For the fourth year, Penske’s Will Power earned the pole on the street circuit in St. Pete. The surprise was Japanese racer Takuma Sato taking the second grid slot for AJ Foyt Racing.
St. Petersburg, Fla. – Will Power copped his fourth consecutive IndyCar Series pole at St. Petersburg, doing so on a humid Saturday afternoon and proving he’s one of the toughest street fighters in the business. The quiet-spoken Australian smoothly navigated the 1.8-mile street course in a time of 1:01.2070 or a speed of 105.870 miles per hour to claim his 30th career IndyCar Series pole position.
Qualifications were held to determine the starting positions for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the opening event of the IZOD IndyCar Series season. The 110-lap race will be telecast at noon ET by the NBC Sports Network.
He was driving the Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, and for the smooth run, he took home the first Verizon P1 Award along with the $10,000 that went with it. Power’s pole moved him into eighth place in all-time IndyCar poles, moving ahead of Dario Franchitti.
“It is the first race of the season, and it is good to get the pole,” Power said without emotion. “It is a street course, and I really enjoy the track. I thought it was going to be very tight. It’s very tight on new tires, but we made a few changes for the last run, and it was good to see some new people up there.”
Takuma Sato, making his debut with the ABC Supply A. J. Foyt Racing Honda, drove superbly to gain the outside front-row starting position. His speed was 105.233 mph.
“Between Will (Power) and I, it’s getting close for us this weekend, but unfortunately we didn’t get the fastest (time),” he said. “I am really glad for the team. They really worked hard over the course of the winter testing, and I’ve done the preparation as much as I could. I think we made good improvement (during practice), and I’m really happy to show the improvement over the course of qualifying.”
Simona de Silvestro continued her rapid progress with her new team, the KV Racing Technology Chevrolet-powered team, to qualify third at 104.910 mph.
Said the smiling de Silvestro, “It’s awesome. The whole weekend has been going really well for us, and it’s really cool to finally get the results we wanted. It’s unbelievable. We were right up there with Will (Power) and (Takuma) Sato, who are usually always up there, and it’s fun to be there with them.”
Starting alongside the Swiss driver in row two is James Hinchcliffe in the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. His speed was 104.816 mph.
Three-time winner Helio Castroneves earned the fifth starting position ahead of rookie sensation Tristan Vautier. The young French driver raced to victory here a year ago in the Firestone Indy Lights Series race.
Marco Andretti timed seventh with IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay eighth. Sebastian Saavedra and Franchitti rounded out the top-10 qualifiers.
Chevrolet-powered cars dominated qualifications, gaining seven of the top-10 starting spots.
Scott Dixon, who finished second a year ago, was off the pace, qualifying 20th. “We have just been a bit behind in getting the Target cars up to speed here this weekend for some reason. We have another day to work on it and will definitely be working on solutions before the morning warm-up tomorrow.”