In a rare mood of deja vu, Will Power topped the qualifying charts for the Verizon IndyCar Series Season opener at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. A year after crashing in practice only to claim pole position, Power put the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet on top with a time of 1:01.0640 after crashing in the first practice session of the weekend.
“It takes obviously a very good team and kind of getting through that first round there,” said Power. “Taking the risk on just doing one lap was good for me, definitely had a bit more meat on the tires in the last round there. We worked on the car too. Made a bit of a wrong setup change there for the last round, and kind of just made it, and went back and did something else.“
It’s the 45th career pole for the Australian driver, seventh at St. Petersburg. He’s won here twice before, but last year Power missed the race after falling ill.
Just 0.1579s back was the leading Honda of Scott Dixon. Chip Ganassi Racing’s switch to Honda power for the 2017 season seemed like a smart choice, with Dixon dominating all three practice sessions leading up to qualifying. Reflecting the opinion of many in the paddock, Dixon was wary of practice times warning that Chevrolet could turn the wick up for qualifying and the race.
James Hinchcliffe completed the top three in his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, his best qualifying session at the 1.8 mile, 14 turn street circuit. Josef Newgarden qualified fourth in his new Team Penske ride.
Completing the top five was Takuma Sato in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. Despite an incident earlier in the weekend, Sato looks to make a good debut impression after moving from AJ Foyt Racing in the off season.
Only two significant accidents interrupted qualifying for Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The two will start 21 and 12, respectively.
Reigning IndyCar Series Champion, Simon Pagenaud, was not able to advanced to the second round of qualifying.
“Well, we’re certainly disappointed, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to pack up and go home,” said Pagenaud. “We have our work cut out for us, but once the race starts, all sorts of things can happen.”
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is scheduled to air tomorrow on ABC starting at noon eastern. Track action picks up at 9:00 AM for a short, 30 minute warmup.
Featured Image: IndyCar, Joe Skibinski