ST. PETERSBURG – Will Power continued his weekend dominance to date with a new track record and the opening Verizon P1 Award of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Power, who scored four consecutive St. Petersburg poles from 2010 to 2013, won last year after starting fourth.
He dropped a 1:00.6931 in the Firestone Fast Six to lead yet another session on the weekend and secure the pole position in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, as all four of Roger Penske’s cars made it into the Fast Six, and then completed a sweep of the front two rows.
The order behind him included his teammate Simon Pagenaud, second on debut for the team, 2014 race winners Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, and past St. Petersburg polesitters Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais.
Q1 witnessed Power eclipse a 12-year-old track record, with a 1:00.8344 on Firestone’s red alternate tires breaking Sebastien Bourdais’ previous mark of 1:00.928, set in the single Champ Car race held on the streets of St. Petersburg in 2003.
Sato, Tony Kanaan, Pagenaud, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden and Simona de Silvestro advanced from Group 1 in Q1, with all their best times within a two-tenth gap (1:01.3370 to 1:01.5475) all on the reds.
Times improved in the second group in Q1, albeit with a greater gap among the top six (1:00.8344 to 1:01.4272). Power, Castroneves and Montoya made it three more Penske drivers through, with Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti and Bourdais also through.
Among those axed in Q1 included past St. Petersburg race winners Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe, and all first-year drivers Stefano Coletti, Luca Filippi, Sage Karam, Gabby Chaves and Francesco Dracone.
The defending series champion wasn’t done, though. Power banked a 1:00.6509 in Q2 to improve his own new track record by two tenths.
Power led all four Penske drivers into the Firestone Fast Six, with Pagenaud second, Montoya fifth and Castroneves sixth. Bourdais and Sato were the two interlopers, with Sato the lone Honda in the Fast Six.
Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Newgarden, de Silvestro and Andretti were eliminated. A brief review of an incident with Kanaan and Pagenaud occurred, with no action taken.
In the Firestone Fast Six, Castroneves set the early mark of 1:01.2201 before the final few minutes witnessed the drivers go for broke.
Power was first into the 1:00 range in the session, at 1:00.7582, before teammate Pagenaud beat him at 1:00.7252.
But Power beat him back with the ultimate pole time of 1:00.6931, which was slightly off his Q2 track record.
He and his longtime rival will share the front row with Castroneves and Montoya completing the top-four sweep. Sato and Bourdais were fifth and sixth.
1. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 01:00.6931 (106.767)
2. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Chevy, 01:00.7252 (106.710)
3. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 01:00.8356 (106.517)
4. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 01:00.8532 (106.486)
5. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.1496 (105.970)
6. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.1545 (105.961)
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.1182 (106.024)
8. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.1670 (105.939)
9. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.2285 (105.833)
10. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.2478 (105.800)
11. (25) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.3657 (105.596)
12. (27) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.4765 (105.406)
13. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.5727 (105.241)
14. (26) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.4890 (105.385)
15. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.5742 (105.239)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.5780 (105.232)
17. (4) Stefano Coletti, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.6727 (105.071)
18. (8) Sage Karam, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.8011 (104.853)
19. (20) Luca Filippi, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.6736 (105.069)
20. (7) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.8323 (104.800)
21. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.0095 (104.500)
22. (98) Gabby Chaves, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.9705 (104.566)
23. (19) Francesco Dracone, Dallara-Honda, 01:04.2654 (100.832)
24. (18) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.9716 (104.564)