Big results for Kanaan, Andretti in delayed Firestone Fast Six

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ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – In a Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Fast Six, you expect names like Will Power, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay to be in the group. At St. Petersburg, you’re now starting to expect Takuma Sato – who qualified second last year and made it one spot better with pole this Saturday.

But Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti? Considering neither has been a hugely successful qualifier in recent years, seeing both make it into today’s Fast Six was a minor surprise.

In 2013, Kanaan had two and Andretti just one Fast Six appearances. In each, they qualified fourth. But both qualified decently well at St. Pete, with Andretti seventh last year (he ultimately finished third) and Kanaan 11th (finished fourth).

On Saturday, Kanaan took what has long been Dario Franchitti’s No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry, now with Chevrolet power, up to second. He joked about his recent qualifying sessions after Saturday’s outing.

“A lot of people made a lot of comments over the years because we struggled so much in qualifying in street and road courses and nobody was counting on that. I like to be the element of surprise,” said “TK.” “Nobody was talking about us at Indy last year and nobody was talking about this weekend. Although this is not even half of the battle because this is qualifying. Front Row, man it feels pretty good! I used to see 16 or 17 cars in front of me in a circuit like that so it feels pretty good.”

Meanwhile Andretti ended sixth, and second best of the now-Honda-powered Andretti Autosport quartet, for his first Firestone Fast Six appearance on a street circuit since St. Pete in 2010 – when he qualified fourth. He’s qualified seventh in St. Pete each of the last three years prior to 2014.

“We have to consider more than weather, it’s the first race back and with a new engine, we don’t really know as far as fuel mileage and stuff how we’ll do until warm up,” said Andretti. “There’s a lot to sort of see how it plays out, not sure what to expect but hopefully a good day and we can keep the track position. We were able to save a set of reds for the race which will be good.”

Look forward to seeing how two of the series’ best racers do Sunday from improved grid positions.

F1 Paddock Pass: United States Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

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As Lewis Hamilton took another step towards his fourth Formula 1 World Championship Sunday at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas, plenty of other topics of discussion emerged in the wake of Round 17 of the season from Austin.

Hamilton’s win came as his Mercedes AMG Petronas team claimed its fourth consecutive Constructor’s Championship, Scuderia Ferrari came up short once again despite a valiant effort in second and third, and Max Verstappen’s penalty after the race was the major talking point.

Elsewhere Valtteri Bottas struggled again, the Sahara Force India twins continued to pick up points, Carlos Sainz Jr. made a major positive impact in his first start with Renault, Brendon Hartley impressed on debut at Toro Rosso and Romain Grosjean and Haas F1 Team endured a tough weekend on Haas’ home soil.

Check out all the recap from the latest USGP in the latest post-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass with NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton, below.