Allan Brewer, IndyCar correspondent
Power claims St Petersburg GP pole for 3rd year in a row
Team Penske’s Will Power put the pedal to metal around the street circuit in St Petersburg, FL on Saturday, achieving the pole-winning qualifying speed of 105.585 mph for the 2012 IndyCar Series opener. Power set a new track qualifying record of 1 minute, 1.3721 seconds in the debut of the Dallara DW 12 chassis with a Chevrolet powerplant behind him.
I’m very happy to get the first pole for Chevy
“I’m very happy to get the first pole for Chevy,” said Power. “We worked hard over the winter and Roger Penske is very keen to win this championship this year. We have a good strategy and we’ll see what comes tomorrow.”
Power has started from the pole in the race on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit for three consecutive years. He won in 2010 and was runner-up to Dario Franchitti in 2011. This is Power’s 25th career pole in the IndyCar Series.
Teammate Ryan Briscoe and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay followed in the Fast Six session which saw two faces new to St Pete, Schmidt- Hamilton Racing’s Simon Pagenaud and James Hinchcliffe, bracketing veteran Helio Castroneves for the fourth through sixth spots on the grid. Pagenaud was later penalized ten grid spots for an unauthorized engine change during Friday practice and will begin his first full-season IndyCar campaign from the seventh row.
“What a great sight to see Team Penske filling the front row,” said Briscoe of his best start in seven attempts to qualify at St Petersburg. His best previous finish in the race was fourth place in 2009.
“It’s fun with the new engines,” said Hunter-Reay afterwards. “All the manufacturers going toe-to-toe in St Pete is exciting, and we’ll put on a good show for the fans.”
“I made a little bit of a mistake on my quickest lap,” said Hinchcliffe of his first start here. “There’s a tiny bit left in the car, but it’s a great way to kick off the season (starting fourth).”
Ganassi Racing failed to break into the final qualifying session, but Pagenaud’s penalty put Scott Dixon into the sixth spot and defending IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti on ninth for the 12:30 PM EDT green flag on Sunday. Marco Andretti and KV Racing Technology’s Tony Kanaan start seventh and eighth respectively.
Graham Rahal will round out the final spot of the first five rows.
IndyCar newcomer Rubens Barrichello, seeing this race course for the first time in his long career, qualified 14th.
Katherine Legge and Sebastien Bourdais of Lotus Dragon Racing were placed onto the last two spots on the grid after qualifying times for the pair were invalidated. Both spun on the race track and brought out the red flag for the session, an infraction which by rule erases the car’s two fastest laps.
At 2PM EDT the ambient temperature over the Tampa Bay read 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Track temperature was measured at 117 degrees Fahrenheit.
A short memorial for the late Dan Wheldon, who made St Petersburg his home, will precede Sunday’s race.
The race will be broadcast live on the ABC television network and IMS Radio network.