Pagenaud excited to debut No. 1 car on track at St. Petersburg

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Simon Pagenaud isn’t worried about running No. 1 on his PPG Automotive Refinish Chevrolet this weekend in St. Petersburg or at any other race this season.

The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion doesn’t believe there is any bad luck associated with using the No. 1 on his Indy car.

“I'm not very superstitious, really,” said the Frenchman, who officially debuts the No. 1 car when practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg begins today. “My only superstition is my routine that I have before the races. I'm excited to run No. 1.”

Traditionally, the No. 1 has been reserved in Indy car racing for the previous year’s champion to use the following season – though Cristiano da Matta used it in 2002 after he had clinched the CART title. Seven champions have used the number the year after their title-winning seasons with mixed results.

The GOOD: Gil de Ferran (2001) and Sebastien Bourdais (2005-07) successfully defended CART and Champ Car championships in cars bearing the No. 1.

The OK: Paul Tracy (2004-Champ Car), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2013) and Will Power (2015) found victory lane carrying the No. 1, but never were factors in the championship fight.

The UGLY: Greg Ray finished outside the top 10 in points after winning the 1999 Verizon IndyCar Series title, though he did win several poles and one race. Scott Dixon’s last winless season came while he carried No. 1 in 2004.

Pagenaud hopes to follow up his career-year in 2016 with an even better 2017 and sees the using No. 1 more as an honor than a curse.

“(The number is) a testament to a great previous year,” he said. “It's also a testament and a thank you to our partners at Team Penske. They've followed us into this adventure. They've wanted to be our partners. We won the championship together. It's a way to say thanks to them. 

“Here we are the defending champions. It's a way to also be proud of what we've done, but also raise our game this year trying to keep it.”

Two 45-minute practices on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit are scheduled today, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET and 3 p.m. A third practice is set for 10:50 a.m. Saturday, ahead of knockout qualifying to determine the Verizon P1 Award winner starting at 2:55 p.m. The final warmup practice is set for 9 a.m. Sunday. All of those sessions will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Sunday’s 110-lap race -- the first of 17 on this year's Verizon IndyCar Series schedule -- airs live at noon ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Turn 3 of St. Pete track reconfigured

Turn 3 of the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit for the 2017 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has been reconfigured for safety purposes, INDYCAR announced today.

The corner has been a fast, sweeping right-hand turn in recent years, but INDYCAR officials, in conjunction with Green Savoree Racing Promotions, decided to make modifications after several cars competing in Thursday’s support series practices crested a bump and lost control in the ensuing depression.

Approximately 180 feet of wall on the drivers’ left side has been moved back almost 40 feet. On the right side, curbing has been installed, which changes the apex and makes the corner a slower, traditional braking area.

The alterations, viewed Thursday evening by a host of Verizon IndyCar Series drivers, will be tested by Indy cars for the first time in practice beginning at 11:15 a.m. ET today. The session will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. All levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires – the three-tiered INDYCAR developmental ladder – will also run on the configuration in their sessions today.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the first of 17 races on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Sunday’s race airs live at noon ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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