By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Felix Rosenqvist’s debut NTT IndyCar Series race weekend has gone about as well as could be expected for the Swede. After leading one of the Friday practice sessions, the two-time Macau Grand Prix winner ended up qualifying third for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Rosenqvist’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda advanced out of a chaotic group one that was marred with two red flags. In the second round of qualifying, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver qualified seventh and seemingly failed to advance to the final round of knockout qualifying.
That was until Colton Herta was penalized for impeding Charlie Kimball. Herta was trying to let the Carlin driver through but was on the racing line heading to Turn 10 and the Harding-Steinbrenner Racing rookie was judged to have impeded Kimball. Out goes Herta, in goes Rosenqvist to the Firestone Fast Six.
After setting a best lap of 1 minute, 0.6884 seconds around the 1.8 mile street circuit, Rosenqvist slotted into third place in the Fast Six behind polesitter Will Power and second place qualifier Josef Newgarden. This was Power’s 55th pole, placing him 12 behind all-time leader Mario Andretti. However, much of the attention went to the 2016 Indy Lights winner at St. Petersburg.
“Someone got knocked down, there was some kind of penalty and luckily we came into the Firestone Fast Six,” said Rosenqvist. “Then I actually pulled together a really good lap, probably the best lap I’ve done all weekend, so it felt like we performed when we needed to. Fantastic to be top three already and be next to Scott [Dixon] on the grid.
“I think we have some things to work on but the potential of the car seems really good. Yeah, just really good fun being up here. I don’t know about the race, it’s just about forgetting everything we’ve done so far this weekend and just put that in the history books and aim for the race, see what we can do there.”
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg starts at 1:30 pm Sunday and will be broadcast on NBCSN. The broadcast starts at 12:30.