SBD/Issue 138/Events & Attractions

Honda Grand Prix Of St. Pete Drew Bigger Crowd This Year Than '08

Honda Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg Drew An
Estimated 140,000 Fans Over Three Days
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker said that this past weekend's IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg "drew a bigger crowd than last year," according to Mike Brassfield of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Baker said that this year "topped last year's estimated crowd of 140,000 over three days." Baker said of the race, "I think it's set to be here forever." Brassfield notes race promoters "called the weekend a smashing success, so they definitely want to add another year to their contract with the city." The race is "already under contract to stay in St. Petersburg through 2013," and Andretti Green Promotions Manager Dir Kevin Savoree said that the race promoter "now plans to seek a one-year extension." Savoree: "We're thrilled with how the event has gone. It's been a fantastic weekend. All three days exceeded expectations" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 4/6). In St. Petersburg, Brant James reported next season's Grand Prix "may change dates as the first Sunday in April, the event's typical slot, falls on Easter" (TAMPABAY.com, 4/5).

Many Feel Danica Patrick Should Stay 
In IRL Where Sponsors, Fans Love Her
STAYING OR GOING? IRL driver Danica Patrick, whose contract with Andretti Green Racing (AGR) expires after this season, said NASCAR is an "attractive beast." Patrick: "They obviously have a lot of drivers that enjoy it. I think it's all part of the things you have to evaluate." AGR Chair Michael Andretti said that because "much of the process depends on sponsors, there is no timetable to begin talks" with Patrick about staying in the IRL. An IRL official said that the IRL "clearly wants her back, too, but doesn't need her back." IRL Commercial Division President Terry Angstadt: "We absolutely want her to stay. We think she's a great fit for IndyCar racing. The demographics, the women that follow her, we think it's a great fit." The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES' James noted to field a "competitive IRL race car costs about $8[M] -- not counting driver salary -- for a full season, and her ability to attract sponsors could help feed an entire open-wheel team." Penske Racing Owner Roger Penske said, "I think she's in the right place. She's a woman. She has a great sponsors interest and the fans lover her. ... I have no idea what she can attract from a sponsorship, but I can tell you this, if I was Andretti Green I wouldn't let her go" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 4/4).

BEGINNER'S MANUAL: The AP's Mike Harris reported Richard Petty Motorsports co-Owner Richard Petty "will make his first foray into the Indianapolis 500 as an owner when he fields a car for John Andretti in next month's race." Andretti drove for the now-defunct Petty Enterprises NASCAR team from '98-'03. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, which runs the full IndyCar Series, "will work with Petty at Indy, providing equipment and personnel" (AP, 4/4).

WELCOME BACK? Penske said that if IRL driver Helio Castroneves is cleared of federal tax evasion charges, he "would return to the No. 3 car." Castroneves' case in U.S. District Court in Miami "could go to the 12-member jury this week" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/5).

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