Will Power continued his mastery of qualifying at St. Petersburg, as he won the pole for the seventh time in the last eight years for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the opening race to the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series.
Driving the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet, Power navigated the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course in 1 minute, 1.0640 seconds (106.118 mph) on his final lap in the climactic Firestone Fast Six – the third and final round of knockout qualifying. The 2014 series champion’s lap was 0.1579 of a second better than Scott Dixon.
“I saved a good set of tires for the end there,” said Power, a two-time St. Pete race winner (2010 and ’14). “They had one (fast) lap on them.
“That was everything I had at the end. I gave it all I had because I knew it was going to be close. I haven’t put that much energy into a lap for a while. I’m really happy.”
Twenty-one cars are slated to take the green flag in Sunday’s 110-lap race on the course that utilizes streets of downtown St. Petersburg and a runway of Albert Whitted Airport. Power is the last driver to win from the top starting spot – the first year he captured a pole at the track in 2010.
Dixon dominated practice in advance of qualifying and was the only driver to log laps under the 1:01 mark in each of the first two segments of qualifying. The 17-year Indy car veteran has finished second three times at St. Petersburg but never won in 12 previous starts.
“Honestly, I think the team and Honda did the job, I just did not,” Dixon said. “I made a pretty big mistake on my first lap, which definitely disappointed. … Hopefully tomorrow I can redeem myself.”
James Hinchcliffe, the 2013 race winner, qualified third (1:01.3039), the best starting spot for the Canadian in what will be his sixth St. Petersburg start. Josef Newgarden will start fourth (1:01.7229, 104.985 mph), also his best St. Pete qualifying effort.
The past four Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race winners have qualified in the fourth position, though 2016 winner Juan Pablo Montoya started third after pole sitter Power fell ill and didn’t start the race. Power’s replacement, Oriol Servia, was moved to the rear of the 2016 starting grid.
One on-track incident occurred in qualifying. Sebastien Bourdais locked his brakes heading into turn 13 on his first lap in the first segment and slid into the barrier to bring out a red flag. Under new INDYCAR qualifying regulations, any driver causing a red flag is not permitted to continue in the session and barred from advancing to the next segment. Bourdais will be at the tail of the 21-car grid.
A final 30-minute warmup practice at 9 a.m. ET Sunday precedes the race. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the first of 17 races on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.
Verizon IndyCar Series
St. Petersburg Street Circuit – St. Petersburg, FL
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – March 11, 2017
Saturday’s Qualifying Results
1. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:01.0640 (106.118)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:01.2219 (105.844)
3. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:01.3039 (105.703)
4. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:01.7229 (104.985)
5. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:01.9851 (104.541)
6. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:02.0824 (104.377)
7. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:01.3516 (105.621)
8. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:01.5198 (105.332)
9. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:01.6066 (105.184)
10. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:01.6181 (105.164)
11. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:01.7399 (104.956)
12. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:03.1588 (102.599)
13. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:01.5898 (105.212)
14. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:01.6129 (105.173)
15. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:01.6070 (105.183)
16. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:01.7159 (104.997)
17. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:01.7674 (104.910)
18. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:01.7598 (104.923)
19. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:01.8465 (104.776)
20. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:02.2030 (104.175)
21. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, No Time (No Speed)