The 2021 IndyCar Series will start at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 7 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was rescheduled for April 25 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IndyCar officials announced.

While known as the traditional season opener for the circuit, the St. Petersburg race was moved from the opening event of the calendar in 2020 to the season finale with Scott Dixon winning a sixth championship.

“It’s not surprising that an event of this magnitude, scheduled for the first week of March, is still subject to the implications of the pandemic,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “We’re delighted we were able to work with Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration and Green Savoree Racing Promotions to find a more suitable date, which helps consolidate the beginning of our schedule and allows us to stay on NBC network television.”

With the rescheduled date, St. Petersburg will be the second race on the series schedule. It will also kick off a packed spring schedule with a doubleheader in Detroit the following weekend after St. Petersburg before the circuit goes to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the rest of May, culminating with the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend.

“We appreciate the officials at INDYCAR for their support in setting a new date for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and also to Mayor Kriseman and his team at the City of St. Petersburg for identifying a time when it will be conducive for more fans to attend,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and chief executive officer of GSSP, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

It is the second change to the 2021 schedule for IndyCar, which earlier moved the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to September 26 from its traditional spring slot, making the event held on the streets of downtown Long Beach the series finale for the year and creating a three-week, three-race sprint to the finish. The September race weekend at Long Beach becomes the first since the event’s inception in 1975.