The city of St. Petersburg, Florida started construction on the 1.8 mile track for the 2014 Firestone Grand Prix. Last year’s winner James Hinchcliffe spoke to Sports Talk Florida Monday morning about the first race of the season, his expectations and how he would trade it all for a win at the Indianapolis 500.
“This one [The Grand Prix] has always been one of my favorites because the atmosphere of this event is so cool. It always has been. You see that in other events too but this one definitely nails it. The backdrop on the water here is cool, but the two things that set this place above is so many passing opportunities for street track. We always hear that street tracks are boring and the rest of it but not here. I mean we have three solid passing opportunities, which makes the racing great. The other thing is it’s the first race of the year every season so it’s got that first day of school feeling and you’re so full of hope and there’s so many possibilities when you come to St. Pete and it’s just a really exciting feeling.”
“I think it is a breakout year but it certainly didn’t end the way we wanted it to. There was a lot of ups and downs in the season but we take a lot of positives out of that and getting not only that first win but being able to back it up. I think that was progress for sure.”
“There’s a lot of change for 2014 so it’s hard to put a lot of expectations on it. The biggest one obviously being Honda coming on board with Indy Auto Sport and a new sponsor for me. It’s a lot of unknowns, a lot of changes but I think we can be optimistic. Preseason’s gone pretty well and the testing we’ve been doing has been strong but there’s a lot of new driver, car combinations that we don’t know about yet so I think we’re gonna learn a lot right here in a couple weeks.”
(You had three wins last year. Would you trade those three wins to race in Indy?)
“Yeah probably. It’s tough. The 500 is so special for so many reasons and I think the biggest one behind it is the history. It is the longest running race in the world and it’s got a winners list that reads like a who’s who of racing greats. You could build a fancier facility if you wanted to. It’d be hard because the track itself is pretty incredible but you could dump a couple billion in building the ultimate racing venue but at the end of the day you can’t buy history and this race has been going on for almost 100 years now. To add your name to that list, it’s just something that you can’t replicate and it means so much to the drivers.”