Will Power blasts to eighth St. Pete pole

by Jordan Groves
Will Power (AUS), 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Team Penske, St. Petersburg Qualifying

Team Penske‘s Will Power has taken pole position for tomorrow’s 2019 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the season-opening race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series. The Australian put in a last-minute lap to take pole in the final session of qualifying, ensuring that he will start from the front of the grid for the eighth time at the Florida street circuit.

It was a return to form for the Team Penske squad, who have shown fantastic speed in qualifying sessions throughout the year. Power would edge out his team-mate Josef Newgarden for the pole position, with Josef having to settle for second place. The gap between the two team-mates was a slim one-tenth of a second, with Power’s pole time being a 1:00.4594; four-tenths of a second slower than the lap record set by Jordan King last year.

Speaking of last year, the story of the 2018 qualifying session had been the superb performance of the rookies. This year was perhaps no different. Chip Ganassi Racing‘s newest driver, Felix Rosenqvist, put in a stunning lap to take third on the grid for his debut race. He was just two-tenths of a second off of pole position and, impressively, two-tenths of a second faster than his reigning champion team-mate, Scott Dixon, who qualified just behind in fourth place. It was an uncharacteristically messy session for Dixon, with the New Zealander’s #9 car looking very on the edge throughout qualifying.

Completing the top two drivers that made it into the top-six shootout for pole position were Andretti Autosport team-mates, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi. Hunter-Reay looked to be the one to beat having been the fastest driver in both second and third practice. In fact, the #28 Honda driver set the fastest time of anybody so far this weekend in the first round by setting a lap-time of 1:00.1548. Sadly, the American couldn’t seem to find the pace again in the last round, settling for fifth place. Rossi too was further down that perhaps expected, qualifying sixth after making a mistake on his fastest lap in the final session.

There was drama at the end of the second session of qualifying. Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s rookie, Colton Herta, looked on course to be in the fight for pole position in the final round after having set the third fastest time in the penultimate session. However, the rookie would be penalized for impeding Carlin‘s Charlie Kimball, with the penalty dropping Herta out of the top six; subsequently putting the aforementioned Rosenqvist into the final round.

Herta’s penalty promoted Britain’s Jack Harvey to a superb starting spot of seventh place; with the Meyer Shank Racing driver putting in a stunning performance throughout qualifying to take his best grid spot in IndyCar so far. Carlin’s Charlie Kimball qualified just behind Harvey in eighth place, with Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s James Hinchcliffe and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Graham Rahal rounding out the top ten.

Colton Herta (USA), Harding Steinbrenner Racing, 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, St. Petersburg Practice

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

The final two drivers classified in the top twelve were Harding’s Colton Herta, who had his previous best lap-time removed due to his penalty for impeding Kimball. He will start eleventh as a result, with DragonSpeed‘s Ben Hanley lining up an impressive twelfth on his and the team’s debut in IndyCar.

Hanley and DragonSpeed benefitted from chaos in their group in round one of qualifying. Two red flag periods meant that a number of drivers were unable to get lap-times in, with Marco Andretti, last year’s winner Sebastien Bourdais and Tony Kanaan falling foul of the misfortune. Santino Ferrucci also failed to set a lap-time, as he caused one of the red flags after crashing at the final corner. All four drivers will start toward the tail-end of the grid.

Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was unable to join his team-mates toward the front of the grid. The Frenchman was another driver who did not get as good of a lap as he could’ve done due to the red flags in round one. He will start thirteenth, just ahead of Andretti’s Zach Veach in fourteenth.

Further back, Arrow Schmidt Peterson’s rookie Marcus Ericsson will line-up in a lowly eighteenth after a disappointing lap in the first round. He was, at least, not the lowest classified rookie thanks to Ferrucci’s crash, which demoted the young American to twenty-third place on the grid.

Carlin’s Max Chilton will prop up the bottom of the grid in tomorrow’s race. Despite setting a lap-time, the British driver will start behind a number of drivers without a lap-time due to the way that the qualifying format works in IndyCar, with the drivers in the first group of round one getting grid preference over those in round two. Nevertheless, Max’s team-mate Kimball has proven that the Carlin Chevrolets have speed, so he will be hoping to move up the order on race day.

So Penske’s Will Power once again proves his qualifying prowess and will subsequently take the green flag first in tomorrow’s race. The Australian will be hoping for a better start to the race than he had last year when he was sent spinning down the order just after the first corner. Sebastien Bourdais, too, will be hoping for an improvement in fortunes, as he looks to take the St. Petersburg victory for the third year in a row. He started toward the back of the race in 2017 and took away the victory, he’ll be wanting to do the same this time around.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow to find out who will get first blood in what looks as though will be an enthralling season of IndyCar racing.

Will Power (AUS), 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Team Penske, St. Petersburg Qualifying

Credit: James Black / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – Qualifying results:

112Will PowerAUSTeam Penske1:00.4594
22Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske1:00.5570
310Felix Rosenqvist (R)SWEChip Ganassi Racing1:00.6884
49Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing1:00.8544
528Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport1:01.0784
627Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport1:01.7739
- - Eliminated in Q2- - -
760Jack HarveyGBRMeyer Shank Racing1:00.9531
823Charlie KimballUSACarlin1:01.0146
95James HinchcliffeCANArrow Schmidt Peterson1:01.0185
1015Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:01.0944
1188Colton Herta (R)USAHarding Steinbrenner Racing1:01.4182
1281Ben Hanley (R)GBRDragonSpeed1:02.3703
- - Eliminated in Q1- - -
1322Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske1:04.6298
149Zach VeachUSAAndretti Autosport1:00.9061
1520Ed JonesUAEEd Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa1:06.1422
1626Spencer PigotEd Carpenter Racing1:00.9495
1798Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti HertaNo time
187Marcus Ericsson (R)SWEArrow Schmidt Peterson1:01.1345
1918Sebastien BourdaisFRADale Coyne Racing with Vasser SullivanNo time
2030Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:01.1511
2114Tony KanaanFRAA.J. Foyt EnterprisesNo time
224Matheus LeistBRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises1:01.1579
2319Santino Ferrucci (R)USADale Coyne RacingNo time
2459Max ChiltonGBRCarlin1:01.3785

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