Power wins pole for St. Petersburg GP
Recovering from a crash in the morning practice session; Franchitti will start on the outside of the front row, in second, with his Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon third. Mike Conway celebrated his arrival at Andretti Autosport by qualifying fourth, with Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Justin Wilson of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing rounding out the "Firestone Fast Six" final-round qualifiers.
Competition throughout the field remained incredibly tight, with fewer than two seconds separating the 25-car field in qualifying. The green flag for Sunday's 100-lap race flies at 12:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on ABC.
Will Power (#12 Team Penske Honda) pole qualifier, 1st pole of 2011 and 16th career pole: "We're starting off the year right, and in a great position for the race. Hopefully, we'll have the right strategy and put together the win. After coming so close last year, we want to win the championship this year and this is the first step in that long road towards our goal."
Firestone Racing brought new tread compounds for both its primary (black-sidewall) and alternate (red-sidewall) tire specifications this weekend. The Firehawk alternates were used exclusively in the three qualifying segments by all 25 cars. Power notched his second straight pole here by going two-tenths of a second faster on the used alternates than when they were new - clocking the fastest lap of the weekend thus far. In fact, three of the six drivers to reach the Firestone Fast Six logged faster top laps on used Firehawk alternates than they did in the previous qualifying segment on new alternate tires.
The group two session ended with an accident between Conquest's Sebastian Saavedra and Sebastien Bourdais. The Colombian misunderstood a marshal's instruction and exited the pits directly into the path of Sebastien Bourdais' Dale Coyne car. Bourdais has nowhere to go and contact between the two sent Saavedra heavily into the wall, and damaging the right front suspension of Bourdais. Neither driver was unhurt.
Qualifying Saturday for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 1.8-mile Streets of St. Petersburg Street Circuit, with starting position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:
1. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.9625 (104.579)
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, PEAK Performance Pole Award): "It's very good for the guys. The Verizon Team Penske guys are starting with the pole again and you know where the race it going to be tomorrow. It's going to be double-file restarts and a lot of mayhem." (About going into his 2nd or 3rd segment and trying to pick up two-tenths):"Yeah, you've got to be facing the carrot. I love when you go out to qualify and you give it absolutely everything you've got. They're the best sessions. The first two segments….just look after the tires and at the end then just give it everything that you've got. I love doing that."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified second): "I was just finding the limit each lap more and more. I was getting a little bit braver each lap but I just ran out of tire. It's a great starting spot and the Target crew did an outstanding job putting the car back together after the incident I had in the morning session."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified third): "It was pretty consistent for us today. I messed up a little in the Firestone Fast 6 segment but we've been around the same speeds both days so far. I think we have a few tenths left in the car. I'm really looking forward to the double-wide restarts tomorrow. It should be a great show for the fans."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com, qualified fourth): "It's been a great weekend so far. We were searching for a bit more in qualifying, but this series is so tough. It's always hard to make the Firestone Fast Six, so we are happy about that. The GoDaddy.com car has been working really well all weekend and I can't say enough for all the guys at Andretti Autosport. They are doing a great job."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 IZOD Team Penske, qualified fifth): "The IZOD car was really strong today. I would have like to have been a little bit further up, but we made a change for Q2 - sort of took a step backwards, and we had to really crash to go back on that change and make it through to the fast six on all the tires and everyone else. That was a huge achievement. We just sort of backed ourselves into a bit of a corner with the set-up and just struggling to help the front without hurting the rear too much. We just sort of got ourselves in a corner where we couldn't really figure out what to do to make it go faster. So, we sort of went into the fast six sort of dealing with what we had and it wasn't bad. First car on the track and pretty far. We're definitely going to be racing tomorrow…. came in 3rd from 19th last year, so I'm hoping to do better from 5th tomorrow."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 22 TransSystems/DRR, qualified sixth): "I think that we stepped up the performance at the right time for qualifying and made it into the Firestone Fast Six, which is a great effort by everyone working on the TranSystems car. I think that was a really good thing. Obviously, once we were there you want to do better. We made a change and it was the wrong way so we will go and study that. I think we are close and we have the car in the window now and I'm hoping for a strong race tomorrow."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, qualified seventh): "I have to credit (Mike) Conway for the set-up we qualified today. The Venom car was a bit off and he got me back in the ballpark. To jump in a car with a new setup and end up seventh - I'm alright with that. I think things are really going to be shook up tomorrow with the double-file restarts. That might breed some yellows, but we can do it from here. That's the good thing; we can win it from seventh."
TONY KANAAN (No. 82 GEICO - KV Racing Technology - Lotus, qualified eighth): "I have to thank the whole GEICO - KV Racing Technology - Lotus team. I jumped into this car two days ago and the whole team made me feel right at home. I am just happy to be here and happy that I gave them a good solid qualifying result today. This is just the beginning and I have to remember to be patient, which is hard for me. It is going to be a hard race tomorrow. The race setup is not what we used in qualifying, but we have a warm-up tomorrow to fine tune the car. My goal is to have a good performance and bring the car home."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske, qualified ninth): "The Guidepoint Systems car was good today. After the first session we made a change on the car, and it was probably a little bit too greedy by me as we were trying to get the most out of the car for the Firestone Fast Six. It's not where we wanted to start but at least we're in the top-10 and we've seen before that people can start from there and get up to the front. That's the plan for us tomorrow."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, qualified 10th): "I'm very pleased with the Sam Schmidt Bowers & Wilkins car. I think we had a big surprise when we started on Friday. We were kind of out of the window, and the guys recovered really well. They worked hard last night to get the car more competitive, and we just missed that 10th-of-a-second to get in that Firestone Fast Six. But, I'm still very pleased with the way they worked and the way we recovered. We can race from P10. Now that we're more in the window, I think we'll be in pretty good shape for the race."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing): "We definitely made the right changes on the ABC Supply car and compared to everybody else, I think we made the biggest jump from yesterday to today. We didn't finish very well yesterday but today every time we went out we kept moving forward. Thirteenth isn't where we want to be but we have to take into consideration that we started a little bit behind but we made very, very good progress. We are starting better than we did last year and the year before so we can't complain about that. I will take that as a good day."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central): "Happy to be in the top-12. I thought the No. 38 Service Central Honda had more speed but we couldn't maximize our run. We have some work ahead of us, but it's going to be a good race."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen): "I learned a lot. This was my first time running reds and we just couldn't find the balance. I posted my fastest time all weekend in the No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen Honda; it's very competitive and you have to get it all right. I'm ready for my next qualifying run."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 02 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing): "Our worst session of the whole weekend so far was the one that mattered most. We couldn't get the best out of the red Firestone tires. The amount of grip they had surprised us a little bit and I had more understeer than we expected and just couldn't put a good lap together. It's a shame because we were fifth fast this morning and the Telemundo car felt really good. Everybody improved a second from this morning and we had the same lap time out there. I think it is a good car for the race but we need to figure out how to maximize the tires. It is a learning process. Starting 15th is obviously not ideal. Its best to start in the first three rows here but starting where we are gives us a little more room to become creative on our pit strategy. We know we have a good car so we should be able to move forward. Every year this race is a crazy, up-and-down event with drivers running in the front and back during the race and no one knows who is going to win. I think we have a fair shot. It's just disappointing that we couldn't get the best of the car in the session."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology - Lotus):"I was very disappointed not to qualify in the top-10. It has been a tough weekend. We have struggled to find balance and grip during practice and qualifying. However, I think we managed to gather some valuable information from these sessions. We have a lot of work to improve the car for the race tomorrow."
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 24 Ipiranga/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "Qualifying was good and we improved a lot from the other sessions. Each day we continue to improve and I'm getting my rhythm in the Ipiranga car, so I'm confident because I will have more time and it will be a long race. Hopefully we can do well. I'm happy that we improved and were able to gain some spots in qualifying."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): "We got caught out by the yellow today. It's one of those deals in qualifying where you roll the dice and wait to go out, hoping for the track to be a tenth or two quicker. But, you put yourself in a very risky position when it goes yellow. But, I agree with the strategy. We went with the fast guys, and unfortunately, we needed those two laps at the end. The DHL/Sun Drop car was good enough to get in, but in the end, we didn't make it because it went yellow. That will happen sometimes."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/HVM Racing): "I think we could've had a better run, but we caught a lot of traffic during the time we were having a good lap. It's kind of a shame because I think we're really pushing it and we could've gotten into the Fast Six. It is what it is, but we'll make it happen tomorrow during the race."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 17 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc): "I'm quite pleased with the performance. We have about 80 miles of testing in this car. The whole group - the AFS team - did an incredible job putting the car together. For me it was a last minute deal. I'm very thankful for this opportunity. I have to thank Gary Peterson and the whole AFS crew and we're looking forward to bigger and better things tomorrow. We qualified 16th - very competitive in the middle of the field. Hopefully we'll have a strong race tomorrow and we'll be able to improve a lot more for the next race."
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