James Hinchcliffe finally clinched a maiden Firestone Indy Lights pole position after starting from the front row in three races last year when he posted the fastest time in qualifying for the 2010 season-opener in St Petersburg.
The Canadian, debuting with Team Moore Racing after spending 2009 with AFS/Andretti, clocked 1min 06.3497secs in the 60-minute qualifying session to cap a hectic start to the season. He will now be hoping that breaking a run of second-place starts will also lead to a maiden victory after recording a best finish of second at Mid-Ohio in 2009.
“Pole is a fantastic place to start and it's such a great way to start the season,” Hinchcliffe said, “Huge thanks to all the Team Moore guys. Our deal came together really late, but we were able to put together a great group of people. All their hard work paid off. Hopefully, we can keep the car underneath us for 45 laps.”
JK Vernay, making his Firestone Indy Lights debut, will join Hinchcliffe on the front row after a sterling display with the Sam Schmidt Motorsport team led to a lap of 1min 06.4814secs.
"Being on the first row is a good thing, but I really wanted to be on the pole because it is an advantage for the first corner here," the Frenchman commented, "But it's not too bad as we have the performance, and the car is really fast. We worked really well with my engineer, and I know I don't have to take too much risk because I need to score points for the championship, but we will see what happens tomorrow. I'm happy, but it would have been nice to win the pole for my first race."
Bryan Herta Autosport's Sebastian Saavedra and former Champ Car podium finisher Jan Heylen, running with Team E, will share row two after the Colombian was denied a shot at pole by an untimely caution.
"It was a very interesting qualifying session," Saavedra noted, "I had an incredible car coming out of the second practice session but, with the temperature, the track was really slippery. We had to make some changes to compensate, but we were right there. A lot of people were nervous for those last ten minutes and there was a very critical three minutes to go. I was trying to save to try to do my best, but a yellow flag didn't let me. I think third place is good, and I am going to try to keep it safe for the first corner and go for it in the race."
Row three will be an all-British affair after Friday pacesetter Martin Plowman (AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport) was joined by the fast-improving James Winslow, making his debut with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Plowman's AFS/Andretti team-mate Charlie Kimball will share row four with fellow American Jonathan Summerton, making his first Firestone Indy Lights start for Walker Racing, while Canada's Philip Major and Colombian Gustavo Yacaman round out the top ten.