Series Saturday qualifying report

St. Pete

POWER EARNS POLE FOR HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Saturday, March 26, 2011) - For the second consecutive year, Will Power earned the PEAK Performance Pole Award for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, posted a quick lap of 1 minute, 01.9624 seconds (the quickest of the weekend) with 2:15 left in the 10-minute Firestone Fast Six shootout for his 11th IZOD IndyCar Series pole. He set a series record last season with eight.

Four teams are represented on the first three rows for the 100-lap race on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn circuit with the scenic Tampa Bay in the background.

Reigning series champion Dario Franchitti, who hasn't won at St. Pete in the seven years of the event, will start second in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car (1:02.2953), while teammate Scott Dixon will share Row 2 with Andretti Autosport's Mike Conway in the No, 27 Team GoDaddy car.

Ryan Briscoe, who won the race in 2009, and Justin Wilson, who has finished second and third the past two years, are on Row 3.

Also on March 26, Esteban Guerrieri became the eighth driver -- and first since Graham Rahal in 2006 -- to earn the Sunoco Pole Award in their debut race with a quick lap of 1 minute, 7.6903 seconds on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street course for the Firestone Indy Lights race.

Guerrieri, driving the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, jumped to the top on the final green flag lap of the 45-minute session. He leapfrogged Conor Daly, who rose to P1 (1:07.9338) in the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car with 13 minutes remaining and further improved his lap time (1:07.7009).

Josef Newgarden completed a 1-2-3 for Sam Schmidt Motorsports with a best lap of 1:07.8731. He'll be joined on the second row by Stefan Wilson (1:07.9582) in the No. 5 Andretti Autosport car. It's the fourth 1-2-3 start for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:

DaveyHamilton will compete in three races with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing with HP as the primary sponsor of the No. 21 car.

Hamilton will attempt to qualify for his 10th Indianapolis 500, and compete at Texas Motor Speedway and the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October. He partnered with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for the 2009 Indianapolis 500.

"It's good to be back with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing," said Hamilton, who . "We had a great relationship in the past, and after a brief absence it's nice to be back with the team and to have HP with us as well. I have high hopes for the three races and I'm very excited about the possibilities."

HP also will serve as a season-long associate sponsor on the No. 22 entry with Justin Wilson.

"I'm also very excited about HP not only sponsoring me, but that they will be a sponsor on Justin's car for the season," Hamilton added. "I look forward to being teammates with Justin. We're hoping to be able to give each other a lot of information to further the team's growth and to get a victory."

Hamilton's has a best finish of fourth in the Indianapolis 500. Until 2001, he was a regular in the series, finishing second in the standings twice. The Idaho suffered multiple lower leg injuries in a crash at Texas Motor Speedway in 2001. After 23 operations and two years of rehabilitation, he returned to racing in 2007.

"We are excited to be partnering with HP and Davey Hamilton again on this program for three events, as well with Justin Wilson on the No. 22," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. "This is just another example of how Dreyer & Reinbold Racing continues to grow. Our off-season improvements with research and development and our investments commercially will hopefully help us achieve significant results all year."

*

A.J. Foyt Racing Team Director Larry Foyt will be calling the shots this weekend for the ABC Supply team at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg while his father A.J. Foyt recovers from a procedure to insert a stent in his main artery Friday. Doctors had discovered a more than 95 percent blockage in the artery after an angiogram was performed on Monday.

"It was touch and go according to Dr. Civitello," A.J. Foyt said last evening after the procedure. "They had a full surgical team on board with the surgeon [Dr. O.H. Frazier, an internationally renowned heart surgeon who trained under Dr. Denton Cooley] who did my wife Lucy's triple bypass, prepared to do a bypass if the stent didn't work. Their challenge was that they had to go through several stents first to get to the blockage and then get the artery opened enough to take the stent. I watched on the machine while they did it. After what seemed an awful long time, my doctor stepped back and said 'We got it A.J.' I can't tell you how happy and relieved I was. I think he was too."

Foyt, in his typical no-holds-barred style, spent the previous weekend working on his track hoe at his ranch in Del Rio much to his doctors' dismay. "Well, I had some things I wanted to get finished in case I was laid up for a while," Foyt explained.

Dr. Andrew Civitello, a leading interventional cardiologist, performed the procedure at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, home of the Texas Heart Institute, a pioneer in innovative approaches to cardiovascular disease.

Foyt is expected to be released from the hospital later today with strict orders to "take it easy for the next three or four days." He will be watching as Vitor Meira and the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda team compete in tomorrow's race.

*

Telemundo Communications Group, a leading producer of content for Hispanics in the U.S. and audiences around the world, has developed a marketing collaboration with Newman/Haas Racing's No. 02 car entry with driver Oriol Servia.

Telemundo is a division of NBC Universal.

"Our clients are always asking us for new opportunities to reach the Hispanic consumer. Now Telemundo Station Group can offer a new and unique branding opportunity in a sport that has international appeal just like our soccer and boxing properties," said Jose Jimenez, account manager of Telemundo National Sales Office.

Servia, a native of Catalonia, Spain, has made 15 starts for NHR, which include his first Indy car win (Montreal 2005) and pole (Surfers Paradise, Australia 2005) as well as a total of seven top-three, 11 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. In 2005, Servia replaced NHR driver Bruno Junqueira, who suffered a season-ending injury at the Indy 500 on May 29, and then went on to finish second to teammate Sebastien Bourdais in the Champ Car standings after 11 events with the team. Servia returned to NHR in 2009 for four IZOD IndyCar Series races with a season-best finish of fourth at Twin Ring Motegi.

"I am very happy to be back in the IZOD IndyCar Series with Newman/Haas Racing, which has always been my best recipe for success, and to represent Telemundo and their partners," Servia said. "We have been working really hard to put a program together with Telemundo and have had a genuine connection with them since the beginning.

"The U.S. Hispanic population is not only an important segment overall, but it is also an important fan base for our sport. The team and I are really eager for success and will do whatever it takes to get where we want to be which is the top of the podium."

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

· Will Power claimed his first pole of 2011 and the 16th pole of his Indy car career. His last pole came at Infineon in August 2010.

· Dario Franchitti will start on the front row for the first time in 2011. He

· Mike Conway qualified fourth. It is his first race since he was seriously injured in an accident during the Indianapolis 500 in 2010.

· Tony Kanaan qualified eighth in his first race with KV Racing Technology - Lotus.

· Ana Beatriz was the highest qualified Rookie of the Year Candidate qualifying 20th.

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES POST QUALIFYING QUOTES:

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, PEAK Performance Pole Award): "It's very good for the guys. The Verizon Team Penske guys are starting with the pole again and you know where the race it going to be tomorrow. It's going to be double-file restarts and a lot of mayhem." (About going into his 2nd or 3rd segment and trying to pick up two-tenths):"Yeah, you've got to be facing the carrot. I love when you go out to qualify and you give it absolutely everything you've got. They're the best sessions. The first two segments….just look after the tires and at the end then just give it everything that you've got. I love doing that."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified second): "I was just finding the limit each lap more and more. I was getting a little bit braver each lap but I just ran out of tire. It's a great starting spot and the Target crew did an outstanding job putting the car back together after the incident I had in the morning session."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified third): "It was pretty consistent for us today. I messed up a little in the Firestone Fast 6 segment but we've been around the same speeds both days so far. I think we have a few tenths left in the car. I'm really looking forward to the double-wide restarts tomorrow. It should be a great show for the fans."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com, qualified fourth): "It's been a great weekend so far. We were searching for a bit more in qualifying, but this series is so tough. It's always hard to make the Firestone Fast Six, so we are happy about that. The GoDaddy.com car has been working really well all weekend and I can't say enough for all the guys at Andretti Autosport. They are doing a great job."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 IZOD Team Penske, qualified fifth): "The IZOD car was really strong today. I would have like to have been a little bit further up, but we made a change for Q2 - sort of took a step backwards, and we had to really crash to go back on that change and make it through to the fast six on all the tires and everyone else. That was a huge achievement. We just sort of backed ourselves into a bit of a corner with the set-up and just struggling to help the front without hurting the rear too much. We just sort of got ourselves in a corner where we couldn't really figure out what to do to make it go faster. So, we sort of went into the fast six sort of dealing with what we had and it wasn't bad. First car on the track and pretty far. We're definitely going to be racing tomorrow…. came in 3rd from 19th last year, so I'm hoping to do better from 5th tomorrow."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 22 TransSystems/DRR, qualified sixth): "I think that we stepped up the performance at the right time for qualifying and made it into the Firestone Fast Six, which is a great effort by everyone working on the TranSystems car. I think that was a really good thing. Obviously, once we were there you want to do better. We made a change and it was the wrong way so we will go and study that. I think we are close and we have the car in the window now and I'm hoping for a strong race tomorrow."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, qualified seventh): "I have to credit (Mike) Conway for the set-up we qualified today. The Venom car was a bit off and he got me back in the ballpark. To jump in a car with a new setup and end up seventh - I'm alright with that. I think things are really going to be shook up tomorrow with the double-file restarts. That might breed some yellows, but we can do it from here. That's the good thing; we can win it from seventh."

TONY KANAAN (No. 82 GEICO - KV Racing Technology - Lotus, qualified eighth): "I have to thank the whole GEICO - KV Racing Technology - Lotus team. I jumped into this car two days ago and the whole team made me feel right at home. I am just happy to be here and happy that I gave them a good solid qualifying result today. This is just the beginning and I have to remember to be patient, which is hard for me. It is going to be a hard race tomorrow. The race setup is not what we used in qualifying, but we have a warm-up tomorrow to fine tune the car. My goal is to have a good performance and bring the car home."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske, qualified ninth): "The Guidepoint Systems car was good today. After the first session we made a change on the car, and it was probably a little bit too greedy by me as we were trying to get the most out of the car for the Firestone Fast Six. It's not where we wanted to start but at least we're in the top-10 and we've seen before that people can start from there and get up to the front. That's the plan for us tomorrow."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, qualified 10th): "I'm very pleased with the Sam Schmidt Bowers & Wilkins car. I think we had a big surprise when we started on Friday. We were kind of out of the window, and the guys recovered really well. They worked hard last night to get the car more competitive, and we just missed that 10th-of-a-second to get in that Firestone Fast Six. But, I'm still very pleased with the way they worked and the way we recovered. We can race from P10. Now that we're more in the window, I think we'll be in pretty good shape for the race."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing): "We definitely made the right changes on the ABC Supply car and compared to everybody else, I think we made the biggest jump from yesterday to today. We didn't finish very well yesterday but today every time we went out we kept moving forward. Thirteenth isn't where we want to be but we have to take into consideration that we started a little bit behind but we made very, very good progress. We are starting better than we did last year and the year before so we can't complain about that. I will take that as a good day."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central): "Happy to be in the top-12. I thought the No. 38 Service Central Honda had more speed but we couldn't maximize our run. We have some work ahead of us, but it's going to be a good race."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen): "I learned a lot. This was my first time running reds and we just couldn't find the balance. I posted my fastest time all weekend in the No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen Honda; it's very competitive and you have to get it all right. I'm ready for my next qualifying run."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 02 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing): "Our worst session of the whole weekend so far was the one that mattered most. We couldn't get the best out of the red Firestone tires. The amount of grip they had surprised us a little bit and I had more understeer than we expected and just couldn't put a good lap together. It's a shame because we were fifth fast this morning and the Telemundo car felt really good. Everybody improved a second from this morning and we had the same lap time out there. I think it is a good car for the race but we need to figure out how to maximize the tires. It is a learning process. Starting 15th is obviously not ideal. Its best to start in the first three rows here but starting where we are gives us a little more room to become creative on our pit strategy. We know we have a good car so we should be able to move forward. Every year this race is a crazy, up-and-down event with drivers running in the front and back during the race and no one knows who is going to win. I think we have a fair shot. It's just disappointing that we couldn't get the best of the car in the session."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology - Lotus):"I was very disappointed not to qualify in the top-10. It has been a tough weekend. We have struggled to find balance and grip during practice and qualifying. However, I think we managed to gather some valuable information from these sessions. We have a lot of work to to improve the car for the race tomorrow."

ANA BEATRIZ (No. 24 Ipiranga/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "Qualifying was good and we improved a lot from the other sessions. Each day we continue to improve and I'm getting my rythym in the Ipiranga car, so I'm confident because I will have more time and it will be a long race. Hopefully we can do well. I'm happy that we improved and were able to gain some spots in qualifying."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): "We got caught out by the yellow today. It's one of those deals in qualifying where you roll the dice and wait to go out, hoping for the track to be a tenth or two quicker. But, you put yourself in a very risky position when it goes yellow. But, I agree with the strategy. We went with the fast guys, and unfortunately, we needed those two laps at the end. The DHL/Sun Drop car was good enough to get in, but in the end, we didn't make it because it went yellow. That will happen sometimes."

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy/HVM Racing): "I think we could've had a better run, but we caught a lot of traffic during the time we were having a good lap. It's kind of a shame because I think we're really pushing it and we could've gotten into the Fast Six. It is what it is, but we'll make it happen tomorrow during the race."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 17 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc): "I'm quite pleased with the performance. We have about 80 miles of testing in this car. The whole group - the AFS team - did an incredible job putting the car together. For me it was a last minute deal. I'm very thankful for this opportunity. I have to thank Gary Peterson and the whole AFS crew and we're looking forward to bigger and better things tomorrow. We qualified 16th - very competitive in the middle of the field. Hopefully we'll have a strong race tomorrow and we'll be able to improve a lot more for the next race."

FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS SUNOCO POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

· This is Esteban Guerrieri's first pole in Firestone Indy Lights. He is the eighth driver to win a pole in his debut race. The last driver to accomplish the feat was Graham Rahal, who won the pole for the Liberty Challenge at 2006 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

· Conor Daly qualified second and Josef Newgarden qualified third.

· This is Sam Schmidt Motorsports' fourth 1-2-3 start in Firestone Indy Lights. It's last 1-2-3 start came in Oct. 2005 at California with Travis Gregg, Jaime Camara and Chris Festa.

FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST QUALIFYING QUOTES:

ESTEBAN GUERRIERI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, SUNOCO Pole Award winner): "We've had competitive cars all weekend. Our last lap was our best lap so we ended up where we needed. I want to thank the whole team, my team and Sam Schmidt because we took 1-2-3. It will be great to start my first race from P1 and I hope our race day goes well. I like the track a lot and it will be fun to race with the field and my teammates tomorrow. I want to thank Sam for this opportunity and start the season well tomorrow from the front."

CONOR DALY (No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, qualified second): "It's a bit depressing really. I mean I was strongly P1 the whole session, but just at the end Esteban got me with a good lap. But, it's good for Sam Schmidt Motorsports to be 1-2-3. I'm just looking forward to the race, now. I think we've got a really fast consistent car and I think we'll be OK for tomorrow."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 11 Robo-Pong/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, qualified third): "It was just OK. Obviously, we would have liked to have been on pole position. It's a great effort by the entire Sam Schmidt Motorsports organization. What more can you ask for to have the top three being all your cars. I'm sure Sam is delighted. It's great to reward the guys for all the hard work they put in over the winter. In the race, I think you're going to want to keep your nose clean and try to learn as much as possible. It's the first race of the year. I don't think you want to get too excited and throw something away this early in the season. I definitely want to learn as much as I can and just take what the track gives you."

STEFAN WILSON (No. 5 Andretti Autosport, qualified fourth): "I'm very relieved, actually. Coming in the weekend, we were hoping for a little better than P4, but the way things have been going - we missed the setup a little bit yesterday and we've been chasing ever since. I'm quite relieved to get P4, really. It was a last lap gasp. We thought a yellow flag was going to ruin the session. We had just put new tires on and we had like three laps and we made it count and it put us P4. The guys have been working really hard and I have to thank my engineer. I wasn't happy with the car yesterday, and he's been working hard ever since making the car more to my liking."

PETER DEMPSEY (No. 36 Pulse/O2 Racing, qualified fifth): "We've worked really hard all weekend to try and get the car as close to the pace as possible. The O2 Racing Technology car ran pretty well in practice. I there we were third in one session and fourth in the other. We were working really hard heading into qualifying. Unfortunately, I made a huge mistake in qualifying and hit the wall. I got the car to pit lane, but didn't get to run the rest of the session. A huge apology to the guys. They worked so hard and we didn't get to run the second set of tires and I think we could have been on the front row, maybe the pole. I don't know how we managed to stay fifth, wrecking 20 minutes into the session. "

-source: indycar

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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS
Tags indycar, st. pete, indy lights

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