Team Penske has clean swept the top four positions in the Firestone Fast Six, led by Verizon P1 winner and Toowoomba-born Will Power during qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg on Sunday.
The reigning champion set a lap-time of 1:00.693 in the final ten-minute session on the 1.8 mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit in the series’ debut of the new radically aerodynamic aero kits supplied by Chevrolet and Honda.
In the first two rounds of qualifying, Power set and reset the track record previously held by Sébastien Bourdais (1:00.928) in the inaugural 2003 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg which was a Champ Car race. Power lowered the standard to 1:00.834 in the first session and went a step better in the second with a 1:00.650.
It was the 37th career pole for Power – who now sits sixth on the all-time list of pole-winners – who previously was the top qualifier at St Petersburg in 2010-13.
Debuting for Team Penske, Simon Pagenaud was 0.321 seconds behind Power to qualify second-fastest. Hélio Castroneves, the only three-time winner at at the Florida circuit, qualified third with a 1:00.835 and Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth with a 1:00.853.
“It was tight, full credit to the team, I’m stoked to get pole,” said Power, who won from pole in 2010 and from fourth in his 2014 championship-winning season.
“It just shows the work we’ve done over the winter. It’s four good drivers that will battle it out. Team Penske has definitely made ground over the winter over the other teams. I think it’s going to be an interesting four-way battle amongst the team and [Chip Ganassi’s] Scott Dixon is right in there as well. I expect those five to be championship contenders.”
Takuma Sato, who earned the Verizon P1 Award last season, clocked a lap time of 1:01.149 in his #14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing entry to be the quickest of the Honda contingent in fifth place. Bourdais qualified sixth with a 1:01.154 in the #12 Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet.
GP2 graduate Stefano Coletti qualified 17th in his #4 KV Racing Technology entry and was the top rookie in his debut qualifying session in the series.
Image via Motorsport.com
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