Power leads Penske’s second straight St. Pete top 4 qualifying sweep

Photo: IndyCar
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Will Power has secured the first Verizon P1 Award of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Saturday at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

It’s also his sixth pole in the last seven years at St. Petersburg – only Takuma Sato in 2014 has beat him since 2010.

The pole lap of 1:00.2450 led the Firestone Fast Six session, but was not the outright fastest lap of the day.

Power broke his own previous track record by more than six tenths of a second in Q2, at 1:00.0658.

Even more impressive is he did it with a stomach bug.

He led the second straight Team Penske top four qualifying sweep at St. Petersburg, ahead of Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya. Coincidentally, all four started in exactly the same positions last year.

Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the Firestone Fast Six.

To start, Power eclipsed his own track record in Q1. Last year, he set a 1:00.6509 in Q2 and a 1:00.6931 in the Firestone Fast Six, which stood as the pole time. On Saturday, Power laid down a 1:00.5678 lap on Firestone’s reds in Q1.

The balance of cars advancing was better with seven Chevrolets and five Hondas advancing through to Q2.

Among those not: Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing Teams both had three of their four cars failed to advance. By contrast, Team Penske had all four of its cars – Power, Simon Pagenaud, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves – advance out of Q1, Group 2. Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay were the only other two to advance in that group.

Q2 saw Power’s track record blitzed… by Power. Again. This time the Toowoomba tornado laid down a 1:00.0658, so more than a half second clear of the field.

As last year, all four Penske drivers advanced into the Fast Six, with Scott Dixon and Hunter-Reay the only other two make it in. And as last year, there was only one Honda driver to make it – the difference is this year it was Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 DHL Honda car for Andretti Autosport instead of Takuma Sato in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda.

Sato and Jack Hawksworth, who have been among the stars of the weekend, will line up 11th and 10th respectively for Sunday’s race.

Power then beat Pagenaud on his final lap in the Fast Six.

Unofficial times are below.