Sato secured his fourth career pole.
Takuma Sato earned the pole position for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the opening race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. His speed around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course was 104.738 miles per hour.
Driving the ABC Supply A. J. Foyt Racing Honda, Sato earned his fourth IndyCar career pole.
Said the pole winner, “Today was a fantastic day, and I can’t think of a better way to start the season. I am happy where the team is today, and over the winter, we did a successful test program. We had a strong package last year, but we have made a lot of changes to the car since then.
“In qualifying today, we experienced a dramatic weather change. I am very pleased the series and track officials got qualifying in today; otherwise, I would have started in the middle of the pack.”
Sato said the three segments of qualifying were all different, going from wet to damp to almost dry. During qualifications, the Foyt team made a series of changes to the car.
Rain affected the day’s schedule with the IndyCar qualifications delayed by 3 hours and 40 minutes, getting underway at 5:40 p.m. During the delay, a severe storm warning was posted and fans and competitors were advised to take cover.
Although the track was nearly dry, the surface was slick and a few puddles were evident when IndyCar qualifying started. For the first qualification segment, all cars sported rain tires but by segment two, several teams opted for slick tires and by segment three, the Firestone Fast 6 slick tires were in use.
Tony Kanaan put the Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet on the outside of the front row with a run of 104.241 mph.
Said the happy driver, “It feels good not to have 17 cars ahead of me for the start. It has been probably three years since I have made it to the Fast 6, and it feels good. Qualifying second is fine, but I still have to make it through turn 1 tomorrow. I am very happy, and the whole team worked very hard. Qualifying was a bit of a lottery. For the fans, it was fun but for us drivers, it was not.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified third fastest with Will Power timed fourth.
Row three qualifiers were Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti.
Carlos Munoz, rookie Jack Hawksworth, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves rounded out the top-10 qualifiers.
Transition driver Juan Pablo Montoya ended up 18th on the speed charts. He said he is still learning his way to the series and indicated he’s not far off from being competitive.
For the 2014 season, IndyCar officials announced that single-file restarts will be in place on all street and road courses and double-file restarts will take place on all ovals except for the Indianapolis 500.