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Race owner talks rescheduling Firestone Grand Prix

Megan Holmes

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The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce presents: Coronavirus Impact Insights. Click the play arrow above to watch the full video. 

On this episode, Kim Green, owner and CEO of Green Savoree Racing Promotions joins Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Joe Hamilton, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst.

But first, Steinocher takes listeners through the Florida Chamber Scorecard for Pinellas County. He says the outlook is optimistic, as the percent of positive tests cases hovers at less than 2 percent, despite the 14-day average of positive cases continuing to increase. The positive cases are now around 20 per day, just short of the Pinellas County’s peak of 25 positive cases per day in April, though testing has widely expanded since then.

Hamilton encourages listeners to keep a macro perspective of their own choices and their own household, rather than a micro perspective of the state or country as a whole.

Green Savoree Racing Promotions holds four of the 17 Indy Car races of the season, including the Firestone Grand Prix, held in downtown St. Petersburg, usually in March. This year, the Grand Prix was cancelled late in the game, as the Covid-19 pandemic bore down on St. Pete. The race has now been rescheduled for October.

Green shares the experience of cancelling the Grand Prix, and the 72-hour whirlwind involved in choosing whether to keep the race on or cancel it, and the many players involved in that decision-making.

Eventually, it was the Indy Car series that made the decision to cancel the race. Green explains the feeling of cancelling the race with the downtown course on St. Petersburg’s streets as “putting away your toy box when nobody got to play with the toys.” The urban course left four miles of concrete barriers and thousands of seats and grandstands up for a race that never took place.

It was particularly disappointing, Green says, because ticket sales and the weather for the race were so good this year.

Green explains that the city was keen to work with them to reschedule the race because of the immense economic impact for the local economy, as hotels, restaurants and retail shops get a major yearly boost from Grand Prix weekend.

Green explains that many of the other races Green Savoree Racing Promotions puts on, one in Toronto, one in Ohio, and one in Portland are all expected to be moved because of the schedule changes that Covid-19 has caused. With uncertainty hanging in the air as economies begin to reopen, Green says they don’t yet know if any of the races will happen.

Green says he and his team are looking at the numerous races that remain scheduled throughout the summer, including a major race held July 4 weekend, a combined NASCAR and Indy Car event, as a bellweather for fall races like the rescheduled Grand Prix.

Green Savoree Racing Promotions is currently in the planning process for rebuilding the Grand Prix street course for October. Green says that the team is working to shorten the course’s build time further, and be more creative as it plans. However, a shorter build time also means more risk, especially if weather does not cooperate.

If the Grand Prix does take place in October, it will likely become the final race of the series instead of the first race, changing its importance in the series. In the last few years, Green says, the series has come down to the final race, and with a shorted season it is even more likely to do so.

The Firestone Grand Prix rescheduled date will honor original tickets from March 2020. Those tickets will also be honored for March 2021, if ticket holders are unable to attend in October.

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