St. Pete: Series qualifying report

POWER CONTINUES TO RULE ST. PETERSBURG WITH POLE ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., (Saturday, March 27, 2010) - Will Power continued his domination on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course alongside scenic Tampa Bay by claiming the PEAK Pole Award...

POWER CONTINUES TO RULE ST. PETERSBURG WITH POLE

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., (Saturday, March 27, 2010) - Will Power continued his domination on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course alongside scenic Tampa Bay by claiming the PEAK Pole Award for the sixth Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a quick lap of 1 minute, 1.6026 seconds (105.190 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six session.

It is the third pole start in his IZOD IndyCar Series career. The previous times he won at Edmonton and was runner-up at Long Beach in 2009.

Power won the season opener on another temporary street course two weeks ago in Brazil in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske entry, and had topped every practice session time chart this weekend. He set the track qualifying record in the second round of qualifications at 1:01.4816 (the record had been 1:01.6839 in 2007 by Helio Castroneves).

The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg starts at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday. The 100-lap race will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network.

Tony Kanaan, who also participated in the Firestone Fast Six in Brazil, will join Power on the front row for the 100-lap race. He posted a quick lap of 1:01.8797 in the Team 7-Eleven car for Andretti Autosport.

Scott Dixon (1:02.0820), making his series-record 34th consecutive top-10 start, and Justin Wilson (1:02.1992) will share Row 2, while Castroneves (1:02.2118; a two-time St. Pete winner) and Marco Andretti (1:02.3461) will occupy Row 3.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished second to Ryan Briscoe in the '09 race, missed advancing to the Firestone Fast Six by .0014 of a second and will start seventh in the No. 37 IZOD car for Andretti Autosport. He'll be joined on the fourth row by FAZZT Race Team driver Alex Tagliani. KV Racing Technology's E.J. Viso and Mike Conway of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will start on Row 5.

Dario Franchitti failed to qualify for the Firestone Fast Six for the first time when he was knocked out in the first round. Franchitti, the reigning series champion, started from the pole for the season opener March 14 in Brazil and was the only driver to participate in all seven Firestone Fast Six sessions in '09. He'll start 13th in the No. 10 Cottonelle car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, his lowest road/street course starting position since 21st in 2005 at Infineon Raceway.

Graham Rahal, competing this weekend for Sarah Fisher Racing in the No. 67 Dollar General car, will start 16th. He won the race in 2008 and was the pole sitter last year.

In Firestone Indy Lights qualifying, James Hinchcliffe earned his first career pole in the series with a top lap of 1:06.3497, 97.664. Rookie J.K. Vernay will join him on the front row after posting a top lap of 1:06.4814, 97.471.

The 45-lap Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for Firestone Indy Lights starts at 12:45 p.m. Sunday.

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HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG NOTEBOOK:

James Davison, who competed in Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in 2008 and 2009, is at St. Petersburg this weekend working as a driver coach for Rodrigo Barbosa in Firestone Indy Lights and Milka Duno in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Davison is recovering from internal injuries suffered in a snowboarding accident in February.

JAMES DAVISON: "I'm just trying to make the best of my off time."

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Alex Lloyd has two young daughters, so he's somewhat familiar with high activity levels.

But a visit to the Great Explorations Children's Museum on Friday night with a group of area Boy Scouts was a totally new experience.

Lloyd, driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car for Dale Coyne Racing, signed autographs and answered numerous questions about the car and being a race car driver.

In January, Dale Coyne Racing and the Boy Scouts of America formed an alliance to promote and help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the BSA. The Boy Scouts of America and Dale Coyne Racing will use the IZOD IndyCar Series as a platform to promote science, technology and math at Indy Racing League race events.

Serving almost 2.8 million young people between the ages of 7 and 20 with more than 290 local councils throughout the United States and its territories, the Boy Scouts of America is the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.

ALEX LLOYD (About trip to Children's Museum): "So fun. So crazy and energetic."

DALE COYNE: "This is a program with true heart - from watching a young boy's first Pinewood Derby to helping him learn and apply the disciplines of science and technology using the excitement of IndyCar."

ROBERT MAZZUCA (Chief Scouting Executive, Boy Scouts of America): "This marks the beginning of an exciting series of planned activities both on and off the track for our nearly 3 million scouts. It's great to see the local councils get involved with this exciting and technologically advanced marketing venture for the Boy Scouts of America."

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Florida National Guard member and Iraqi war veteran Brent Hinson is the National Guard Panther Racing "Hometown Hero" for the race weekend in St. Petersburg.

Hinson, a resident of Titusville, Fla., joined Panther driver Dan Wheldon at the autograph session and signed a specially-made "Hero Card" with his picture and biography on one side and Wheldon's on the other. He also will be honored in the National Guard's hospitality area and recognized on the pre-race stage.

CDT Hinson is an infantryman in the University of South Florida Suncoast Batallion Army ROTC, C Company 53rd Brigade Support Battalion. He was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, in October 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is majoring in biomedical sciences at USF and is scheduled to graduate in August 2010.

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Army Gen. David Petraeus, the Commander of U.S. Central Command and former Commanding General of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, was reunited with wounded Army veteran Brian Brennan at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the inaugural 5K Run, Walk and Wheel-a-thon Friday, March 26 to support spinal cord injury/paralysis research and wounded veterans. More than 1,200 participated in the event, including Brennan and Petraeus.

Petraeus is the grand marshal of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: "I've had a broken pelvis and I've been shot, but none of that compares with what these great young troopers are going through, and the spirit that they display I find absolutely inspirational," he said. "They often thank us for giving them energy; it's the other way around."

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Sage Karam of Andretti Autosport won the pole today for the Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda race with a top lap of 1 minute, 13.384 seconds, 88.303 mph.

The USF2000 series is the entry level of the Road to Indy ladder system to reach the IZOD IndyCar Series. The middle level is the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear; the top level is Firestone Indy Lights.

Karam, 15, from Nazareth, Pa., signed with Andretti Autosport earlier this month as part of the team's driver development program through the Road to Indy.

SAGE KARAM: "We ended up qualifying P1 by seven-tenths of a second. We definitely picked up some speed. It really gives me a strong mental game going in knowing that I'm on the front row, and I really have a good shot at winning the race. I couldn't have done it without the crew; my manager, Michael Fux; Michael Andretti; Comfort Revolution and all of our sponsors. I'm so happy with our results today."

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Conor Daly won the pole today for the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear race with a top lap of 1 minute, 10.352 seconds, 92.108 mph.

The Star Mazda series is the middle level of the Road to Indy ladder system to reach the IZOD IndyCar Series. The entry level is the Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda; the top level is Firestone Indy Lights.

Daly, 18, from Noblesville, Ind., is the son of Indianapolis 500 and Formula One veteran Derek Daly.

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PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is the third career IZOD IndyCar Series pole for Will Power and his first this season. He also won the pole at Long Beach and Edmonton in 2009. Power won at Edmonton and finished second at Long Beach.

* This is the 48th pole position for Team Penske in IZOD IndyCar Series competition, extending its series record.

* This is the second pole at this event for Team Penske. Helio Castroneves won the pole and race in 2007.

* Tony Kanaan qualified second, his best starting spot on a road/street circuit since winning the pole for this event in 2008.

* Dario Franchitti failed to qualify for the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in his IZOD IndyCar Series career. Franchitti won the pole for the season-opening Sao Paulo Indy 300 on March 14, and he was the only driver to appear in all seven Firestone Fast Six sessions in 2009. Franchitti didn't race in the series in 2008, but he earned a spot in the Firestone Fast Six in all five road/street course events in 2007, when the program started.

* Dario Franchitti will start 13th, his lowest road/street course grid position since qualifying 21st in 2005 at Infineon Raceway. This is Franchitti's 200th start in Indy car racing.

* Ryan Briscoe qualified 19th, the lowest starting spot of his IZOD IndyCar Series career on a road/street course.

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PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, pole): "It's a good weekend so far for Verizon Team Penske. We're still at the front, and so I'm very happy. It's been a process. We've been working away at it and go through each session and look after our reds (tires). I came away with pole. We would have been disappointed if we didn't given our pace this weekend."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Cottonelle, 13th): "We had a good run, and the car didn't slow down at all. Briscoe had some problems of his own, and I caught him in Turn 8 and got held up. That was unfortunate. The guys made some great changes to the car, and we were pretty quick after the crash in practice yesterday."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, 19th): "We were the first car to go out on red tires and then we went to blacks, and it was really just bad timing. The track got quite a bit quicker, and we needed to be on reds at the end of the session. It's a bit disappointing as the Team Penske car has been fast all weekend and we have a good car for the race, but we're going to be starting from farther back than we should be. We'll be all right. I have a great crew and the best race strategist there is. We just have to avoid any first-lap accidents, and we should be able to have a solid race."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing, 16th): (How can you improve the car?): "To be honest, I couldn't tell you. We're going to bounce ideas off each other. I've tried to give all the ideas of all the things I remember from years past, and nothing is working. The car reacts so little to every change we make. I've run out of ideas. The problem is there's no grip for me. No matter how hard I push, it's not there. We'll just try to keep working tonight. We're not going to give up. You never know what can happen. But there's a lot of work to be done."

DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, 15th, St. Petersburg resident): "It was a good day out there; it was just very close. The Panther Racing National Guard car is working very well. You know sometimes how it goes. But I think we have a really good race car, and as anybody knows, anything can happen on these street courses. We've got a few things to work on in the warm-up, and I think we'll have a car similar to Sao Paulo. So we're really excited about the race." (About the forecast for rain Sunday): "If it rains, it's the same for everybody. So we have to make sure we're on top of that and make appropriate decisions."

MARIO ROMANCINI (H2GO Ronn Motors, 18th): "We definitely made a big improvement from yesterday. We were much closer to the fastest car and being as quick as we would like. We may not have the best starting position, but we do have the pace. I am very happy with the car setup and am confident that we will run well tomorrow."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic, 12th): "The car was understeering in the morning session, and we made a change to improve it. The car was then very 'pointy' on the entry, and I had turned into the corner as I had been doing before, but the car suddenly turned too much and I brushed the wall in the entry of Turn 9 and made contact with the other wall on exit. It was my mistake. I had been up two-tenths of a second, so, for sure, the Formula Dream/Panasonic car had improved with the change. The guys did a fantastic job to get the backup car ready for qualifying. I thought I wouldn't be able to make it to the session, but at the last second I was getting in the car. The car wasn't perfect, but still I was able to make it to the next stage in qualifying. I feel so bad for the guys because I think I had a car to finish in the top six, but it just didn't work out. I couldn't put everything that had happened out of my mind today for qualifying. I was watching the guys, and they did a fantastic job. But they didn't have time to do everything they wanted to do. They had no time for the alignment and stuff like that and, in the cockpit, the steering wasn't straight. It definitely added some pressure, but I saw the effort the guys were making and knew I had to maximize my effort, as well."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP Luczo Dragon, 23rd): "It was a frustrating qualifying for us. We did improve the car from the morning session but obviously not enough against a really good field. The team is trying really hard to figure out the problem. There is such imbalance with the car, and that has made it very difficult. We will keep working at it. It's a long race, and we'll probably have to gamble a bit on our strategy tomorrow, but we will be there to compete."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, sixth): "Looking at our last couple of years, we are to be pleased to be in the Fast Six. I think we kind of did the right thing the first two rounds, but we made a bit of a setup error in the Fast Six, so unfortunately we weren't able to have a go at the pole. But not a bad effort for the Venom crew. The good thing is I think Andretti Autosport cars are starting to show some pace. We have been working really hard in the offseason on it, so hats off to everyone."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 22 Team Z-Line Designs/DRR, fourth): "The car was really good. I felt happy with the progress we made in the week's session, and I felt we are making progress. It was good. We decided to run on the Firestone tires, with the sidewall, because we were being a bit too hard on our red options, so decided to go in the blacks and thought it was good. Came out ninth, went down to 10:10 on my second lap and the brake pedal went all the way down to the bulkhead. I just didn't have enough brakes there. It just got worse and worse as the run went on. Every trip around was an adventure and in the end, I decided to come in and park the car. I couldn't get the job done. Best to not put it in the wall trying to find one position on the grid. So I'm pretty happy with the way things are going. The whole team at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing is improving, and hopefully we'll have a good day tomorrow."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, fifth): "It's great. It's great to be back. It's great to see the fans, everybody to kind of give you greetings. For me, it's just awesome. This place, first of all, it's a beautiful city, beautiful place. As you can see, the people from here really enjoy having the IZOD IndyCar Series here. So, it's great. It's nice to be back on a groove. My plan here with Mr.Power, he has too much power, and I guess he is breaking his back last year, using a little more power, so might break his legs this time. Certainly he's done a great job. We just want him to obviously continue doing well, but we can't let him get too many points. Otherwise, we're going to be in trouble. Tomorrow is going to be a good race. I think as long as everybody will be OK on the start, I tried that conversation with Takuma Sato, and it didn't work, so please, here, let's make sure - (laughter). It was great, it's tough out there, the guys are really pushing as hard as they can to make the top six, and for me, it's just much better. Hopefully we collect more points than the Brazil race and keep moving forward."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, second): "It feels good. I haven't started in a while, actually, on the front row. I think we did a great job. We took a gamble on the tires. We went out on the blacks in the Fast Six, and it paid off. I think once I realized that we are quite a bit away from where ---- we might as well just see what we can do and take a gamble. It's nice to have Michael Andretti there because I was keen to start on the reds, and he said, 'No, no, going to the blacks.' And we can't say no to the boss. So I said, 'All right, the blacks.' It's a whole different atmosphere on the 11 team right now. I am enjoying it. Hopefully no one had hits me from behind like in Brazil, and we will be able to have a good race tomorrow."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, eighth): "I think the team did a fantastic job. We are trying to get ourselves in the window so we can roll the car out of the truck and be where we want to be, and that is tough without a bunch of data. So despite our start yesterday, we were able to make up that ground between yesterday and today, so that was good. In Round One, we were P2 and looking good and then made some changes for Round 2, and it seems like we hurt the car a little bit and we were about a 1/10th off of where we thought we should be, and that hurt us a bit and kept us out of the Firestone Fast Six. A little bit disappointing but a great job for the team. But again, we are in the top 10 for the second week in a row. Now we are thinking about the race, and it's going to be tough tomorrow and require us to make the right choice on the tire compound for the start of the race and making sure we don't get caught in a full-course yellow. We need to have a good strategy for tomorrow and hope to be right in there at the end."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, third): "I think the team did a good job. We had a seventh--place car and worked on it and generally got better. I like to think I generally race better than qualifying, because qualifying has been pretty bad the last few years on street courses. Looking forward to the race. I think weather is going to be an issue, too, so might stir it up a little bit like Brazil, but definitely looking forward to it. Should be a fun race. I think everybody had a bit of a problem at start in Brazil. Everybody got hit, maybe, but that made it interesting."

E.J. VISO (No. 8 PDVSA-Jet Aviation-KVRT, ninth): "The qualifying session for the PDVSA-KV Racing Technology team didn't go as well as we had shown in practice this morning. However, we are in the top-10 and the race is long, so I think with a good strategy and car we will have a good race tomorrow."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 Lotus-KV Racing Technology, 11th): "It was an eventful day for the Lotus-KV Racing team. I wasn't particularly happy with the balance of the car in the morning practice session, and I hit the curb. In qualifying, I was reasonably happy with the balance and was able to put the lap times together to move into the second round. However, in the second session I got a wheel-related mechanical problem, which caused the wheel to come loose. After that, we ran out of time to make to make the best use of the session. I was unable to put competitive lap times together with the little time I had left. We will work hard tonight and be ready for warm-up tomorrow, and I still think that we will have a good race."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com, 21st): "It's really amazing how close the starting grid is. My lap time isn't too far off, but I'm starting in the back of the field. The GoDaddy car is stronger than the times show, so hopefully we have a result that shows just that."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, seventh): "We're disappointed with seventh, and that means the IZOD team has a pretty strong effort going. We missed out on making the Firestone Fast Six by just thousandths of a second and missed being in the top three by half-a-tenth. It's just ridiculously close, and that's the way I felt it would be. We'll go out and do what we did in Brazil. We'll do a good solid race, the guys will do great stops and we'll work our way to the front. The Andretti cars are obviously strong; Marco and Tony are right up there with us, and that is good to see."

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is the first career Firestone Indy Lights pole for James Hinchcliffe. His previous best starting position was second in 2009 at Mid-Ohio.

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS QUALIFYING QUOTES:

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 2 TMR - Xtreme Coil Drilling, pole): "Pole is a fantastic place to start, and it's such a great way to start the season. Huge thanks to all the Team Moore guys. Our deal came together really late, but we were able to put together a great group of people. All their hard work paid off. Hopefully we can keep the car underneath us for 45 laps. Just a great way to start. I'm really, really pleased."

J.K. VERNAY (No. 7 Lucas Slick Mist/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, second): "Being on the first row is a good thing, but I really wanted to be on the pole because it is an advantage for the first corner here. It's not bad. We have the performance, and the car is really fast. We worked really well with my engineer (Tim Neff). I know I don't have to take too much risk because I need to score points for the championship, but we will see what happens tomorrow. I'm happy, but it would have been nice to win the pole for my first race."

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 29 Bryan Herta Autosport, third): "It was a very interesting qualifying session. I had an incredible car coming out of the second practice session, but with the temperature, the track was really slippery. We had to make some changes to compensate, but we were right there. A lot of people were nervous for those last 10 minutes. There was a very critical three minutes to go, and I was trying to save to try to do my best, but a yellow flag didn't let me. I think third place is good. I am going to try to keep it safe for the first corner and go for it in the race."

STEFAN WILSON (No. 28 Bryan Herta Autosport, 14th): "I had quite a bit of understeer in the first half of the session. We came in and made a good change, and the car felt really good. We made it up into the top five on old tires, and I was feeling really confident for when we put new tires on that we were going to get right up there. I just tried pushing a bit too hard on these old tires. I went into Turn 8 and went for the downshift, and I might have had a gearbox problem because I couldn't get down the gears. I went down to second gear very late on, and it just took the rear of the car out and then it sent me into a spin and into the wall. It is very disappointing for the whole team. I think we were quick enough to be in the top three. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow, but I think we will have a good race car. I had a similar thing last year, so I am used to passing on this circuit. Hopefully, I will be able to make this up in the race."

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SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):

7 a.m. Garages open

8:55-9:15 a.m. Firestone Indy Lights warm-up

9:30-10 a.m. IZOD IndyCar Series warm-up

12:45 p.m. Start, Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Firestone Indy Lights race (45 laps)

2:45 p.m. Pre-race ceremonies begin, Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IZOD IndyCar Series race

3:45 p.m. Start, Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IZOD IndyCar Series race (100 laps, live on ABC, IMS Radio Network)

-source: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Justin Wilson , Sarah Fisher , Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , Alex Tagliani , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Graham Rahal , Sam Schmidt , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Derek Daly , Chip Ganassi , Alex Lloyd , Mike Conway , Will Power , James Davison , James Hinchcliffe , Dale Coyne , Conor Daly , Rodrigo Barbosa , Sage Karam
Teams Andretti Autosport , Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Bryan Herta Autosport , KV Racing Technology , FAZZT Race Team , Dale Coyne Racing