The starting lineup for the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg features some young guns up front, and some accomplished veterans that will be starting the race from the back. Colton Herta earned his fifth career pole with a blistering lap of 60.3210 seconds around the picturesque Florida street circuit.
Jack Harvey will join Herta on the front row for tomorrow’s race, matching a career-best qualifying position for the Meyer Shank Racing driver. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud will start from Row 2 tomorrow, as both drivers desperately need to bounce back after struggles in the season-opening race at Barber last weekend. Sebastien Bourdais and last week’s pole-sitter Pato O’Ward rounded out the Firestone Fast Six on Saturday.
Qualification Results for the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg
Rinus VeeKay had a solid qualifying effort for Ed Carpenter Racing and will start from the 7th position on Sunday. Scott Dixon, who starts 8th, has six podium finishes at St Petersburg but has never won here. In fact, he has not even led a lap in this race since 2012. Graham Rahal and last weekend’s race winner Alex Palou round out the top ten qualifiers from Saturday.
Alexander Rossi qualified 11th on Saturday and teammates James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay were just behind him. Scott McLaughlin was the top qualifying rookie and will start 14th tomorrow. The big surprise was Will Power, who had an uncharacteristic qualifying performance and will have to start in 20th position.
Power brushed the wall on his final flying lap, bending a toe link on his suspension, and spun on a short straightaway approaching the timing line, ending any chance of making the second round. The Penske driver had won nine of the last 11 poles here, and had never started this race worse than 6th until now. Still, it was a positive day in terms of his IndyCar future.
This is not the first time the Herta name has qualified on pole for this race. Colton’s father Bryan captured pole position for this race back in 2005 with Andretti’s team. Bryan finished 4th in that race, and will attempt to guide his son to victory on the radio tomorrow. That 2005 race was particularly special for the Andretti team, as the late Dan Wheldon led the way for a 1-2-3-4 finish for the team.
“I knew we had a good race car for here and really good qualifying pace from last year,” Herta said. “We just had to get through those first two stages nice and clean. The Gainbridge car was so good today, and everybody did a phenomenal job all weekend up until this point. Really happy for the guys, and hope we have a great race tomorrow.”
The race distance is 100 laps, which is 180 miles around the 1.8-mile 14-turn street circuit. Power won the pole for last year’s race, and Newgarden is the defending race winner.
Coverage for the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg begins at 12 PM ET on NBC with a 12:42 PM green flag.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar