By Allan Brewer, IndyCar correspondent
- Power on pole
- Franchitti starts second
- Dixon starts third
Power Repeats, Picks up St. Pete Pole
Penske Racing's Will Power claimed the pole at the St Petersburg Grand Prix on Saturday for the second consecutive year. Power's best lap of 1:01.963 (104.579 mph) bested Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti's fastest time of 1:02.295 (104.021 mph) in the Fast Six portion of qualifications for the Sunday Indy Car Series race.
"We pushed very hard to get this (pole)," Power said afterwards. "We have a good opportunity to win tomorrow." In a not-so-veiled reference to his second-place series championship finish of 2010, which he led until the final laps of the final race before yielding to winner Franchitti, he added, "We want to win a championship this year."
Franchitti recovered from a morning incident in which he struck the concrete retaining wall near Turn 11 of the bayside circuit. "We're happy to get through to the Six portion after this morning," he said. Franchitti's car suffered moderate rear wing damage in the crash, which appeared triggered by a rumble strip in the berm portion of the racetrack.
We have a good opportunity to win tomorrow.
Franchitti teammate Scott Dixon will start third on the rolling grid of two-abreast racers, sitting on a time of 1:02.398 (103.850 mph).
Andretti Autosport driver Mike Conway, returning to competition after a severe accident during last year's Indianapolis 500, ran strong to a fourth-place spot at the end of qualifying. "We had huge grip today," Conway said of the sole set of enhanced (or "soft") compound tires each driver received as allocation for the session.
Conway's best lap of 1:02.531 was a slim four-hundredths of a second to the better of the best lap posted by Penske Racing's Ryan Briscoe, who will start fifth on the inside of the third row.
Helio Castroneves and Conway teammate Marco Andretti missed the Fast Six portion of qualifying, as did KV Racing Technology/Lotus' Tony Kanaan.
"We changed something (after morning practice) and it was a little too much," said Castroneves. "We'll try to go from back to front on Sunday."
Castroneves starts the race on the inside of the fifth row, immediately behind Andretti on seventh place. Kanaan will start eighth.
Alex Tagliani, returning to IndyCar Series competition this year with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, starts tenth.
Andretti teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Danica Patrick turned in disappointing results, landing in qualifying spots fourteenth and nineteenth respectively.
Sebastian Saavedra struck the retaining wall with the left front wing, and spun with moderate damage to the right rear and wing of the Conquest Racing No. 34 car during early qualifying. The result was a spot on the outside of the next-to last row. Sebastian Bourdais also fell victim to the demanding street course and starts the race from eighteenth position. Both Saavedra and Bourdais were unhurt.
No driver in the 25-car IndyCar Series field came remotely close to challenging Power's pole-sitting mark of 105.397 mph set in 2010.
The palms swayed along Tampa Bay as the weatherman treated fans to a sunny, breezy 84 degree F afternoon with winds 14 mph from the southwest at 4PM EDT. The forecast for race day calls for 87 degrees F with sunny conditions along the Florida Gulf coast.
A final on-track IndyCar pre-race "warm-up" is scheduled for 30 minutes on Sunday morning at 8:40 AM EDT. The St. Petersburg Grand Prix takes the green flag at 12:30 PM EDT with television coverage on the ABC network.