Will Power wins pole for Honda GP of St. Petersburg
Power won the IndyCar season opener in Sao Paulo Brazil, and had topped every practice session this weekend. He set the track qualifying record in the second round of qualifications at 1:01.4816 (the record had been 1:01.6839 in 2007 by Helio Castroneves).
It is the third pole start in his IZOD IndyCar Series career. The previous times he ended up winning at Edmonton and was runner-up at Long Beach in 2009.
“It’s a good weekend so far for the Verizon Team Penske,” said Power, who started and finished sixth in his Penske Racing debut here last year – substituting for Castroneves. “We’re still at the front and so I’m very happy. It’s been a process. We’ve been working away at it and go through each session and look after our softer red tires.
Scott Dixon and Justin Wilson will share Row 2, while Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti will occupy Row 3.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished second to Ryan Briscoe in the ’09 race, missed advancing to the Firestone Fast Six by 0.0014 of a second and will start seventh in the No. 37 IZOD car for Andretti Autosport. He’ll be joined on the fourth row by FAZZT Race Team driver Alex Tagliani.
Firestone Racing brought its most durable ("hardest") primary street-course tire spec and paired it with its highest-grip ("softest") alternate street-course spec this weekend. Will Power won the pole on a used set of alternates (red sidewalls), but he went more than a tenth of a second quicker on new "reds" in the second round of qualifying. A chart detailing each driver's tire selection throughout qualifying is below, as well as the list of Firestone tire specs on which each driver will start the race.
The 45-lap Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for Firestone Indy Lights starts at 12:45 p.m. Sunday.
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, pole): "It's a good weekend so far for Verizon Team Penske. We're still at the front, and so I'm very happy. It's been a process. We've been working away at it and go through each session and look after our reds (tires). I came away with pole. We would have been disappointed if we didn't given our pace this weekend."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Cottonelle, 13th): "We had a good run, and the car didn't slow down at all. Briscoe had some problems of his own, and I caught him in Turn 8 and got held up. That was unfortunate. The guys made some great changes to the car, and we were pretty quick after the crash in practice yesterday."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, 19th): "We were the first car to go out on red tires and then we went to blacks, and it was really just bad timing. The track got quite a bit quicker, and we needed to be on reds at the end of the session. It's a bit disappointing as the Team Penske car has been fast all weekend and we have a good car for the race, but we're going to be starting from farther back than we should be. We'll be all right. I have a great crew and the best race strategist there is. We just have to avoid any first-lap accidents, and we should be able to have a solid race."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing, 16th): (How can you improve the car?): "To be honest, I couldn't tell you. We're going to bounce ideas off each other. I've tried to give all the ideas of all the things I remember from years past, and nothing is working. The car reacts so little to every change we make. I've run out of ideas. The problem is there's no grip for me. No matter how hard I push, it's not there. We'll just try to keep working tonight. We're not going to give up. You never know what can happen. But there's a lot of work to be done."
DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, 15th, St. Petersburg resident): "It was a good day out there; it was just very close. The Panther Racing National Guard car is working very well. You know sometimes how it goes. But I think we have a really good race car, and as anybody knows, anything can happen on these street courses. We've got a few things to work on in the warm-up, and I think we'll have a car similar to Sao Paulo. So we're really excited about the race." (About the forecast for rain Sunday): "If it rains, it's the same for everybody. So we have to make sure we're on top of that and make appropriate decisions."
MARIO ROMANCINI (H2GO Ronn Motors, 18th): "We definitely made a big improvement from yesterday. We were much closer to the fastest car and being as quick as we would like. We may not have the best starting position, but we do have the pace. I am very happy with the car setup and am confident that we will run well tomorrow."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic, 12th): "The car was understeering in the morning session, and we made a change to improve it. The car was then very 'pointy' on the entry, and I had turned into the corner as I had been doing before, but the car suddenly turned too much and I brushed the wall in the entry of Turn 9 and made contact with the other wall on exit. It was my mistake. I had been up two-tenths of a second, so, for sure, the Formula Dream/Panasonic car had improved with the change. The guys did a fantastic job to get the backup car ready for qualifying. I thought I wouldn't be able to make it to the session, but at the last second I was getting in the car. The car wasn't perfect, but still I was able to make it to the next stage in qualifying. I feel so bad for the guys because I think I had a car to finish in the top six, but it just didn't work out. I couldn't put everything that had happened out of my mind today for qualifying. I was watching the guys, and they did a fantastic job. But they didn't have time to do everything they wanted to do. They had no time for the alignment and stuff like that and, in the cockpit, the steering wasn't straight. It definitely added some pressure, but I saw the effort the guys were making and knew I had to maximize my effort, as well."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP Luczo Dragon, 23rd): "It was a frustrating qualifying for us. We did improve the car from the morning session but obviously not enough against a really good field. The team is trying really hard to figure out the problem. There is such imbalance with the car, and that has made it very difficult. We will keep working at it. It's a long race, and we'll probably have to gamble a bit on our strategy tomorrow, but we will be there to compete."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, sixth): "Looking at our last couple of years, we are to be pleased to be in the Fast Six. I think we kind of did the right thing the first two rounds, but we made a bit of a setup error in the Fast Six, so unfortunately we weren't able to have a go at the pole. But not a bad effort for the Venom crew. The good thing is I think Andretti Autosport cars are starting to show some pace. We have been working really hard in the offseason on it, so hats off to everyone."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 22 Team Z-Line Designs/DRR, fourth): "The car was really good. I felt happy with the progress we made in the week's session, and I felt we are making progress. It was good. We decided to run on the Firestone tires, with the sidewall, because we were being a bit too hard on our red options, so decided to go in the blacks and thought it was good. Came out ninth, went down to 10:10 on my second lap and the brake pedal went all the way down to the bulkhead. I just didn't have enough brakes there. It just got worse and worse as the run went on. Every trip around was an adventure and in the end, I decided to come in and park the car. I couldn't get the job done. Best to not put it in the wall trying to find one position on the grid. So I'm pretty happy with the way things are going. The whole team at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing is improving, and hopefully we'll have a good day tomorrow."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, fifth): "It's great. It's great to be back. It's great to see the fans, everybody to kind of give you greetings. For me, it's just awesome. This place, first of all, it's a beautiful city, beautiful place. As you can see, the people from here really enjoy having the IZOD IndyCar Series here. So, it's great. It's nice to be back on a groove. My plan here with Mr. Power, he has too much power, and I guess he is breaking his back last year, using a little more power, so might break his legs this time. Certainly he's done a great job. We just want him to obviously continue doing well, but we can't let him get too many points. Otherwise, we're going to be in trouble. Tomorrow is going to be a good race. I think as long as everybody will be OK on the start, I tried that conversation with Takuma Sato, and it didn't work, so please, here, let's make sure - (laughter). It was great, it's tough out there, the guys are really pushing as hard as they can to make the top six, and for me, it's just much better. Hopefully we collect more points than the Brazil race and keep moving forward."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, second): "It feels good. I haven't started in a while, actually, on the front row. I think we did a great job. We took a gamble on the tires. We went out on the blacks in the Fast Six, and it paid off. I think once I realized that we are quite a bit away from where ‑‑ we might as well just see what we can do and take a gamble. It's nice to have Michael Andretti there because I was keen to start on the reds, and he said, 'No, no, going to the blacks.' And we can't say no to the boss. So I said, 'All right, the blacks.' It's a whole different atmosphere on the 11 team right now. I am enjoying it. Hopefully no one had hits me from behind like in Brazil, and we will be able to have a good race tomorrow."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, eighth): "I think the team did a fantastic job. We are trying to get ourselves in the window so we can roll the car out of the truck and be where we want to be, and that is tough without a bunch of data. So despite our start yesterday, we were able to make up that ground between yesterday and today, so that was good. In Round One, we were P2 and looking good and then made some changes for Round 2, and it seems like we hurt the car a little bit and we were about a 1/10th off of where we thought we should be, and that hurt us a bit and kept us out of the Firestone Fast Six. A little bit disappointing but a great job for the team. But again, we are in the top 10 for the second week in a row. Now we are thinking about the race, and it's going to be tough tomorrow and require us to make the right choice on the tire compound for the start of the race and making sure we don't get caught in a full-course yellow. We need to have a good strategy for tomorrow and hope to be right in there at the end."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, third): "I think the team did a good job. We had a seventh‑place car and worked on it and generally got better. I like to think I generally race better than qualifying, because qualifying has been pretty bad the last few years on street courses. Looking forward to the race. I think weather is going to be an issue, too, so might stir it up a little bit like Brazil, but definitely looking forward to it. Should be a fun race. I think everybody had a bit of a problem at start in Brazil. Everybody got hit, maybe, but that made it interesting."
E.J. VISO (No. 8 PDVSA-Jet Aviation-KVRT, ninth): "The qualifying session for the PDVSA-KV Racing Technology team didn't go as well as we had shown in practice this morning. However, we are in the top-10 and the race is long, so I think with a good strategy and car we will have a good race tomorrow."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 Lotus-KV Racing Technology, 11th): "It was an eventful day for the Lotus-KV Racing team. I wasn't particularly happy with the balance of the car in the morning practice session, and I hit the curb. In qualifying, I was reasonably happy with the balance and was able to put the lap times together to move into the second round. However, in the second session I got a wheel-related mechanical problem, which caused the wheel to come loose. After that, we ran out of time to make to make the best use of the session. I was unable to put competitive lap times together with the little time I had left. We will work hard tonight and be ready for warm-up tomorrow, and I still think that we will have a good race."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com, 21st): "It's really amazing how close the starting grid is. My lap time isn't too far off, but I'm starting in the back of the field. The GoDaddy car is stronger than the times show, so hopefully we have a result that shows just that."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, seventh): "We're disappointed with seventh, and that means the IZOD team has a pretty strong effort going. We missed out on making the Firestone Fast Six by just thousandths of a second and missed being in the top three by half-a-tenth. It's just ridiculously close, and that's the way I felt it would be. We'll go out and do what we did in Brazil. We'll do a good solid race, the guys will do great stops and we'll work our way to the front. The Andretti cars are obviously strong; Marco and Tony are right up there with us, and that is good to see."
Qualifying Round 1 - group 1:
Round 1 - group 2:
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