St. Pete: Series qualifying report

KANAAN WINS PEAK MOTOR OIL POLE FOR HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG ST. PETERSBURG, FLA., Saturday, April 5, 2008 - Tony Kanaan will start from the pole for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after surviving a three-round knockout...

KANAAN WINS PEAK MOTOR OIL POLE FOR HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA., Saturday, April 5, 2008 - Tony Kanaan will start from the pole for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after surviving a three-round knockout qualifying session.

Kanaan, driving the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven entry for Andretti Green Racing, saved his best for last in the new qualifying format for road and street courses that was introduced for the first time.

In Segment One, Kanaan was the second-fastest of his group, advancing with 12 drivers to Segment Two. In that second session, Kanaan once again came in second-fastest to advance to the 10-minute Firestone Fast Six shootout. Halfway through the 15-minute session, Kanaan recorded his fastest lap of the day, 1 minute, 2.5322 seconds, 103.627 mph, around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit to claim the ninth PEAK Motor Oil Pole of his IndyCar Series career.

"It was tough," said Kanaan, who is one of two drivers to advance to the Firestone Fast Six in all 11 road/street races in IndyCar Series history. "I think the IndyCar Series is so competitive now that you have to give everything. When I finished the qualifying run, I was exhausted. With more good drivers, it makes it a lot more difficult. It makes me proud. If you look at my suit, I'm all wet. I had to sweat to get this one done."

KV Racing Technology's Will Power will start alongside Kanaan in Row 1. His best lap was 103.499 mph.

Justin Wilson and two-time race winner Helio Castroneves will start in Row 2 while Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay will start in Row 3.

***

Groups for today's IndyCar Series practice session were determined by a random draw yesterday afternoon. Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations, drew chips out of two bags. One chip contained a car number while the other chip was either red or blue, determining whether the selected car is in Group 1 or Group 2.

The randomly assigned groups will take effect for Saturday morning's practice session as well as Segment One of the new qualifying procedure that will be introduced this weekend. In Segment One, the fastest six cars from each group will advance to Segment Two. After Segment Two, the fastest six cars will advance to the Firestone Fast Six Shootout in an attempt to win the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award.

***

INDYCAR SERIES POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:

* Tony Kanaan wins his ninth career IndyCar Series pole. His previous best start at St. Petersburg was third in 2005 and 2006.

* Kanaan will make his 19th consecutive top-10 start.

* This is the 20th IndyCar Series pole for Andretti Green Racing.

* Will Power will start second. He won six poles in Champ Car competition. All six of his poles came on street courses.

* Three cars from each group advanced to the Firestone Fast Six.

* Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves are the only drivers to participate in all 11 Firestone Fast Six sessions in IndyCar Series history.

* Scott Dixon's streak of 25 consecutive top-10 starts has been snapped. This was also the first time in 11 races that Dixon did not qualify for the Firestone Fast Six.

***

INDYCAR SERIES POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, qualified first): "It was tough. I think the IndyCar Series is so competitive now that you have to give everything. When I finished the qualifying run, I was exhausted. With more good drivers, it makes it a lot more difficult. It makes me proud. If you look at my suit, I'm all wet. I had to sweat to get this one done."

WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyard-Team Australia, qualified second): "I wanted to get into the Firestone Fast Six, which we did. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get the pole considering the lap time we posted in the previous session. I'm very happy to be on the front row. It's very good for Aussie Vineyards and KV Racing Technologies. Most importantly, it's a payback to the team. They've been working so hard over the last month - working long hours and they haven't been seeing their families - so I 'm very happy for them."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team, qualified third): "This weekend has just been great from start to finish. I'm glad to have made it through to the Firestone Fast Six, and I'm pretty pleased with third. Would like to have gone a tenth (of a second) quicker and got the pole position but that's racing, and Tony (Kanaan) obviously put a good lap in. I think generally we're just very pleased with the way the McDonald's car is handling, and hopefully we keep it up in the race tomorrow."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, qualified fourth): "Obviously, I went as hard as anyone out there. The field and the qualifying format were very competitive. Team Penske was able to get into the Firestone Fast Six. It was fast and difficult qualifying session and an interesting format for the fans."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, qualified fifth): "It was hard work with a long qualifying session and a lot of laps. I was happy with the Team Penske car at the beginning of qualifying, and then it went away from me when the track got hotter. I think we should have been a bit better than where we qualified, but I'm happy to get into the Firestone Fast Six on my first try with Team Penske. I think we have a good car for tomorrow's race."

***

The 30 team owners in the IndyCar Series will be honored with the "Legends of Racing" Award from the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg during tomorrow's pre-race ceremonies. The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has presented the award the past two years to legends within the sport of IndyCar racing.

In 2006, Tony George received the award. Last year, the award was bestowed upon A.J. Foyt in honor of his 50th year in open-wheel racing.

This year's award goes to all IndyCar Series owners in recognition of a unified IndyCar Series. Florida Governor Charlie Crist, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and Tim Ramsberger, general manager and vice president of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, will present the team owners with keys to the city.

***

Panther Racing's No. 4 car, driven by Vitor Meira, will have a decal of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Patch on the nose of the car. The 53rd Infantry Brigade is the largest National Guard unit in the state of Florida with a total of 32 units from Pensacola to Homestead.

The Brigade was selected as an "Enhanced Readiness Brigade" for its commitment to excellence; one of only 15 National Guard units in America to be recognized as such. The Brigade is undergoing a "Change of Command" Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. when Colonel Richard Gallant will assume command from Brigade General John Perryman, who is retiring after 32 years in the Florida National Guard.

***

SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
8:30-9 a.m. IndyCar Series warm-up
2 p.m. Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg pre-race
2:30 p.m. Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (100 laps/180 miles)

***

The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 6 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be telecast in High Definition live at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 5-6 with a doubleheader weekend at St. Petersburg. The race will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) on April 10 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Tony George , Will Power , A.J. Foyt , Brian Barnhart , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , KV Racing Technology