American racer Kyle Kaiser took pole position for the season-opening Indy Lights race at St. Pete, denying practice pacesetter Felix Rosenqvist.
Kaiser, who drives for the Juncos team that took Spencer Pigot to last year's title, was less than a tenth up on Rosenqvist when the session ended early due to a red flag.
"We spent a lot of time doing long runs yesterday, and we really hit the nail on the head, it was the perfect setup," Kaiser said after the pole run. "It came together really well. It’s a shame it went red at the end there.
“I’ve learned from Spencer from last year, so playing it smart is the way to take this championship."
Early on, Schmidt Peterson rookies Santiago Urrutia and Andre Negrao were the first two drivers to dip into the 1m16s, surpassing the practice benchmark set by Rosenqvist.
However, times continued to trickle down rapidly and, at the halfway point, Rosenqvist was back into the top spot, narrowly heading his Belardi teammate Zach Veach.
A couple of minutes later it was Kaiser's turn to shine, the American establishing a gap of four tenths out front with a 1m05.829s.
With three minutes to go, Rosenqvist moved to within four hundredths of the American - but he would not get another shot at debut pole, with the red flag coming out almost immediately.
The cause was fellow newcomer Dean Stoneman, who was sitting 13th when he went into the tire barrier
As such, the session was called, with Kaiser handed his first pole in Lights. Rosenqvist took second ahead of Veach and Shelby Blackstock, who severely damaged his front wing after setting his best time.
"It’s very bumpy compared to Macau or Pau, strange things always happen on street circuits," said reigning European F3 champion Rosenqvist.
"I think we’ve done a really good job so far, I’m not going to get too excited yet."
Scott Hargrove was fifth, ahead of top Schmidt Peterson driver RC Enerson, Carlin's Felix Serralles, Negrao, Urrutia and Kaiser's teammate Zach Claman DeMelo.
Ed Jones, who won both races at St. Pete last year, was only 12th.
|1||Kyle Kaiser||Juncos Racing||1:05.873|
|2||Felix Rosenqvist||Belardi Auto Racing||1:05.919|
|3||Zach Veach||Belardi Auto Racing||1:06.281|
|4||Shelby Blackstock||Andretti Autosport||1:06.297|
|5||Scott Hargrove||Team Pelfrey||1:06.445|
|6||RC Enerson||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||1:06.462|
|8||Andre Negrao||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||1:06.468|
|9||Santiago Urrutia||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||1:06.506|
|10||Zach Claman DeMelo||Juncos Racing||1:06.529|
|11||Juan Piedrahita||Team Pelfrey||1:06.650|
|13||Dean Stoneman||Andretti Autosport||1:06.908|
|14||Dalton Kellett||Andretti Autosport||1:07.153|
|15||Scott Anderson||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||1:07.153|