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.

INDYCAR: Newgarden, Sato quickest in first of 2 Friday practices at Road America

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Josef Newgarden was quickest in the first of Friday’s two INDYCAR practice sessions at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion covered the 4.048-mile, 14-turn course with a best lap of 1:43.0477, followed by Takuma Sato (1:43.4729), Alexander Rossi (1:43.5603), Robert Wickens (1:43.5774) and Marco Andretti (1:43.8825).

Sixth-quickest was Tony Kanaan (1:44.0429), followed by Spencer Pigot (1:44.1080), Zach Veach (1:44.1306), Scott Dixon (1:44.1643) and Matheius Leist (1:44.2963).

Alfonso Celis Jr., making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut and with Juncos Racing, was 22nd quickest in the 23-car field at 1:44.9164, while Gabby Chaves was the slowest driver on the course at 1:46.4485.

While there were no significant incidents during the 45-minute session, a number of drivers struggled in several turns, primarily due to some lingering puddles from overnight rain, as well as on rumble strips that threw their cars into adjacent grass areas.

The second practice session today takes place at 4:15 p.m. ET.

A third practice kicks off Saturday’s busy day at Noon ET, followed by qualifying at 4 p.m. ET, the second round of qualifying at 4:40 p.m. ET and the third and final round of qualifying at 5 p.m. ET.

The weekend’s main event, Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix, takes the green flag shortly after 1 p.m. ET. Make sure to tune in to NBCSN for the live telecast of the race.

We’ll have the full practice grid and driver quotes shortly. Please check back soon.

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