HOT WHEELS: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
There's a buzz in the air in downtown St. Petersburg for the opening race for the Verizon IndyCar series, the nation's premier open-wheel racing series. Taking place in the streets of downtown this weekend, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg runs a 1.8-mile waterfront course with 14 turns. The layout of the track gets high praise from fans because it incorporates easy access from both the inside and outside of the course to get the best vantage point. Don't miss the Stadium Super Trucks, the off-road racers that jump ramps like monster trucks. They are scheduled to race once a day. You'll also find plenty of food, the Speed Zone, IndyCar Series Fan Village, beer gardens, driver autograph sessions, interactive games and exhibits. "It is hard to find a race track with a better fan experience than the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg," gushed scout.com's Stadium Journey blog, which ranked the race No. 2 in its Top 100 Stadium Experiences of 2016. Gates open at 7 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. Sunday on the track by Albert Whitted Airport at First Street SE. $20-$100 single day. gpstpete.com.
Some fun events surrounding race weekend include Saturday's Beer Breakfast Benefit, a group of race fans who raise a glass to merriment with a mission. Ready for Life will benefit from the beer and doughnuts consumed at Mandarin Hide, 231 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Registration ended Tuesday for the Firestone Grand Prix 5K but you can watch as 1,000 people are expected to run on the track at 6:15 p.m. Friday before they wind up in Vinoy Park for a post-race celebration to benefit the Police Athletic League.
SCIENCE BUSTERS: Brain Candy Live
Adam Savage, the former co-host of MythBusters, joins YouTube star Michael Stevens for a new show called Brain Candy Live, a night of entertaining science experiments described as a cross between TED Talks and the Blue Man Group. Savage's favorite experiment, he said, "involves shaping smoke" and it's "unfathomably beautiful." And after much experimentation, he said, "We finally have the explosion of my dreams." They brought in Michael Weber, a magician who has designed shows for David Blaine and The Prestige movie, as show director, so it has the feel of a magic show. But since they're teaching science lessons, you learn how the trick is accomplished. Savage said he's deadly serious about the importance of science literacy. "We are in a difficult place culturally where genuine, wonderful science is being politicized." 7:30 p.m. March 15 at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. $29.50-$59.50. (727) 893-7832. themahaffey.com.
Read more with Savage at tampabay.com/thingstodo.
TEE OFF: Valspar Championship
The Valspar Championship PGA tournament runs through Sunday on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook. It brings a string of new fan-friendly additions at odds with the image of a quiet, polite golf tournament where everyone talks in whispers. Country artist Toby Keith, above right, will perform a free show after the tournament concludes Saturday, and there will be a food truck rally for the first time. Celebrity chef and restaurateur Ming Tsai, bottom right, will be meeting fans and conducting a cooking demonstration at 1 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday. Also new is the Grape & Grain, an upscale wine, beer and spirits tent, and a beach called Valspar Chameleon Cove featuring a 50-ton, 20-foot sand sculpture of a chameleon. For kids, the McDonald's Family Fun Zone features a 16-foot rock-climbing wall, monster putting green, free popsicles, Imagination Playground, arts and crafts and games. The tournament will be nationally televised by NBC Sports and Golf Channel. Gates open at 6 a.m. Thursday-Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday-Sunday at 36750 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor. $39-$299, free for tournament passholders. (727) 942-5566. valsparchampionship.com.