drivers. This year, just five drivers exchanged the lead 11 times. In addition to Wickens, race winner Sebastien Bourdais, Alexander Rossi, King and Ryan Hunter-Reay also led laps.
While not a record, Bourdais’ second consecutive victory in his adopted hometown has granted him access to the exclusive “consecutive victories” club, where he joins Helio Castroneves who went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007 and Juan Pablo Montoya who accomplished the same feat in 2015 and 2016. Should Bourdais return to victory lane in 2019, he would be the first to win three consecutive races in St. Petersburg.
With a rookie-heavy field, new aero kits and 16 more races still to be run in 2018, it’s a safe bet that more records will be broken during this season. The next chance will be at ISM Raceway on April 7.