The Florida Lottery is in the business of making winners, and St. Petersburg resident and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) driver Tristan Vautier is hoping that sporting a Florida Lottery livery will generate the good fortune he needs to win at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The 23-year-old rookie driver will join teammate Simon Pagenaud on the Streets of St. Petersburg March 24 for his debut in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The Florida Lottery, which currently sits at $260 million, will be featured on the sidepods of Vautier’s car.
“I played the lottery a few times this winter hoping it would help me get my first ride in an IndyCar,” Vautier joked.
The fact that Vautier has landed a ride in the No. 55 Florida Lottery c/w Schmidt Peterson Dallara/Honda/Firestone car has much more to do with skill than luck, however. The 2012 Firestone Indy Lights Champion has quickly proven he can hang with the brightest stars in the IndyCar paddock during off-season testing.
After officially joining Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Vautier’s focus shifted immediately to the new challenge at hand.
“It’s for sure an awesome accomplishment to be racing inIndyCar this year with a great team like SPM, but I actually see it as more of an opportunity than an accomplishment,” Vautier said. “If you want to perform you don’t want to just be satisfied to be part of the game. You want to excel.”
Vautier will have a shining example of a top-performance rookie in his teammate and 2012 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Simon Pagenaud.
“It’s been very helpful to have Simon as a teammate during pre-season testing so far because he obviously set a very high benchmark with his incredible rookie season,” Vautier said.
While his new teammate focuses his attention toward a fruitful rookie season, Pagenaud has shifted gears to take his performance to a higher level in his sophomore IZOD IndyCar Series effort with Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports.
“Last year there were a lot of unknowns, but this year I’m back with the same team and sponsor so I feel really good,” Pagenaud said. “I feel like I belong in IndyCar, which is an awesome feeling.”
Pagenaud’s new found sense of belonging also brings with it a higher set of goals.
“I have a lot more knowledge about the cars and tracks so I have raised expectations of my performance as well,” Pagenaud said. “We want to be at the front of the field.”
Starting the 2013 season off on the Streets of St. Petersburg is an added bonus for Pagenaud, who scored three podiums on street circuits last year as well as a sixth-place finish in the 2012 Honda Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
“I consider street circuits my specialty, and I feel like that’s where our team has the best chance for success,” Pagenaud said. “I really think we’ll have a good package in St. Pete and I can’t wait to have more driver data and information for the engineers with the addition of Tristan.”
The No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car driven by Pagenaud and the No. 55 Florida Lottery c/w Schmidt Peterson Dallara/Honda/Firestone car of Vautier will take to the Streets of St. Petersburg Friday, March 22 at 11:10 a.m. ET for practice. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will air on NBC Sports Network at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 24.
For real-time updates from the No. 77 and No. 55 cars, follow @SPMIndyCar on Twitter.