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25 entries to line up at St Petersburg

There will be 25 cars on the starting grid for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg, the first round of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series.
Teams and drivers competing in this year's IZOD IndyCar Series championship are heading to Florida for the first race of the year, the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg on Sunday afternoon.

There will be 25 drivers competing at St Pete this weekend, with the official entry list confirming that Brazil's Ana Beatriz will be taking the second Dale Coyne Racing seat alongside the team's returning driver Justin Wilson.

The 28-year-old tested for three out of the four sessions at Barber Motorsports Park earlier this month and had been thought to be in line to take the #18 car for all this season's oval events, plus a road course outing at her home event in Sao Paulo at the start of May.

There was speculation that for the rest of the street and road course events of 2013 Justin Wilson could be joined by his brother Stefan, a leading competitor in last year's Firestone Indy Lights championship. However, it seems that the necessary sponsorship deals haven't come together in time, at least for the season-opener this weekend, which means that Beatriz will be at the wheel.

Beatriz last competed at St Petersburg in 2011 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, finishing 11th on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary circuit as a series rookie that season.

There's only rookie listed on the entry lists this year for the first race of the season, with Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier taking the wheel of the #55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car. He won the Indy Lights race at the venue last year, and the Frenchman should attract some local support by virtue of carrying sponsorship from the Florida Lottery this weekend.

Last year's race was won by Helio Castroneves, who memorably scaled the catchfence afterwards to salute the street sign reading 'Dan Wheldon Way' in memory of the two-time Indy 500 champion who lost his life in an accident in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas.

"It was just really great, great to remember him the way he lived and not what happened the year before," said Castroneves, recalling the event. This year he and the other IndyCar drivers will attend the unveiling of a permanent Wheldon memorial and victory circle monument on Friday morning.

Ahead of the first race of the season, the IndyCar organisers confirmed changes to the way that push-to-pass will be used in 2013, as the series seeks to standardise the use of the overtake boost button between road, street and oval events.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
23-24 March, 2012, St Petersburg, Florida USA. Tristan Vautier holds up the Sunoco Winner`s flag on the podium after winning the Indy Lights race at St Petersburg. (c) 2012, Phillip Abbott (Photo Credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)
Helio Castroneves on victory lane after winning the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 25 2012. [Photo Credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA (c) 2012, Michael L. Levitt. LAT Photo]
Vitor Meira and Ana Beatriz wait for the fog-delayed start to Sunday warm-up at Infineon Raceway. [Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Ana Beatriz at Infineon Raceway, Sonoma [Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Ana Beatriz testing with Dale Coyne Racing at Barber Motorsports Park - March 2012. (Photo Credit: IndyCar Media)
Ana Beatriz. (Photo Credit: IndyCar Media)
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