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Tough St. Pete circuit awaits IndyCar’s best

Mar 19, 2013, 7:00 PM EDT

The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to its usual season-opening stop this weekend for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, a 110-lap event on a 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit that features an airport runway for a front-stretch and a dog-leg backstretch along the Tampa Bay waterfront.

Those two areas set up the circuit’s main passing zones. The wide runway of Albert Whitted Airport leads into Turn 1, a right-hander that has provided plenty of mayhem over the years. It’s also where Helio Castroneves pulled off what would prove to be the winning pass last year at St. Petersburg on Scott Dixon.

As for the backstretch (Bayshore Boulevard), it leads into a sharp left-hander at Turn 10/Dan Wheldon Way that forces drivers to really hit their marks, especially when they’re in the middle of outbraking rivals. After barreling down Bayshore, the drivers’ maneuvering for position in this tricky corner makes for great action, both on television and for those sitting in the nearby grandstand.

Another interesting wrinkle for 2013 is the addition of 10 extra laps at St. Pete, which is one of four IndyCar tracks (the others being Long Beach, Milwaukee and Mid-Ohio) that had their race distances extended by the series in an attempt to cut down on fuel-mileage racing.

You can learn more details about the St. Pete street circuit in the “virtual lap” video above.

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