14-year-old St. Pete driver highlights jam-packed Grand Prix weekend

14-year-old St. Pete driver highlights jam-packed Grand Prix weekend

An action shot from last year's race
Photo courtesy Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

The 2023 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding is back in the Burg this weekend, bringing three days of races to downtown as part of the city’s biggest annual sporting event. Broadcast across the globe, the Grand Prix serves a dual purpose as a weekend-long marketing commercial for our beautiful city, making it appropriate that this year’s race will have even more local flair than usual.

Not only is one of this weekend’s racers from the area, he’s never known a world without these races. 14-year-old Nikita Johnson, who was born in Clearwater and now lives in Gulfport, hadn’t even been born yet when the first of the now 19th-annual St. Pete Grand Prix events took place. But this weekend, he’ll take center stage in his hometown as the youngest driver in the 2023 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Currently in the 9th grade, the 5’10” racer dreams of one day becoming the next American to drive Formula One. This weekend, Johnson is a rookie driver in USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires, where he’ll be behind the wheel of the No. 17 VRD Racing car. The first USF2000 race takes place on Saturday from 3:45-4:30 pm, and the second is on Sunday from 8-8:45 am. Johnson and his fellow series racers will be doing an autograph session on Saturday from 1:40-2:10 pm outside The Mahaffey Theater.

Nikita Johnson posing with a trophy
Photo via Nikita Johnson

Don’t miss a minute of the action on race weekend

As for the full event, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by RP Funding is an action-packed weekend (with a full week of events) featuring 10 individual races from six different series. The annual event – both seen and heard throughout DTSP each year – races down the runways at Albert Whitted Airport and speeds around The Dali and along the downtown waterfront underneath the St. Petersburg skyline.


Single-day and full weekend passes are available now at gpstpete.com, starting as low as $25. Once you’re inside the venue, we highly recommend arriving early or staying late to explore all that the Grand Prix has to offer.

Most of the area is, in fact, taken up not by bleachers, but by walkable and explorable areas alongside and in between the track. More than 50 displays and exhibitors fill the spaces around the raceway, along with dozens upon dozens of food trucks, drink stands, grilled goodies, fried treats, and cold cocktails and beer.

Our personal favorite is the Horse Soldier Bourbon Waterside Club, a floating dock packed out with great whiskeys and cocktails, right alongside the action between Turns 10 and 11. That said, the Stella Artois Party Pit might be the most unique experience of the bunch, as Grand Prix-goers can get right behind pit lane and watch the cars come in for servicing and exit smoking the tires. Both experiences are available to General Admission ticket holders.

The weekend schedule, highlighted by the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ season-opening race, will have a full complement of racing series on track. Open-wheel development series INDY NXT by Firestone, USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires, and USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires will battle on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course. Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup and GT America Powered by AWS will provide fierce stock car racing action, as well. 

“The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding will be here soon! Fans need to be in St. Pete to see the start of the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season and should act now to secure the best seats with great sightlines along our stunning waterfront,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree St. Petersburg, LLC, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. “St. Pete’s downtown scene is one of the most spectacular in all of motorsports, and we can’t wait to have all our fans join us here again at this great event!” 

More from the Grand Prix: “The site of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ season-opening race for the 13th time, St. Pete is a destination city hosting this annual motorsports tradition and offering a festival atmosphere with its downtown location. The temporary circuit is a 1.8-mile, 14-turn configuration using the streets circling Pioneer Park, the Duke Energy Center for the Arts, The Dalí Museum and extending onto the runways at Albert Whitted Airport, which overlooks the waterfront of Tampa Bay and picturesque St. Petersburg Harbor and Marina.”


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