Will Power continued his strong start to the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg weekend by claiming the PEAK Pole Award on the 1.8-mile street course alongside scenic Tampa Bay.
The Australian, having gone fastest on the opening day, posted a best lap of 1min 01.6026secs in the final phase of the Firestone Fast Six qualifying session to claim the third pole position of his short IndyCar Series career. Previous top spots have led to victory in Edmonton and second place in Long Beach, and Power has already shown his prowess on street circuits this year by winning the season-opener in Sao Paulo two weeks ago. Power has topped every practice session this weekend, and set the track qualifying record for St Petersburg in the second round of qualifications at 1min 01.4816secs.
"It's a good weekend so far for Verizon Team Penske," the Australian admitted, "We're still at the front, so I'm very happy. It's been a process. We've been working away at it and go through each session and look after our 'reds'. I came away with pole, and we would have been disappointed if we didn't given our pace this weekend."
Tony Kanaan, who also participated in the Firestone Fast Six in Brazil, will join Power on the front row for the 100-lap race after posting a lap of 1min 01.8797secs in Andretti Autosport's Team 7-Eleven car. It was the Brazilian's best starting spot on a road/street circuit since winning the pole for the St Pete event in 2008.
"It feels good," he admitted, "I haven't started on the front row in a while, so I think we did a great job. We took a gamble on the tyres, and went out on the blacks in the Fast Six, but it paid off. It's nice to have Michael Andretti there because I was keen to start on the reds, and he said 'no, no, we're going to the blacks', and we can't say 'no' to the boss. It's a whole different atmosphere on the #11 team right now. I am enjoying it. Hopefully, no-one had hits me from behind like in Brazil, and we will be able to have a good race tomorrow."
Scott Dixon will make a series-record 34th consecutive top ten start from third spot, while Justin Wilson will line up alongside the Kiwi in the best of the Dreyer & Reinbold entries.
"I think the team did a good job, as we had a seventh‑place car and worked on it," Dixon commented, "It generally got better, and I like to think I generally race better than qualifying, because qualifying has been pretty bad the last few years on street courses. I'm looking forward to the race, but I think weather is going to be an issue, so it might stir it up a little bit like Brazil."
Wilson reported that his #22 car felt 'really good', and that he was 'happy with the progress we made in the week's session', but felt that he could have been higher up the grid had it not been for a problem he really didn't want to have on a tight street course.
"We decided to run on the black tyres, because we were being a bit too hard on our red options," the Briton revealed, "I came out ninth, went down to 10:10 on my second lap - and the brake pedal went all the way down to the bulkhead! I just didn't have enough brakes there, and it just got worse and worse as the run went on. Every trip around was an adventure and, in the end, I decided to come in and park the car. I couldn't get the job done and thought it best to not put it in the wall trying to find one position on the grid."