By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Scoring seven poles at one venue is one thing. Doing so in the span of eight years is quite another. Such was at the accomplishment of Team Penske’s Will Power as he sped his No. 12 Verizon Wireless Chevrolet around the streets of St. Petersburg ahead of Sunday’s season opener for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series.
Power’s pole-winning lap of 1 minute, 01.0640 seconds (106.118 mph) was enough to secure him his 45th career pole ahead of fellow front row starter Scott Dixon in his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing GE LED Lighting Honda.
The first round of qualifying had several surprises that led to the grid lineup. In the second group of round one, Sebastien Bourdais had an incident before having a chance to set a fast lap and will start 21st and last on the field in his No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
Eliminated in group two as well were the Team Penske duo of Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves. Pagenaud’s No. 1 PPG Automotive Finishes Chevrolet will start 14th while the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet will be in 16th.
Moving to the second round of qualifying, some very competitive names were eliminated from competing in the Firestone Fast Six. The Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball were among those not making the final six shootout as they qualified seventh and ninth.
Another Honda team duo was also eliminated in the second group as Andretti Autosport had two cars eliminated as well. Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay will start eighth and 12th, respectively.
After strong runs in practice, Marco Andretti suffered from oversteer and ended the session 15th.
The Firestone Fast Six was made up of two Chevrolets and four Hondas.
Tony Kanaan’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda qualified sixth for Chip Ganassi Racing. Fifth was the best Andretti Autosport Honda with Takuma Sato in his No. 26 machine.
Team Penske’s second fastest driver was in fourth as ‘the new guy’ Josef Newgarden pushed his No. 2 Verizon Wireless Chevrolet to a 1:01.7229. Third was Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’s James Hinchcliffe in his No. 5 ARROW Electronics Honda.
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – Qualifying results
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is set for Sunday, with coverage on ABC or the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network at noon ET Sunday for live coverage.