By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Qualifying is crucial for an IndyCar driver’s chances of delivering an outstanding result. More so in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as indicated by outside pole sitter Jack Harvey.
Clocking in at 01:00.5709, Harvey wasn’t able to capture that elusive NTT P1 Pole Award during Saturday’s qualifying. Instead, it was his pseudo-teammate Colton Herta (01:00.3210) who went 0.2499 seconds quicker in the Firestone Fast Six.
Nonetheless, Harvey was thrilled about starting on the front row for the third time of his career.
“I think we made some good changes overnight. We had a really good practice two. From what the guys said, we looked good on blacks, looked good on reds,” said the British racer.
“Obviously didn’t quite have enough to challenge for pole. I thought we did there for a little bit, but then they said Colton had done a 3. At that point I knew we already peaked.
“I actually thought the 5 in Q3 was a really good time. Just kind of catching the tail end of Colton’s comments, I was actually surprised how close the Q3 time was to the best that anyone saw on new reds. It will be interesting overnight.”
The Meyer Shank Racing veteran commented his red compound tires continued playing a vital role on his strong qualifying runs. With more grip, Harvey tried extracting it at its maximum capability.
However, a large part of the credit went to his No. 60 crew and their alliance with Andretti Autosport.
“I think we’ve got a really good car. I think Colton mentioned earlier in Barber it was a bit more difficult than it was this weekend. But it’s extremely competitive, really tight on time,” said Harvey. “I think normally we hit our theoretical lap pretty well. I think that helps. After that, it’s a team effort. The car has always been very good. I trust my engineer a lot to give us a good car.
“Got great teammates who are going to do well. After every session, even if you’re the quickest guy, you’re the second quickest guy, there’s still a lot to look at and learn from. Just being in a great environment really is what helps to be good in qualifying,” Harvey concluded.
Last year, Harvey got two runner-up starting spots and only qualified outside the top-10 three times. The question now becomes can he capitalize on race day?
The 1.8-mile street course tend to be a difficult venue for passing, thus how a driver races will vary. The closer to the front, the outcome favors them. Further back, competitors must pull all bells and whistles to move forward.
With Sunday’s race being 100 laps long, Harvey knows strategy will be critical on how the race will pan out. By having a strong starting position, it could lead to a two-stop strategy. Even with that plan, there’s much more that goes into a race where the odds of getting a maiden win is probable.
“I think having the clear track, we hope just to stretch our legs, try and hit a good fuel number, undercut by a lap, overcut by a lap,” Harvey stated.
“The further you get up to the front, it’s harder to make those moves, especially when it’s your teammate because you know what strategy they’re going to be on as well.
“It never hurts to be starting at the front,” Harvey added. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens to the tires. Restarts last year were typically difficult. I think the first one was fine. When they were consecutive like they were for that stint, it made it pretty tricky.
“I think we just want to have a smart, sensible race, get the season carrying on in this good way that we’ve found.”
Live coverage of Round 2 of 17 commences at Noon ET on NBC. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 12:42 pm ET.