Mar 7, 2024 - News

What it takes to make downtown St. Pete a racetrack

 A pack of cars races down a waterfront street during the Firestone Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg IndyCar race

A shot from the 2018 Firestone Grand Prix of Saint Petersburg IndyCar race. Photo: Brian Cleary/Getty Images

Growing up in St. Pete, Chad Seufert watched race cars fly through the downtown waterfront in the first Grand Prix without considering how they got there.

  • More than two decades later, he's one of the people in charge of getting cars on that track for this weekend's races.

Why it matters: When the race started 20 years ago, downtown St. Pete was mostly a ghost town. Now, hundreds of workers have to navigate high rises and traffic to transform the waterfront into an IndyCar racetrack.

  • And they managed to do it in just 18 days, an event record.

Zoom in: Seufert's job involves coordinating the movement of concrete blocks from the city's drop yard into downtown, with trucks and flatbeds from Stepp's Towing going back and forth from downtown for 12 hours each day.

  • Once everything is set up, he secures it for different races and works to open and close the track for pedestrians and at the end of the day.
  • He works in a control room with city officials representing departments ranging from police and fire to trash, dispatching workers when problems arise.

What they're saying: "It's an interesting ballet to watch take place as someone who's now involved in the process," he told Axios.

By the numbers: 300 workers contribute to the construction of …

  • 18,000 feet of 12-foot steel-reinforced concrete blocks totaling …
  • 20 million pounds of concrete being moved.
  • 25,000 feet of chain-link spectator fencing lining the track.
  • 18,000 feet of panel fencing securing the steel-reinforced concrete barrier blocks.
  • More than 12,000 tires wrapped with 1,500 feet of reinforced rubber belt, which make up the tire wall safety system.

What's ahead: After racers and spectators leave, the workers' jobs aren't over. Teardown needs to happen by March 16, starting with getting the roads back open.

  • But first, they celebrate. Seufert and his team toast to the end of the race with leftover champagne from the victory circle.
  • "Hopefully there's an extra one or two in the cooler after the confetti is done falling."

Go deeper: Our Grand Prix guide


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Tampa Bay stories

No stories could be found

Tampa Baypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more