By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter & NASCAR Contributor
Will Power claimed his sixth pole at the Streets of St. Petersburg in the waning seconds of the Firestone Fast Six Session while Team Penske swept the top four spots for the second year in a row, and with a stomach flu no less.
Power first broke his own track record in Q1 with a lap of 1:00.5768 and come the second session he made an astonishing lap of 1:00.0658, nearly a half second quicker his track record set a year ago and .1660s quicker than his closest rival, Scott Dixon.
Joining him in the Firestone Fast Six were his Team Penske teammates Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castronves with Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay in tow. The session began with Castroneves being the only driver to take a lap while the rest of the field waited until the final two minutes to go out.
Pagnenaud was the first driver to answer the bell and set a lap of 1:00.4421 with just under a minute remaining. Power then responded with a lap of 1:00.2450 to snatch the pole from his teammate by just .1971s.
“What a great run today for the Verizon Chevy team. It’s an awesome feeling to be able to put the new look Verizon car on pole again here at St. Pete. Unfortunately, I’ve been feeling pretty ill all day. It was a struggle to get through qualifying, honestly, but we were able to do it and after the Verizon P1 Pole Award presentation I just felt worse.
“The car was great today and a big credit to the guys for doing a terrific job in qualifying. I’ll try to get some good rest tonight and come back ready to race on Sunday.”
Pagenaud would have to settle for second while Castroneves and Montoya fill out the second row, the same positions that they started last year. Dixon and Hunter-Reay would have to settle for fifth and sixth.
Graham Rahal and Sebastien Bourdais complete the fourth row while James Hinchcliffe will line up in ninth place in his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series after his horrendous crash at Indianapolis a year ago. AJ Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth were unable to replicate their quick performance in practice but still managed to qualify in 10th and 11th respectively.
Other than Dixon, Chip Ganasssi Racing struggled for speed as none of their drivers advanced from Q1 with Charlie Kimball ending up 13th, leading rookie Max Chilton in 17th and Tony Kanaan in 20th.
The drivers of Andretti Autosport also struggled with the exception of Hunter-Reay as Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz and rookie Alexander Rossi did not advance out of Q1. Rossi will line up in 19th place while fellow rookies Conor Daly and Spencer Pigot didn’t fare much better as they will start in 21st and 22nd. Pigot led the early portion of Q1, but burned up a set of Firestone Reds and fell down the order.
Image: Josh Chin/Tribute Racing