For most drivers, thinking about a race some five months away is a big no-no, especially if there are three races in the current season left to run. However after his recent victory around the streets of Miami, Mario Dominguez can be forgiven for looking towards the expected 2004 season opening in St Petersburg and the start of what he hopes will be a Championship standard year for himself and his Herdez Competition squad.

Although the 2004 Champ Car World Series calendar has yet to be confirmed, St Petersburg is expected to be named as the opening round of the title chase for the second year in a row. Gaining a reputation as an excellent street racer, Dominguez sees no reason why he can't emerge victorious in a second Florida city.

When the Mexican born racer first arrived in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area to promote the inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Champ Car World Series race this past February, he was thrilled with the course set-up and the race at hand.

Unfortunately, a spin early on in the race resigned him to a 14th-place finish. But after Dominguez came through with a pulsating win in Miami, the 2002 Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year has now set sights on a far more successful return to St. Pete for the second running of the race, February 20-22, 2004.

"The St. Pete street course is one of the best we run on," said Dominguez. "It is such unique course, what with the use of part of the airport and the city streets, that it makes it exciting for us racers. Best of all, it's one of the few city street courses on which you can pass."

Dominguez, who was Rookie of the Year in 2002 in the CART series, will be running in front of the hometown faithful this weekend at Mexico City. Fresh off his win at Miami, he and temporary Herdez Competition teammate Roberto Gonzalez are revved-up for another winning weekend. But that same energy carries over to his feelings about the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

"The first year of the Grand Prix of St. Pete was very successful," adds Dominguez. "There were a lot of people there and they certainly seemed to enjoy the race. This next year it should be even bigger and better and I hope to win there."

Dominguez, who won the CART race in Surfers Paradise last year, has exceeded many pundits expectations as a Champ Car driver after a cautious first season and a less-than spectacular junior formulae record. However he has been a revelation in 2003 with a number of stirring drives that include back-to-back podium finishes at Brands Hatch and the EuroSpeedway, a superb come-from-behind drive around the tight streets of Denver and his most recent performance in Miami.

"Herdez has taken some big steps to make us a winner this year," Dominguez concluded. "Having a two-car program and [regular] teammate like Roberto (Moreno) really has helped. If we are just a little more consistent next year I think we'll have a shot at a championship. And it all starts in St. Petersburg. I really look forward to coming back there in 2004."



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