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After Fontana
Final Driver Standings

Rank Driver Points
1 Will Power 671
2 Helio Castroneves 609
3 Scott Dixon 604
4 Juan Pablo Montoya 586
5 Simon Pagenaud 565
6 Ryan Hunter-Reay 563
7 Tony Kanaan 544
8 Carlos Munoz 483
9 Marco Andretti 463
10 Sebastien Bourdais 461
11 Ryan Briscoe 461
12 James Hinchcliffe 456
13 Josef Newgarden 406
14 Charlie Kimball 402
15 Justin Wilson 395
16 Mikhail Aleshin 372
17 Jack Hawksworth 366
18 Takuma Sato 350
19 Graham Rahal 345
20 Carlos Huertas 314
21 Sebastian Saavedra 291
22 Ed Carpenter 262
23 Mike Conway 252
24 Oriol Servia 88
25 Kurt Busch 80
26 J.R. Hildebrand 66
27 Sage Karam 57
28 Luca Filippi 46
29 James Davison 34
30 Jacques Villeneuve 29
31 Alex Tagliani 28
32 Townsend Bell 22
33 Pippa Mann 21
34 Martin Plowman 18
35 Buddy Lazier 11
36 Franck Montagny 8
Power wins first pole in new IndyCar at St. Pete

by Mark J. Cipolloni
Saturday, March 24, 2012

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Will Power
Firestone/Dennis Ashlock
Will Power set a new track record in qualifications for the 2012 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.  Ryan Briscoe qualified second, with Ryan Hunter-Reay qualifying third.  Chevy spoiled the Honda weekend, taking 5 of the top 6 spots.  Only Simon Pagenaud’s 6th place run in his Honda prevented a Chevy sweep of the top 6 spots.

Power's fast lap of 1m01.3721s broke his lap record of 1m01.6026s set in 2010 in the old IndyCar.  It was the third straight pole for Power in St. Petersburg and four of the last six races.

James Hinchcliffe topped round 2 of qualifying after Viso, Barrichello, Sato, Wilson, Tagliani, Hildebrand, Jakes, de Silvestro, Kimball, Servia, Carpenter, Legge and Bourdais were knocked out.

Round 2

Rank Car Driver Engine Time Diff. Gap Laps
1 27 James Hinchcliffe Chevy 1:01.4491 0 0 6
2 12 Will Power Chevy 1:01.4814 0.0323 0.0323 4
3 2 Ryan Briscoe Chevy 1:01.5300 0.0809 0.0486 4
4 77 Simon Pagenaud Honda 1:01.6860 0.2369 0.1560 5
5 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Chevy 1:01.7296 0.2805 0.0436 5
6 3 Helio Castroneves Chevy 1:01.7614 0.3123 0.0318 6
7 9 Scott Dixon Honda 1:01.7636 0.3145 0.0022 5
8 26 Marco Andretti Chevy 1:01.7895 0.3404 0.0259 5
9 11 Tony Kanaan Chevy 1:01.8699 0.4208 0.0804 5
10 10 Dario Franchitti Honda 1:01.9570 0.5079 0.0871 4
11 38 Graham Rahal Honda 1:02.0233 0.5742 0.0663 5
12 14 Mike Conway Honda 1:02.5084 1.0593 0.4851 7

In the final Fast-Six round the Chevy cars came to the front and the drivers were all complementary of the Chevy program.

James Hinchcliffe, who topped the round 2 session of the fast twelve drivers from round 1, said, "every session is better.  Each time the Chevy engineer plugs in his laptop between sessions and uploads some new settings we go faster.  They continually make improvements."

But that does not mean that Honda is sitting still.  In the morning practice Honda had 8 of the top 10 times so it looks to be a back and forth battle between the two all year long.

Firestone Racing brought new tread compounds for both its primary (black-sidewall) and alternate (red-sidewall) tire specifications this weekend. Every car ran a new set of alternates in each of the first two qualifying segments. All that advanced to the Firestone Fast Six strapped on a set of alternates used in one of the previous segments except Simon Pagenaud, whose crew opted for a set of new primary Firehawks.

Despite running on an Firestone alternate set with already one heat cycle on it, Power went faster in the decisive round. He lapped more than a tenth of a second faster than when the Firehawks were new the round before to surpass his previous course standard and take the top starting spot.

“I actually was surprised at the lap time with old tires,” Power said of continuing with the Firestone reds.

“It’s a great effort,” said Briscoe, whose car needed a new battery just prior to qualifying. “It’s nice to get the season started with this kind of speed.”

Castroneves slapped the turn nine wall on his final lap of the second round of qualifying, but the crew fixed the left rear suspension in short order.

“Unfortunately, I went over the limit of the car,” Castroneves said.

Simon Pagenaud had the fastest Honda- he was the quickest in the second of the three qualifying rounds- but he must start 16th as a penalty for his team, Schmidt Hamilton Racing, making an unapproved engine change.

Pagenaud is a rookie in the series but experienced with the track due to participation in the American Le Mans Series.

Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, who drive Hondas, failed to earn a spot in the Fast Six. With Pagenaud’s penalty, they will start sixth and ninth, respectively.

The race is scheduled for 1 p.m. on ABC.

Fast-Six Round

Rank Car Driver Engine Diff. Time Gap Laps
1 12 Will Power Chevy 0 1:01.3721 0 2
2 2 Ryan Briscoe Chevy 0.1636 1:01.5357 0.1636 3
3 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Chevy 0.5600 1:01.9321 0.3964 4
4 27 James Hinchcliffe Chevy 0.5980 1:01.9701 0.0380 5
5 3 Helio Castroneves Chevy 0.6266 1:01.9987 0.0286 5
6 77 Simon Pagenaud Honda 0.7374 1:02.1095 0.1108 6

QUALIFYING QUOTES:

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, IZOD IndyCar Series pole winner): "I'm very happy to get the first pole for Chevy as they return to the series. I'm really happy for the Verizon Team Penske team. We worked hard over the winter. Roger (Penske) has been pretty keen on winning this championship after the last couple of years. It's a good start. It's only the beginning of the weekend. We need to have a good strategy for the race and see what comes.

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet, qualified third): "Yeah, it's certainly fun with all the engines in the new car, all the manufacturers going head to head so St. Pete always puts on a good show and we're really happy to be here. It was a good day for the DHL/Sun Drop car, we had to go to work on it this morning, we weren't really happy with it, and to see where we ended up in the end is not only a testament to the crew and the team, but always to the teamwork and the drivers sharing information and I've got to thank James and Marco also for all their input, which helped make quick cars today. We're proud of Chevy being in the top 5, it's a good way to start the season in the beginning to a long trek, but it was the right way to start off and we're looking forward. Tomorrow's the only real day that counts, and who knows what to expect, so should be exciting for the fans."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, qualified fourth): "I made a little bit of a mistake on my quickest lap, maybe there was a tiny bit left in there, but at the end of the day my first start here and first start of the season, it's a great way to kick it off. So big thanks to everyone at Andretti Autosport and Team GoDaddy. It's nice to be at the sharp end of the first turn in St. Pete."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Chevrolet, qualified fifth): "Yes, definitely the Shell VPower boys did an incredible job fixing my car for qualifying, unfortunately was having problems with communication. I couldn't understand anything on the back straight or any straight at all, I kept asking them what position am I in and what's going on, and nobody was giving any information at all. I could see they were trying to communicate but it wasn't working. So I just starting pushing and pushing as hard as you can because nobody is saying anything. So, unfortunately I went over the limit of the car and end up hitting Turn 9, and I thought it was over. And we weren't able to get in the top three, but the guys came fully focused to fix the car and rear suspension and in seven minutes they switched the entire suspension and we were able to go back there. But certainly happy for Team Penske having three cars in the top 5, and Chevrolet as well."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt-Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda, qualified sixth): "I love street circuits. It is very intense and gets you an adrenaline rush. You're that close to the wall sometimes and sometimes you brush it. I love it. It's a combination of even more of car and driver. You really need to feel as one with your car and you need to work really hard with your engineer to get everything you need out of it. The track is fantastic. There are some fast speed corners like the back chicane, some slow speed. The infield is very nice. And you feel very close to the ground it makes it fun." (About the format): "I like the qualifying format. I think it is great. It shows the fast six and I like that the excitement keeps creeping all the way through. It is exciting for the fans and even for the driver. I wish we had another new set of tires on the last one, I think it would be even more exciting."

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus): "I think qualifying could have gone a little bit better. We struggled a bit with traffic, so we'll have a long race tomorrow starting from the back. But we'll keep fighting to go forward."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Lotus Dragon Racing Lotus): "I had a very good feeling with the car this morning and we didn't touch anything. We just put the options on, made a mess of it and overdrove it. I felt good about the car overall and just don't know what happened. For some reason we just lost all stability, we lost grip. The car was pretty good on standard tires and it just went away."

JAMES JAKES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "It wasn't the results that we were looking for today. It took us a few laps to get up to speed and then we just ran out of time. Even though we will start 20th in Sunday's race, I think the #19 Boy Scouts of America Honda car will have a good finish."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Sonny's BBQ Honda): "The Sonny's BBQ car was pretty loose out there. We were sliding around a lot and it just didn't hook up like we were wanting it to. Typically over the last four or five years, with the old cars and the red-sidewalled Firestones, we'd normally have to make a couple of balance changes to get the handling right. Today we made similar changes to what we've always done, but it was way too much in the wrong direction. We'll just go back and study the data and work out what was the right call to make, because it's clear that this car reacts quite differently to the red tires. We got it wrong today, but that's how it goes sometimes. We'll make sure we get it right for tomorrow."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda): "We're pretty frustrated, or at least I am. My expectations of myself and the team are very high and this just doesn't live up to it. I knew it was going to be tight, I knew it was going to be competitive but for whatever reason when we put the reds on it just didn't work for us. A lot of other teams gained a lot of time and competitiveness and it seemed to go the other way for us. It's a little bit hard and we're a little bit miffed to figure out exactly what it is but, we'll fight back tomorrow, it's going to be a long day."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "Our setup wasn't where it needed to be obviously. I don't think its by accident the Chevy guys were up there. We'll just keep our heads up and get the work done. We still have some tricks up our sleeve."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "Obviously not where we wanted to be with the Target cars in qualifying. We have some work to do but I'm confident in the team and our ability to bounce back and contend for the race win tomorrow."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "That was a little disappointing. We didn't get the speed we expected out of the car. The temperature caught us out a little bit. I made some decent gains driving-wise and made some improvements, and now we can go work on the car some more. This place is funny; it always throws out an interesting race. But wherever we start tomorrow, we'll still have a good race. Last year there was chaos at the first corner and throughout the race, so I think we're in good shape."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing/Chevrolet): "It's hard to see improvement sometimes when you are near the back of the field. But we can see some with our qualifying run. We are closing the gap each session. We were on the red Firestones (tires) in practice against the fast guys on the blacks. Then, in qualifying, we were all on reds and we closed the gap. So I can see us getting better each time we run. We are taking the positive out of this and continue learning as much as possible right now. We know we are behind on track time, but we are making gains. The whole group (Ed Carpenter Racing) is working better together every day. This is a fun group to work with and I'm very proud of the effort the team is giving me. I haven't run at St. Pete since 2009 and the track really hasn't changed that much. There is definitely something different about this new car and I am learning about it with every session. You need a new driving style with this car and engine. And as a group, we are still learning. It's a little bit of trial and error right now for us due to the lacking of testing time. I would be more frustrated if we weren't improving, but that isn't the case. We are making gains each time out."   

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): "Our pace all weekend has been quite good, I think maybe we got caught out a little bit maybe expecting too much from the (Firestone Alternate) red tires. We were obviously just a couple tenths away from transferring to the next round there. It's frustrating because one of our main goals this year is to improve our road and street qualifying program and we felt like we were doing that here, but as I said, we've practiced really well and should have a good National Guard Chevy for tomorrow."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda):  "Obviously very disappointed, the red tires really didn't suit us. We went a half second slower on the reds than we did the blacks this morning so we need to get on top of that. We just need to improve overnight."

TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda):  "We made progress after the practice this morning and found some things to improve the handling of the car but we weren't able to go to the next stage of qualifying which is disappointing. The race will be interesting because it will be the first time competing together with the new racing package. We will gather data tonight to give us an idea of what to expect in race trim and will know more at the warm-up."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 GEICO/MOUSER ELECTRONICS - KV Racing Technology w/SH Chevrolet): "I am extremely happy about the whole team.  We were a tenth from all three cars making the top-12 and I was less than a tenth from making it to the Firestone Fast Six. It's a pretty good start.  We are not making excuses, but it is still a new team for all of us. I gathered some people from old times, but we are still trying to get a handle on everything. I don't think I have room to be upset. We missed making the Firestone Fast Six by less than a tenth of a second. It is awesome.

RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC | EMBRASE - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "I think my first qualifying session went well. I am playing catch up all the time. We unfortunately lost the morning session yesterday and I am still learning the circuit while the rest of the field is going flat out. I am pleased though, I improved this morning and today was the first time I have ever used the red (alternate) tires. I can never be pleased with 13th or 14th, but we have to set targets and my targets are high. I have done less than 50 laps on this track so far, so I have to be happy-ish with that. I am excited for tomorrow though and starting my first IndyCar race."

E.J. VISO (No. 5 CITGO/PDVSA - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "It was a good qualifying result. We ended up 13th and possibly 12th. It was one of those qualifying sessions where you finish up and you know that you have a better car than the results showed. I think we really have a top-seven or even a top-six car. We did not expect the wind to affect the car as much as it did. It really upset the balance on what would have been my fastest lap and I ended up missing the second round by just a tenth of a second. It's okay. We have been working well as a team and we know we have potential. Tomorrow is going to be a big day and I am very excited."

Full Starting Lineup

1. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.3721 (105.585)
2. (2) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.5357 (105.305)
3. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.9321 (104.631)
4. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.9701 (104.567)
5. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.9987 (104.518)
*6. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.1095 (104.332)
7. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.7636 (104.916)
8. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.7895 (104.872)
9. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.8699 (104.736)
10. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.9570 (104.589)
11. (38) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.0233 (104.477)
12. (14) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.5084 (103.666)
13. (5) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 01:02.5146 (103.656)
14. (8) Rubens Barrichello, Dallara-Chevy, 01:02.2009 (104.179)
15. (15) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.6015 (103.512)
16. (18) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.2538 (104.090)
17. (98) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Lotus, 01:02.6506 (103.431)
18. (4) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 01:02.4426 (103.775)
19. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.7155 (103.324)
20. (19) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.5271 (103.635)
21. (78) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Lotus, 01:02.8218 (103.149)
22. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 01:03.0437 (102.786)
23. (22) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Lotus, 01:02.8771 (103.058)
24. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 01:03.3591 (102.274)
25. (6) Katherine Legge, Dallara-Lotus, 01:04.1654 (100.989)
26. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Lotus, 01:05.6858 (98.651)

*Note: Pagenaud has been given a 10-grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change on March 23.

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