Will Power claims pole for St. Pete

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Will Power netted his fourth consecutive pole at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, out-hustling Takuma Sato and a surging Simona de Silvestro to claim P1 for Sunday’s 110-lap main event (Noon ET, NBC Sports Network).

Power, who won at St. Pete in 2010 and was the fastest driver in yesterday’s practice sessions, threw down a lap of 1 minute, 1.2070 seconds around the 1.8-mile street course to earn his 30th career pole. With that, he became the first driver to score four consecutive poles at the same venue since Sebastien Bourdais pulled off the feat at Monterrey, Mexico from 2003 to 2006 in Champ Car.

“It’s been a very good start to the season,” Power told NBC Sports Network afterwards. “We just had to get through the [Firestone] Fast Six and look after the tires in the first two rounds, then see what we could do in the last one.”

Sato, who achieved A.J. Foyt Racing’s best qualifying result since 1998 (Billy Boat, Texas Motor Speedway), said that P2 was “a little [of a] shame” but was still happy with the result.

“The whole team did a fantastic job — not just for this weekend, but throughout the course of the winter,” said Sato.

But the biggest surprise came from De Silvestro, who struggled mightily with a Lotus engine in 2012 but now runs with Chevy-powered KV Racing Technology — and with the help of that stronger motor, she established herself as a potential podium threat for Sunday.

“The whole weekend has been going really well for us, and it’s really cool to finally get the results we wanted,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. We were right there with [Power] and Sato…It’s just really fun to be up there with them.”

James Hinchcliffe will start alongside De Silvestro in Row 2, while defending St. Pete champion Helio Castroneves and rookie racer Tristan Vautier make up Row 3.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Honda GP of St. Petersburg

Starting Lineup

Row 1

12-Will Power
14-Takuma Sato

Row 2

78-Simona de Silvestro
27-James Hinchcliffe

Row 3

3-Helio Castroneves
55-Tristan Vautier

Row 4

25-Marco Andretti
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay

Row 5

6-Sebastian Saavedra
10-Dario Franchitti

Row 6

11-Tony Kanaan
22-Oriol Servia

Row 7

19-Justin Wilson
83-Charlie Kimball

Row 8

15-Graham Rahal
67-Josef Newgarden

Row 9

98-Alex Tagliani
16-James Jakes

Row 10

77-Simon Pagenaud
9-Scott Dixon

Row 11

7-Sebastien Bourdais
5-EJ Viso

Row 12

20-Ed Carpenter
4-JR Hildebrand

Row 13

18-Ana Beatriz

Valiant efforts from Hunter-Reay, Dixon come up just short at Road America

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Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon drove about as hard as they possibly could during Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, and they both drove nearly perfect races.

Hunter-Reay took advantage of Will Power’s engine issues on the start to immediately jump into second, and stalked pole sitter and leader Josef Newgarden from there, often staying within only a couple car lengths of his gearbox.

Dixon, meanwhile, had a tougher chore after qualifying a disappointing 12th. Further, he was starting in the same lane as Will Power, and when Power had engine issues when the green flag waved, Dixon was one of several drivers who was swamped in the aftermath.

Scott Dixon had to come from deep in the field on Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix. Photo: IndyCar

However, as is his style, he quietly worked his way forward, running sixth after the opening round of pit stops, and then working his way up to third after the second round of stops.

It all meant that, after Lap 30, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay, and Dixon were nose-to-tail at the front, with the latter two in position to challenge for the win.

Yet, neither was able to do so. Hunter-Reay never got close enough to try to pass Newgarden, while Dixon couldn’t do so on either Hunter-Reay or Newgarden. And, neither driver went longer in their final stint – Dixon was actually the first of that group to pit, doing so on Lap 43, with Hunter-Reay and Newgarden pitting together one lap later.

And Newgarden pulled away in the final stint, winning by over three seconds, leaving Hunter-Reay and Dixon to finish second and third.

It was a somewhat bitter pill to swallow, with Hunter-Reay noting that he felt like he had enough to challenge for a win.

“I felt like we had the pace for (Newgarden), especially in the first two stints,” he asserted. “I really felt like it was going to be a really good race between us. Whether it be first, second, third, fourth stint – I didn’t know when it was going to come.”

He added that, if he could do it over again, he would have been more aggressive and tried to pass Newgarden in the opening stint.

“In hindsight, I should have pressured him a bit more in the first stint,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “We were focused on a fuel number at the time. Unfortunately that Penske fuel number comes into play, can’t really go hard.”

Dixon, meanwhile, expressed more disappointment in the result, asserting that qualifying better would have put him in a possibly race-winning position.

“I think had we started a little further up, we could have had a good shot at trying to fight for the win today,” he expressed.

The disappointment for Dixon also stems from the knowledge that his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda had the pace to win, especially longer into a run.

“The car was pretty good on the long stint,” he asserted. “I think for us the saving grace was probably the black tire stint two. We closed a hefty gap there. We were able to save fuel early in the first stint, which enabled us to go a lap longer than everybody, had the overcut for the rest of the race.

“I think speed-wise we were right there. Had a bit of a crack at Hunter-Reay on his out lap on the last stint there, but cooked it too much going into (Turn 14), got a bit loose, lost momentum. That would have been really the only chance of passing him.”

Dixon remains in the championship lead, however, by 45 points, while Hunter-Reay moved up to second, tied with Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi.

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