The Firestone Grand Prix flag is flying over St. Petersburg City Hall, as the city and local businesses, including Dynasty Financial Partners and Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, gear up for the weekend race.
The festivities come seven months after the original March race was cancelled, as Covid-19 cases began to climb.
The rescheduled race, organized by Green Savoree Racing Promotions, is taking place amid another increase in Covid-19 cases and deaths. Mayor Rick Kriseman said a lot has been learned since then.
“Today we know what we’re up against. We know a bit more about how this virus behaves and we’ve had time to get safety protocols in place. We know that being outside reduces the spread. We know that masks work. We know that social distancing works. I am confident that following the protocols established by Green Savoree Racing will keep us safe this weekend,” Kriseman said during the flag raising ceremony Thursday morning.
The original March race would have kicked off the NTT IndyCar season. The rescheduled race instead will be the final event of the season.
It’s no easy task to host a world championship sporting event, said Kevin Savoree, co-owner of Green Savoree. He thanked city officials for working with his company to reschedule.
“We had to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get back out there. We all did that,” Savoree said. He also outlined a series of safety steps that will be in place, including self-health evaluations for all fans, temperature checks and a socially distanced outside environment.
The event kicks off Friday, with practice and qualifying rounds, and continues Saturday and Sunday, with the NTT IndyCar Series race scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday. It will be broadcast on NBC.
“This race shines a bright light on our incredible city for all the world to see. It is the best of St. Petersburg and I couldn’t be more proud,” Kriseman said.
Dynasty Financial Partners is an official partner of the race and is sponsoring Sebastian Bourdais, a driver and St. Petersburg resident.
Dynasty will have a suite to watch the race with clients and their employees, said Sally Cates, a spokeswoman for the downtown St. Petersburg-based firm.
Bayfront Health St. Petersburg is the “official fan care provider” for the Grand Prix. To celebrate, Bayfront team members welcomed one of the race cars to the hospital Thursday.