Grand Prix Saint Petersburg Florida

20th Annual Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Florida, Roars Into Town in March

Written by Kerry Kriseman
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Visitors to Florida’s 5th largest city mostly come for the beaches, museums, eclectic restaurants and boutiques. But come March, St. Petersburg transforms into a racing enthusiasts paradise. Engines roar, the scent of burning rubber fills the air, and the streets and waterfront fill with motorsport devotees from around the world who come to “Embrace the Race” as the checkered flag drops on another exciting Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, heralding the beginning of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, North America’s premier open-wheel auto racing series.
 
Celebrating its 20th year when it kicks off on Thursday, 7 March 2024, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is more than just a race—it’s a fusion of speed, skill, and the spirit of competition in Florida’s Sunshine City.
 
“Embrace the Race” isn’t simply a tagline for the event, it’s also a reflection of the Sunshine City, itself says former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “It’s easy for St. Petersburg to Embrace this Race, as its impact is felt not only in the thousands of out-of-town visitors who spend the three days in town to watch, but also by the local businesses who experience an increase in revenues from tourists and locals alike throughout the entire race week.”
 
What are you waiting for? Start your engines!
 
Grand Prix Florida
Beach Drive is the place to stroll, wine and dine, and people watch during Grand Prix weekend (Photo courtesy of visit the USA)
 
 

The Grand Prix That’s Open to All

The race in St. Petersburg has often been compared to glamorous Monaco, home of Formula One’s Monaco Grand Prix. Both cities boast international appeal, with stunning waterfront settings and serpentine courses that wind through the streets to create picturesque backdrops for the high-speed sport. And who wouldn’t want to be in Florida in March, basking in the warmth of the sun as the roar of engines fills the air?
 
However, there’s a crucial difference that sets the Firestone Grand Prix apart: accessibility.
 
Only in St. Petersburg do mega-yachts co-exist with R.V.s. While Monaco’s races are exclusive events, accessible to ticket holders and a select privileged few, the Firestone Grand Prix welcomes anyone, from families and college students to retirees and race fans, with open arms, with plenty of opportunities to watch the race and mingle with drivers in the paddocks and pits. St. Petersburg will also welcome a legendary true Jersey boy, Grammy Award winner, and Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer, Jon Bon Jovi. The rocker will join 4-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the Fastest Seat in Sports, a thrilling ride around the track to lead the field of drivers to the green flag for the first race of the 2024 season.
 
Be sure to have your camera or smart phone ready to catch favorite drivers whizzing by on scooters, headed to their dynamic one-seater cars. It’s common to see 83-year-old Mario Andretti and other members of racing royalty in the mix, too. If you’re lucky, they might pause long enough to scribble an autograph or take a photo.
 

More than 200,000 fans slather on sunscreen, don hats and t-shirts announcing their favorite drivers, and shove rubber plugs into their ears for the thrill of watching professional racers navigate bright-colored cars with Honda and Chevrolet v-6 turbo engines that can reach 240 m.p.h. The circuit itself winds its way through downtown St. Petersburg and includes a section on one of the runways at Albert Whitted Airport, providing a unique and challenging course for drivers.

 
From the iconic long front stretch to the tight right-hander of Turn 1 and the lightning-fast left- hand turn that follows, each twist and turn demands precision and nerves of steel from the drivers. The race attracts an international audience, with more than 1.4-million people in 200 countries watching the broadcast in 2023.
 
 
 
 
Grand Prix Florida
St. Pete’s 300 + days a year make it an ideal setting for the start of NTT INDYCAR racing season (Photo by Dirk Shadd)

Off-Track Grand Prix Excitement

 
The best part about Grand Prix weekend is that you don’t even have to be a fan to enjoy it. Festivities kick off Thursday, 7 March with the 5K Run on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Track, an actual “race on the track”.
Participants of all ages traverse through downtown St. Pete’s waterfront and parks, and on the track where the drivers race. The event concludes with a Party in the Park at North Straub Park.
 
To commemorate the race’s 20th anniversary, a gala to benefit the local Police Athletic League will be held Friday, 8 March at Mahaffey Center for the Arts. For $250 per person, treat yourself to a “Grand Prix Evening” and rub elbows with past race winners Hélio Castroneves (also of Dancing with the Stars fame), Graham Rahal, Will Power, Dario Franchitti, James Hinchcliffe, Sébastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, Colton Herta, Scott McLaughlin, and Marcus Ericsson while enjoying cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres, live art painting, and entertainment.
 
For those looking to immerse themselves in all things racing, Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg eight total races on Friday and Saturday leading to the main race on Sunday.
 
 
Whether it’s roaring engines, screeching tires and the occasional gasp as cars jostle for position or the sleek, aerodynamic curves of the cars themselves that draw you, each aspect of Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is a thrill and testament to the passion and dedication of all involved.
 
 
 
Grand Prix Saint Petersburg Florida
The Grand Prix circuit is spectator-friendly and winds through the city of Saint Petersburg (photo courtesy of Grand Prix of St. Petersburg)

 

Visit the Sunshine City

Off-track activities are plentiful, and there are opportunities between races and before the big day to enjoy all that St. Petersburg has to offer. Stroll down Beach Drive Northeast and stop for a coffee or glass of wine and snack at Cassis, where outdoor tables beckon you to find respite and shade under large canvas umbrellas.
 
Catch an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. Satisfy your sweet tooth with the best gelato outside of Italy at Paciugo. As you wind around Beach Drive, you’ll be greeted by the iconic and historic Vinoy Resort  & Golf  Club. Locals will tell you there’s nothing like enjoying a craft cocktail and small bites on the expansive veranda of The Vinoy: their “pink, proud, and perfectly preserved” hotel.
 
On Saturday night, your race ticket gets you admission to a live concert in the plaza between the Duke Energy for the Arts and the Dali Museum headlined by multi-platinum and former Poison frontman Bret Michaels.
 
St. Petersburg echoes the excitement and the promise of another thrilling race season. For the drivers, the journey continues, with the Firestone Grand Prix serving as just the beginning of a season filled with twists and turns, triumphs, and challenges. 
 
And for the city itself, the race represents not only a showcase of its beauty and hospitality but also a reminder of the enduring bond between sport and community. Year after year, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg captures the imagination and ignites the spirit, leaving an indelible mark on all who have the privilege of experiencing its thrills.
 
 
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Grand Prix Florida
St. Pete’s iconic Vinoy Hotel is a favorite gathering spot for locals and visitors  (Photo courtesy of Visit Florida)
 
 

Take Part in the 20th Annual Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

 
 
HOW TO ENJOY THE RACE: In the spirit of inclusion and accessibility, there are plenty of grandstand seats at affordable prices ensuring that everyone can experience the thrill of IndyCar racing firsthand. Choose from 3-day packages, single day tickets, and paddock and pit access tickets. From the die-hard fans who travel from everywhere to the residents who revel in the excitement of having world-class racing right on their doorstep, the event unites people in a shared passion for speed and spectacle. Purchase tickets HERE.
 
NEW FOR 2024: Rookie Racers, for 5-12-year-olds who want up-close access to drivers and cars and have firsthand opportunities to learn how race cars operate. Rookie Racers receive Membership Kits, Saturday race activities, and on Sunday, the chance to high five EVERY driver on the starting grid! Details HERE.
 
GOOD TO KNOW: A popular destination for visitors to St. Petersburg is the Dali Museum. Due to its waterfront location and proximity to the Firestone Grand Prix racetrack, off-site parking is necessary from March 4-13. The museum is closed March 8-10 during race weekend. More information regarding parking and hours of operation can be found HERE.
 
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About Saint Petersburg, Florida
 
Author bio: Kerry Kriseman
 
Find more travel inspiration at BeSeeingYou
Kerry Kriseman
Kerry Kriseman is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a B.A. in Mass Communications/Broadcasting. Kerry worked in print media for the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) in various positions in the Newsroom and Marketing Department from 1988 to 1998. She has been the Public Relations Manager for Creative Clay, a St. Petersburg, Fla,, non-profit since 2008. Kerry is the author of Accidental First Lady: On the Front Lines and Behind the Scenes of Local Politics, published by St. Petersburg Press. The memoir recounts her 22 years as a political spouse to her lawyer-turned-politician husband, Rick Kriseman, St. Petersburg Mayor from 2014-2022. Political life afforded Kerry remarkable travel experiences to destinations such as Morocco, Scotland, and Qatar. However, she also finds her hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida just as engaging, with its world-class museums, local arts districts, diversity, and vibrant neighborhoods. Equally as enjoyable as travel are Kerry’s passions: dogs (her own Labradors and the guide dog puppies she raises), volunteer work, wine, trying new recipes, and challenging her baking skills with her new Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

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