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IndyCar: Power's track record heads Penske sweep at St Pete

Will Power smashed his own track record to take pole at St Petersburg for the first round of the 2016 IndyCar season in a Penske sweep of qualifying.
Will Power overcame symptoms of 'flu to lead a dominating display of Penske performance in the first qualifying session of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Power set a new track qualifying record of 1:00.0658s (107.882mph) in the second round of qualifying, on his way to clinching pole position for the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg for the second year in succession. It's Power's 43rd IndyCar pole, of which five have come in the last six outings at St Pete.

Power easily smashed the old record of 1:00.6509s (106.841mph) on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit that he himself had set 12 months ago. However, the Australian felt so sick afterwards that he was unable to take part in the post-qualifying celebrations.

"Unfortunately I've been feeling pretty ill all day," a statement from Power explained. "It was a struggle to get through qualifying, honestly, but we were able to do it.

"It's an awesome feeling to be able to put the new look Verizon car on pole again here at St Pete," he added. "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."

As well as back-to-back poles for Power himself, it's also the second year in a row that Penske as a team has locked-out the first two rows of the grid for the race. Power's time in the final round was a slightly slower 1:00.2450s (107.561mph) but that was still almost two tenths of a second faster than his team mate Simon Pagenaud could manage. Helio Castroneves was third fastest, with last year's race winner Juan Pablo Montoya right behind him in fourth place.

"Great effort for the whole organization," said Castroneves. "To have 1-2-3-4 again, it shows we're really working together as a team. We want to win as a team and we're going to keep pushing. Great effort for Team Penske."

The reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) was the fastest of the non-Penske cars, followed by Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay.

"Good to see Chevy [sweep] the top five," noted Dixon. "Sad to see the first four being Penskes, but that's the way it is."

"It's been very tough for us, to tell you the truth," added Hunter-Reay. "But we pulled it together, found some speed in qualifying. It's tough to be happy with sixth, but we're slowly talking ourselves into it. We salvaged something today."

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal narrowly failed to make it through to the final Firestone Fast Six round and will start from seventh place alongside KVSH Racing's Sebastien Bourdais.

"Obviously, not as good a qualifying session as last year," commented the French driver, who started last year's race from sixth place on the grid. "Not as competitive as the Hydroxycut KVSH Racing team would have liked.

"Everything came back together very late so we didn't get in all the work we needed. We will just keep digging. That is what we do. It's tough, there are big teams with a lot of resources and we go out there with are limited tools and try and give them a run for their money."

The other drivers making it through to the second round were Schmidt Peterson Motorsport's James Hinchcliffe, AJ Foyt Racing team mates Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato, and Ed Carpenter Racing's Josef Newgarden.

Failing to make it through from the group one in the first round were Andretti team mates Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti and rookies Max Chilton (Ganassi), Alexander Rossi (Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian) and Conor Daly (Dale Coyne Racing).

The drivers not progressing from group two were Charlie Kimball (Ganassi), Luca Filippi (Dale Coyne), Mikhail Aleshin (SPM) and a rare failure for Ganassi's experienced veteran Tony Kanaan, along with the reigning Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot taking part in his first IndyCar qualifying session.

There will be a brief half-hour warm-up session on Sunday morning at 9am (1pm GMT) before the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg itself, which is due to take the green flag at 12.52pm (4.52pm GMT).

See full qualifying results and times from St Petersburg



Related Pictures

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Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 captures the pole with the fastest lap Saturday, March 12, 2016 for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. The four Penske Chevrolet`s were the fastest in qualifying and Chevrolet had the five fastest cars. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 captures the pole with the fastest lap Saturday, March 12, 2016 for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. The four Penske Chevrolet`s were the fastest in qualifying and Chevrolet had the five fastest cars. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 captures the pole with the fastest lap Saturday, March 12, 2016 for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. The four Penske Chevrolet`s were the fastest in qualifying and Chevrolet had the five fastest cars. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power wins the Verizon P1 Award for claiming the pole position for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) celebrates winning the 2016 IndyCar title with victory at Sonoma   [pic credit: Chris Owens]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Will Power - Team Penske
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to victory at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to pole at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Scott Dixon leads the Indycar field   [pic credit: Indycar media/Bret Kelley]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Simon Penske - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar media/Bret Kelley]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Joe Skibinski]
Scott Dixon - Target Chip Ganassi Racing   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/JOE SKIBINSKI]
Will Power - Penske  [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]

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