The more things change, the more they stay the same. Will Power, Team Penske and Chevy resumed their position at the front of the IndyCar field.
Team Penske, who have dominated at St. Pete over the years, was 1-2-3-4 and Chevy power was 1-2-3-4-5 in qualifying for the opening race of the 2016 IndyCar season.
Power's record lap was actually set in the Fast 12 round, but he was also fastest in the Fast Six round to take the pole.
Penske teammates Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Juan Montoya followed in 2nd through 4th with Scott Dixon 5th also in a Chevy.
The only Honda to make it into the final round of qualifying, Ryan Hunter-Reay, will start 6th.
Battling a stomach virus, Power broke the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg track record in each of the first two segments of knockout qualifying and then turned the best lap in the Firestone Fast Six to collect the Verizon P1 Award. The sixth St. Pete pole position puts Power at the front of the pack for the 110-lap race on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit, as the Verizon IndyCar Series drops the green flag on the 2016 season March 13 (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC).
Today marks Power’s sixth career Verizon P1 Pole Award – and second consecutive – at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. This is Power’s 14th career Verizon P1 Pole Award on a road course circuit. Power’s last pole position came on August 29, 2015 at Sonoma Raceway. Power has now 43 Verizon P1 Pole Awards in his career, fifth on the all-time list.
"Great effort for the whole organization," Castroneves said. "To have 1-2-3-4 again, it shows we're really working together as a team. We want to win as a team and we're going to keep pushing. Great effort for Team Penske."
"Good to see Chevy (sweep) the top five," Dixon said. "Sad to see the first four being Penskes. That's the way it is."
"It's been very tough for us, to tell you the truth," Hunter-Reay said, "but we pulled it together, found some speed in qualifying. It's tough to be happy with sixth, but we're slowly talking ourselves into it. We salvaged something today."
Twenty-two cars qualified for the race, 12 using Honda engines and aero kits and 10 with Chevrolet. A 30-minute warmup session at 9 a.m. ET March 13 precedes the race. The warmup will stream live on racecontrol.indycar.com. In addition to ABC, the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network will air the race on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile App.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was OK. We struggled. We were really good this morning. I was really happy. We only ran one set of new tires. On red tires we were not as good as we needed to be. I think the track went off a little bit. Didn't adjust the Verizon car enough for qualifying, so we were a little bit behind. Overall it was good. Last year I won the race from there, so I don't mind."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "The Hitachi car was pretty good. At the beginning we were not that strong on the qualifying, but we were able to dig in. My engineer (Jonathan Diuguid) and Roger (Penske) and the entire No. 3 team did a phenomenal job. They were working during qualifying. Every step of the way, we were making improvements and the car was getting faster and faster. In the end we took a big gamble. It almost paid off. Unfortunately, it was a little bit too much. But great effort for the whole organization. To have 1-2-3-4, again, it shows we're really working together as a team, we want to win as a team, and we're going to keep pushing. Great effort for Team Penske."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) : "I think we can be happy with that. Certainly, only being a tenth out of the Fast Six and a tenth away from top Honda is tough, but from the imbalance we had this morning, the Arrow Electronics crew did a great job to tune it in for qualifying. It's tough when you throw on those Firestone reds for the first time in 10 months to try and figure out how much grip there is, but like I said, it was a solid effort from everybody in the No. 5 car. I think we can race from ninth place. We've seen that these guys are as good as anybody at calling strategy so the goal is just to get through Turn 1 and take the rest of the race from there."
MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "It was a good day at the beginning and everything was going well. We didn't put everything together for our red set of tires. It's a bit of a shame because the No. 7 SMP Racing car had good speed in the last practice, and I think it shows that we could be top 10. It's going to be a long race, so we're just going to need to prepare for it, and it's going to be good."
MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "It was a difficult morning for sure. We made a change during the first practice session that was just too much and ultimately didn't really work. We went back to the way we had originally set up the car for qualifying, but it seemed to have the same balance issues we saw this morning. It's not as high as we would've hoped to qualify, but I came out as the top rookie and I don't think I did too bad of a job today. We'll regroup tonight and be ready for the race tomorrow."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "We had a pretty poor session this morning just with traffic and not being able to get a clean run. The No. 9 Target Chevrolet has been strong for most of the weekend and it's good to see those top five spots in the Firestone Fast Six being Chevy-powered. It's tough to see all four Penske cars walk off in those top four spots, but at least we made some big improvements over last year's car. I know we're going to race well, so hopefully we'll have a good strategy to gain a few spots and make it to the podium tomorrow."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "We're obviously not happy with our qualifying effort today. We've struggled this weekend to get the car where it needs to be and get the times that we know we can get. It just wasn't there today in qualifying for the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet, but we'll bounce back tomorrow."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut Chevrolet): "Obviously, not as good a qualifying session as last year, not as competitive as the Hydroxycut KVSH Racing team would have liked. Everything came back together very late so we didn't get in all the work we needed. We will just keep digging. That is what we do. It's tough, there are big teams with a lot of resources and we go out there with our limited tools and try and give them a run for their money. Eighth is not where we wanted to start, but we are looking forward to a good race tomorrow."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "What a great run today for the Verizon Chevy team. It's an awesome feeling to be able to put the new look Verizon car on pole again here at St. Pete. Unfortunately, I've been feeling pretty ill all day. It was a struggle to get through qualifying, honestly, but we were able to do it and after the Verizon P1 Pole Award presentation I just started feeling a lot worse. I'm sorry I wasn't able to be at the press conference afterward. The car was great today and a big credit to the guys for doing a terrific job in qualifying. I'll try to get some good rest tonight and come back ready to race on Sunday."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "Tough day for us. We learned a lot in the second session to make the car faster. The first round was exciting. We had a good feeling on the black tire and had no problem with the red tires on the first segment although the field was very tight. We went for more performance in the second round and it didn't work so we lost speed in the second segment, unfortunately. We'll try to find more speed tomorrow morning. We have always been strong in qualifying here so it's a shame to miss the Fast Six here but we're looking to finish strong."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Honda): "I left it all out there. I didn't have anything else. We've been up front all weekend and we have been close but unfortunately we just didn't have quite enough there. These Steak 'n Shake boys continue to work hard all weekend and ultimately we race better than we qualify so for us to start seventh, I think we can have a good race. We have been competitive, but I think we are all struggling to find a balance. The Firestone tire we brought here is maybe a little bit different than last year's compound so it's been difficult to get everything how we want it, setup-wise but we like the challenge and my guys have responded really well. We have to turn our eyes toward the race now and I think we will be pretty strong. Overall we wanted to be the top Honda but we came up three-hundredths of a second short but that's how this thing goes."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 16 RLL/Andersen Interior Contracting Honda): "Definitely the red Firestone tires are a big difference, there is a lot more grip which is awesome. It's amazing how much grip the car has with those tires. It was good to finally get a chance to try them out. It's tough out there. I thought I put some good laps together. I think we had a few tenths left which wouldn't have gotten us through (to the next round) but it might have moved us up a couple of spots that I left on the table. That's part of learning and part of being a rookie. I definitely learned a lot in those few laps that will help me next time I'm on the reds. I think the goal for tomorrow is to just do our best and hopefully we can make up a few spots on the start and then just see how the race unfolds. It's a long race and sometimes this race can be pretty unpredictable and pretty crazy. You never know what is going to happen but we will try to keep our nose clean and pick them off as we can."
CONOR DALY (No. 18 Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality Honda): "I'm disappointed for sure. You're never, ever happy in the back. We have quite a bit to do but we've done a lot, we've investigated a lot, we've tried a lot, so no matter what it will help going down the road for the season. I also got impeded by traffic, sadly, but that's part of the game. If you go through a weekend without, at one point, getting traffic you won the lottery so, no blame there, it's just part of their game and we just have to put ourselves in a better position next time. We'll see what happens in the race."
LUCA FILIPPI (No. 19 Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda): "We made some changes to the car, it is reacting well. We were just a little too conservative and we had a little too much understeer which is probably our limit to get a little quicker. But it's not too bad, the gap to P1 is not huge and the gap to P6, to go through to the next round, was very, very small. It's important that we made an improvement but it's more important that we are in the fight. One tenth in qualifying can put you further up in the classification but in the race it just means that if we can be consistent we can really fight for the top positions. Obviously, you always want to do better than this and you always want to be in the top five or 10 but we are not far and especially for tomorrow, I think we have some cards to play."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "I felt pretty positive all day, but it's perplexing why we didn't have the speed there in qualifying. Sometimes this is a perplexing track. You can have good balance, the car can feel like it has good grip and but you just don't have the speed. We'll try and get it sorted for tomorrow and have a good racecar. We've got a great crew here with the Fuzzy's Vodka boys, I'm not worried about doing a good job and executing during the race tomorrow. I feel confident still, it's just a shame we couldn't be a little bit quicker. I felt like we had more performance than what we showed, the car was really good and it felt good, it just wasn't quick enough."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet): "It was a good day. It was a really good day. It's been a good weekend so far. You can feel a good difference in our group, on the No. 22 side, in our second year together. It's a lot of fun actually. The lap time shows. It's all good at the moment. Qualifying was super, super intense. I had a blast out there. The car felt really good. It's just about getting those last little bits everywhere you can. But, yeah, super happy about the performance so far. I think in race trim we will be in probably a little bit better shape, so I'm excited about that."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "We expected much more in qualifying, so we are disappointed. We will have to work it out for tomorrow to put the Andretti Autosport Honda on top, but we're starting 13th, so we'll see how it goes."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): "Credit to Ryan (Hunter-Reay) to squeeze it out and get in the Firestone Fast Six. We just were lacking rear grip in qualifying. The (Firestone alternate) red didn't do what I expected they would do. We'll meet tonight and pull together to work towards a set up for the Snapple car for tomorrow."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "Yeah, it was a bit of a struggle today. It was a thrash. We were really searching for some speed just to catch up with these guys. They've been the class of the field so far. It's been very tough for us, to tell you the truth. But we pulled it together, found some speed in qualifying. It's tough to be happy with sixth, but we're slowly today talking ourselves into it. We salvaged something today. Those Firestone reds were like a life vest for me in the middle of the ocean. Once I got those on, finally the car woke up a bit and I could really hustle it and drive it the way it needed to be driven. Prior to that we'd been struggling for overall grip. We'll take the starting spot and hopefully we can go out and have a really good race tomorrow and start the season off the way it should."
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "The day started off well; we had a good practice this morning. The car feels really good. The guys have done a good job and it's nice to see that all of the work over the winter is paying off and the fundamentals are getting better. In the qualifying I think we misunderstood the red tires, so I think we missed it a little bit there but it's certainly something we banked and will take to Long Beach. I think car-wise we have really good cars, both drivers. I believe we'll have a good day tomorrow."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet): "It was disappointing to not transfer through to the Firestone Fast Six – it's just so competitive here in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet was good. We just didn't quite get it done. We'll bounce back and get it ready for tomorrow. I think we have a little bit to learn over night from Scott and the Target team – he did a great job getting into the Firestone Fast 6. We'll learn from what he was able to do and develop a strategy and be ready to go racing tomorrow."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): "Based on yesterday afternoon, we were expecting quite a bit more today. We had a bit of an issue this morning on the Castrol Edge/Curb Honda with braking that we weren't able to resolve this afternoon. That is a little disappointing but it's the way it goes sometimes. I think that we, as a group of four cars, need to put our heads together tonight and figure out what the best solution is. We all know Indy car racing is very different on Sunday than it is on Saturday, so we'll have to make sure we dot all our "I's" and cross all our "t's" to put our best foot forward for tomorrow."
|1||12||Power, Will||Chevy||01:00.2450||107.561||Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six|
|2||22||Pagenaud, Simon||Chevy||01:00.4421||107.210||Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six|
|3||3||Castroneves, Helio||Chevy||01:00.4995||107.108||Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six|
|4||2||Montoya, Juan Pablo||Chevy||01:00.5312||107.052||Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six|
|5||9||Dixon, Scott||Chevy||01:00.5395||107.038||Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six|
|6||28||Hunter-Reay, Ryan||Honda||01:00.8803||106.438||Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six|
|7||15||Rahal, Graham||Honda||01:00.5893||106.950||Elimination Round 2 / Top 12|
|8||11||Bourdais, Sebastien||Chevy||01:00.6711||106.805||Elimination Round 2 / Top 12|
|9||5||Hinchcliffe, James||Honda||01:00.6724||106.803||Elimination Round 2 / Top 12|
|10||41||Hawksworth, Jack||Honda||01:00.7188||106.721||Elimination Round 2 / Top 12|
|11||14||Sato, Takuma||Honda||01:00.9745||106.274||Elimination Round 2 / Top 12|
|12||21||Newgarden, Josef||Chevy||01:01.0571||106.130||Elimination Round 2 / Top 12|
|13||26||Munoz, Carlos||Honda||01:01.1856||105.907||Elimination Round 1 / Group 1|
|14||83||Kimball, Charlie||Chevy||01:01.0433||106.154||Elimination Round 1 / Group 2|
|15||27||Andretti, Marco||Honda||01:01.2417||105.810||Elimination Round 1 / Group 1|
|16||19||Filippi, Luca||Honda||01:01.1699||105.934||Elimination Round 1 / Group 2|
|17||8||Chilton, Max (R)||Chevy||01:01.5372||105.302||Elimination Round 1 / Group 1|
|18||7||Aleshin, Mikhail||Honda||01:01.2934||105.721||Elimination Round 1 / Group 2|
|19||98||Rossi, Alexander (R)||Honda||01:01.5794||105.230||Elimination Round 1 / Group 1|
|20||10||Kanaan, Tony||Chevy||01:01.3414||105.638||Elimination Round 1 / Group 2|
|21||18||Daly, Conor (R)||Honda||01:01.9385||104.620||Elimination Round 1 / Group 1|
|22||16||Pigot, Spencer (R)||Honda||01:01.3881||105.558||Elimination Round 1 / Group 2|
Final Round Fast Six
|4||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||1:00.531||0.2862||0.0317||3||3||107.052||Chevy|
Round 2 Fast 12 (Italicized do not advance)
|4||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||1:00.443||0.3773||0.0626||5||7||107.208||Chevy|
Round 1 Group 1 (Italicized do not advance)
Round 1 Group 2 (Italicized do not advance)
|3||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||1:00.706||0.1382||0.0557||6||7||106.744||Chevy|