Will Power wins pole for St. Petersburg GP

Will Power charges to pole
Will Power charges to pole

We now know the Chevys were sandbagging during practice. Practice was dominated by Honda cars but when it came to qualifying Chevy driver Will Power won the pole for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Power has won the pole here 7 out of the last 8 years earning him the King of St. Pete.

The driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet laid down a lap of 1 minute, 1.0640 seconds (106.118 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six to capture the Verizon P1 Award and pole position for the race on the 1.8-mile temporary street course.

Scott Dixon led 2 of the 3 practice sessions on Friday and Saturday morning, and then in qualifying he led two qualifying sessions he was in – Round 1, Round 2 but in the Fast Six Will Power nipped him for fast time by being smarter with his 'Red' tires.

"I think that went very well. I saved a good set of tires for the end there. They had one lap on them. Really happy for the guys at Verizon and the whole team. It's good to be starting on pole.

"That was everything I had at the end. I gave it all I had because I knew it was going to be close. I haven't put that much energy into a lap for awhile. I'm really happy.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]"We will do our best tomorrow in every condition."

Power’s latest pole position is the 45th of his Indy car career, fifth all-time and two behind teammate Helio Castroneves. It is also the 246th in the illustrious history of Team Penske.

The opening segment of qualifying was modest, with one red flag, but Dixon continued chiseling the stopwatch with a fast lap of 1:00.9602 (106.299 mph), becoming the first driver to drop into the 60-second range for the weekend.

Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais experienced his first issue of the weekend early in Segment 1 when he locked up the front tires and punched the nose of his No. 18 Honda into the Turn 13 tire barrier. Under new qualifying rules for 2017, Bourdais was not allowed to continue in the session for bringing out the red flag and will start 21st in the 110-lap race (noon ET Sunday, ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

In Segment 2, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay clipped the wall at the exit of Turn 9, sustaining damage to the right rear of his No. 28 DHL Honda too severe for him to continue. Hunter-Reay will start 12th. Meanwhile, Dixon repeated his feat of being the sole driver to run below the 1:01 with a fast lap of 1:00.9293 (106.353 mph) to advance to the Firestone Fast Six.

Joining the Kiwi in the final round of qualifying were Power, James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda), Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet), Takuma Sato (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda) and Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda).

Will Power
Will Power

Hinchcliffe qualified third at 1:01.3039 (105.703 mph), which will be his best starting position in six St. Petersburg races. The same can be said for Newgarden, who qualified fourth (1:01.7229, 104.985 mph) in his Team Penske debut in the No. 2 Verizon Chevy.

Meanwhile, reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud failed to advance past the first segment and will start 14th in the No. 1 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevy.

Cars are back on track Sunday at 9 a.m. ET Sunday for a final 30-minute warmup practice, with a live stream at RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is less than a day away. Tune into ABC or the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network at noon ET Sunday for live coverage.

• This is Power’s first Verizon P1 Pole Award of the 2017 season.
• The pole is the 45th of his INDYCAR career (6 CC/39 IRL/IC), placing him fifth on the all-time poles lists. He is two away from tying his Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, for fourth all-time.
• 39 of those career poles have come as a Team Penske driver.
• It is Power’s seventh-pole Verizon P1 Pole Award at St. Pete with all of them coming in the last eight events at the Florida track.
• 2014 was the only time in the last eight years that Power hasn’t earned the top starting spot. That season he started fourth and finished first.
• This is the eighth pole for Team Penske at St. Pete (Power – 7, Castroneves – 1)
• Team Penske has won 12 of 16 poles during the course of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
• Team Penske won both the Verizon IndyCar Series pole and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with Brad Keselowski topping the charts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
• This is the 246th Verizon IndyCar Series pole win in the history of Team Penske and the 507th pole for the organization overall.


SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet): "Well, we're certainly disappointed, but that doesn't mean we're going to pack up and go home. The PPG Chevrolet team and I will go to work and figure out how we can improve. They are the best in the business. We have our work cut out for us, but once the race starts, all sorts of things can happen."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "I have been told numerous times that this car has been victorious twice in the last two years here. So no pressure, right? Hopefully go get it done. But I think we have a good start. Fourth place, it's the best that I've started around St. Pete here, so I think our guys did a great job. I feel like I didn't maximize that final Firestone Fast Six as much as I could have, but I also don't think I would have gotten Will (Power). I think Will put a really good lap together. He did an awesome job. We've had good cars. I think our race cars off the truck have actually been pretty good, and we haven't had to do much. We've been able to stay inside of our window for the most part this weekend. I'm excited. You know, the next thing for us now and certainly for me is to learn the race car, how it's going to perform over a tire stint. We haven't done much of that, at least I haven't, with the team here at Team Penske, so I'm excited to figure out that portion. As you said, they've had luck with this car in the past, so hopefully it's going to be a strong race car, and I think we can do a good job with the Verizon No. 2 car this weekend, and hopefully we can seal it up for tomorrow."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "We didn't miss by much, but that's how close it is in this series. Fortunately, I have the Hitachi Chevy guys behind me and I have all the confidence in the world that they can give me a car to go to the front. You just want to get to the next round. Anything can happen. We came up a little short, but I think we have a great race car."

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet): "It was a bit strange with the way the red flag came out. I think we started to push a little bit too early on our only set of (Firestone) reds. We're really struggling to stop the car. These new brakes are treating me very unkindly. Stopping the car has always been a strength of mine, the brake zones are where I can brake deep and now I can't brake deep enough. For some reason the car won't stop and we've got to get that fixed so we can actually compete."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "Obviously starting off the season strong is huge. Momentum in this sport and any sport really is a key to success, and winning the first one and getting off to that strong start always makes you feel good and keeps the team in the right state of mind. And (my win here in 2013) was the first one in my career, so obviously a pretty emotional day and one that I remember very clearly, and with our best starting spot here, obviously the competition up front is incredible. The Verizon IndyCar Series never fails to disappoint in that sense and congrats to Will and everybody at Honda to really step up their game, and happy to be starting inside of Row 2 and kind of see how it plays out tomorrow."

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "It was quite a tough qualifying for us. I was definitely expecting more, but tomorrow is going to be a long race. We are going to do everything possible to get a good result for the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team."

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): "I was happy with the Gallagher car and felt I really got everything out of myself. I knew coming into qualifying that we had a fast car for sure. We hit traffic and didn't get through and that was frustrating obviously. I think we could have been fourth in the second segment and advanced, but that's the way it goes sometimes, and we can fight with a good car tomorrow which I'm excited about."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 GE LED Lighting Honda): "That was just on me unfortunately. We have a super fast car and should have been on pole. I just messed up a little on my fastest lap there. I'm obviously disappointed, but the team has four fast cars. We're working together great with Honda and I can't wait to start the race tomorrow. Hopefully we'll have the GE car up front when it counts."

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "When I walked in Scott (Dixon) was saying how well he thinks we're all working together and I completely agree. I think the engineers did a great job over the winter when we switched over to Honda. We spent a lot of time focusing on the areas that we didn't think were good last year and I just think we came into this season better prepared. It's great to see that we could put all four cars in the top 10 and we're all really close. I think the four of us with the Honda aero kit are just working really well together."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): (On what it takes to have a strong qualifying in St. Petersburg) "It takes obviously a very good team and kind of getting through that first round there. Taking the risk on just doing one lap was good for me, definitely had a bit more meat on the tires in the last round there. We worked on the car too. Made a bit of a wrong setup change there for the last round, and kind of just made it, and went back and did something else. So yeah, very happy to be on pole. It's really tight competition."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "We were better in qualifying than practice. I think in Segment 2 we could have been better but between the runs, we tried some things that didn't work like we expected. Our goal was to be in the top 10 but we missed by one spot. It's still a good position to start here. We have to work to make the car more consistent throughout the race. So we'll see what happens tomorrow."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Honda): "Starting 10th is obviously not where we want to be but all things considered, and where we've been this weekend, we knew it was going to take everything we had to advance out of the first group this weekend. When you have guys like Helio (Castroneves) and Simon (Pagenaud) and all these boys in there, you know you have to be at your absolute best to advance. We made it through, but that top 12 was going to be tough for us to advance out of. I felt like I got all of it out of the car honestly. We just need to find some consistency and find some grip. I've seen the sector times and I know where we're losing it compared to everyone else but I don't see how, within myself, we're just going to find a magical three-tenths (of a second). We've got to get to work. Tomorrow is a whole new day and we seem to excel as a team on race day. Who knows what can happen but we'll try to get this Steak 'n Shake car in victory lane."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "I have no idea what happened, everything felt fine in Turn 10. I got on the brakes and got to the last corner and nothing happened. I locked up the inside front and never really slowed down properly. It never happened before. I've been very happy with the braking, we've just had some overheating issues but that has nothing to do with that. I guess I thought the brakes were in. Maybe I took it too easy around the start of the first lap and by the time I got to start the fast lap the rears were not up and I didn't get any slowing down from the rears and locked up the front and that was that."

ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "It was a little frustrating that the red flag came out early on. I didn't get to have a first go at the Firestone reds so I had to go straight out again on a new set and push from there. For me it was a bit of an unknown how the jump was going to be. The car felt really good and I felt like I was finally there. I felt a lot more comfortable in the car. The difference with the reds it that I just didn't have time to adapt. By the time I realized how much deeper I could go, the tires had already started falling off of their best. At least I know for next time. I was really excited to do my first Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying. I just felt at home, so that's the most important thing. Overall, I'm happy with how it went."

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "It was still a little disappointing not to advance to the next round of qualifying. It was so close. A couple hundredths of a second would have put us through. We made some good gains from practice so that's important. Thanks to the Fuzzy's Vodka guys for working hard and giving me a good car. We're good on longer runs, so tomorrow we're going to give it a shot."

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "Tomorrow's going to be tough because there's not a lot of strategy options. It's a pretty straightforward situation. For us, we need to be confident that we can make some moves on our own and be good at picking our way through. Outside of that, we have to be smart when things do happen. If there are issues in front of us, we need to be able to take advantage of those when they happen. Obviously not where we want to be to kick things off here, but it leaves room for improvement certainly. We'll continue to plug away at it, we've got a whole season to get to the point where we are consistently competitive but we want to get there as quick as we can. We know there are some things we can work on."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "Yes, I'm extremely pleased about today's result, having had a very difficult first day yesterday. The team did fantastic job, pulled everything all together, and I really have to appreciate all my teammates. Obviously they all helped me out to get things put together, obviously extremely strong, hard work, and then obviously the boys did a great job to put everything together on the No. 26 car. Everything really worked well. Up until today's practice, I was still a little bit nervous and didn't get confident in the car. It's such a short time, and having a little tragedy yesterday. But in qualifying, a different type of feeling. I got out first on the red tire, and I was extremely happy in the car. Like (Scott) Dixon said, it's really a great job from Honda over the course of the winter. I know it's a frozen package. We can do very little things, but I think engine development as well as how you try and use the car and the package, I think today is a result that we are really coming back in strong."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 hhgregg Honda): "This (qualifying result) is hard to swallow. We just overacted because we were really loose on (Firestone primary) blacks. So, we overacted with the car set up and it wouldn't turn on the (alternate) reds. We would have been better off not having made the changes and just running. This one hurts because the hhgregg car is faster than this. Last year I went to the back of the field, and felt like I had the pace to come through so we're hoping for that."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We were just trying to get that extra bit today. These street circuits are always difficult that way. I had a bit of a moment there, corrected, and then it came back and I slapped the wall hard enough to bend the left, rear toe link. I whitewalled it a few times this weekend, but that was the biggest one. We're always pushing hard. Big thanks to the DHL guys for thrashing there. They almost had us back out in time. It was just a matter of seconds. Another 45 seconds and I think we would have made it out. Completely on me. I was just pushing, trying to get every last lap out of (the car). Looking to tomorrow, the qualifying car is going to be a lot different from the race car, we'll see. Last year we had a good race car, so we'll lean on that a bit and try to make it happen."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "I'm disappointed with qualifying ninth. I think coming into the weekend my goal was to qualify in the top 10 and finish in the top five. We're obviously already hitting that goal with starting ninth, but after the last couple of days I think we've been faster than where we're starting tomorrow. We had a problem with the first set of tires we were going to run in Segment 2 so I didn't get a run on that. We had a little too much fuel and I didn't get the lap. I feel badly for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing guys because the car was better than ninth. These things happen and as Dario says, 'It's all in the recovery' so tomorrow we'll be smart, have good clean pit stops, and go forward when we can."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda): "We had the potential to be in the Firestone Fast Six, but we just didn't put that second lap together to get up there. I think we made a bit of a change in session that wasn't great. All in all, I think this is the best place we've ever started from on a street course, so that's the positive side. I'm disappointed to miss the Firestone Fast Six because I know that we're quickest on the (Firestone primary) blacks in that second run before going to (alternate) reds. I think the potential is there, we just didn't put it together. But, we're still starting inside the top eight, and will fight to take the NAPA Auto Parts Honda to the front."


Rank Car Driver Name Make Time Speed Session
1 12 Power, Will CHEVY 01:01.0640 106.118 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
2 9 Dixon, Scott HONDA 01:01.2219 105.844 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
3 5 Hinchcliffe, James HONDA 01:01.3039 105.703 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
4 2 Newgarden, Josef CHEVY 01:01.7229 104.985 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
5 26 Sato, Takuma HONDA 01:01.9851 104.541 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
6 10 Kanaan, Tony HONDA 01:02.0824 104.377 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
7 8 Chilton, Max HONDA 01:01.3516 105.621 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
8 98 Rossi, Alexander HONDA 01:01.5198 105.332 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
9 83 Kimball, Charlie HONDA 01:01.6066 105.184 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
10 15 Rahal, Graham HONDA 01:01.6181 105.164 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
11 14 Munoz, Carlos CHEVY 01:01.7399 104.956 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
12 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan HONDA 01:03.1588 102.599 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
13 20 Pigot, Spencer CHEVY 01:01.5898 105.212 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
14 1 Pagenaud, Simon CHEVY 01:01.6129 105.173 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
15 27 Andretti, Marco HONDA 01:01.6070 105.183 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
16 3 Castroneves, Helio CHEVY 01:01.7159 104.997 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
17 7 Aleshin, Mikhail HONDA 01:01.7674 104.910 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
18 19 Jones, Ed (R) HONDA 01:01.7598 104.923 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
19 21 Hildebrand, JR CHEVY 01:01.8465 104.776 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
20 4 Daly, Conor CHEVY 01:02.2030 104.175 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
21 18 Bourdais, Sebastien HONDA No Time No Speed Elimination Round 1 / Group 2

Interview with pole winner Will Power:

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