ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Will Power continued his amazing dominance of qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Saturday. The Team Penske driver won the NTT P1 Award for the eighth time in 10 years and will lead the field to the green flag for the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series opener.
Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Power sped around the 1.8-mle, 14-turn temporary street course in 1 minute, 0.4594 of a second (107.179 mph) late in the Firestone Fast Six, the last of three rounds of knockout qualifying. It earned Power the 55th pole position of his Indy car career, moving him within 12 of tying Mario Andretti for the most all time.
“That last run, the car felt really good,” Power said. “I have to say it was a very neat lap and I didn’t really leave anything on the table.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to be on pole because we had used (Firestone alternate) tires,” he added about the Firestone Fast Six. “We didn’t have new (alternate tires) like a couple of the other guys so, over the moon, man, over the moon to start on pole. I really am happy.”
FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG: Unofficial qualifying results
Team Penske owns the front row for the 110-lap race, with Josef Newgarden qualifying second in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske at 1:00.5570 (107.007 mph). The first three rows of the 24-car grid, in fact, are split among three teams.
Chip Ganassi Racing locked down Row 2, with Felix Rosenqvist qualifying third in his first NTT IndyCar Series race. The Swede turned a lap of 1:00.6884 in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda. Teammate Scott Dixon, the reigning and five-time series champion, was fourth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda at 1:00.8544.
Andretti Autosport drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi will start in the third row. Hunter-Reay qualified fifth in the No. 28 DHL Honda with a lap of 1:01.0784. Rossi was sixth in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda at 1:01.7739.
The first two rounds of qualifying featured a spate of incidents that shuffled which drivers advanced to succeeding rounds. Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing initially advanced from his group in the first round but was penalized for causing a local yellow flag that impeded the qualifying effort of another car. That prevented Sato from advancing to the second round and allowed Dixon to move on instead.
Rookie Colton Herta of Harding Steinbrenner Racing was third fastest in Round 2 but was penalized for qualifying interference by stewards, forfeited his two best laps by rule and was prevented from advancing. That allowed Rossi, who was seventh quick in the second round, to move up a spot and go on to the Firestone Fast Six.
Sunday’s NTT IndyCar Series schedule calls for a 30-minute warmup practice starting at 9:20 a.m. ET and streaming live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. Live race coverage takes place on NBCSN (12:30 p.m.) and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.