Scott McLaughlin wins first career IndyCar pole, topping Will Power in St. Petersburg


ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — Scott McLaughlin outdueled teammate and qualifying ace Will Power to win his first NTT IndyCar Series career pole Saturday in Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg qualifying.

The second-year driver from New Zealand nipped Power by a tenth of a second on his final lap of the session as Team Penske’s Dallara-Chevrolets earned a front-row lockout for Sunday’s season opener (noon ET, NBC).

“I love qualifying, you have to put it all on the line,” McLaughlin told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “Super proud of everyone. I feel confident. I’m a competitive bloke, so I hate starting in the back, but it’s a new thing for me.

STARTING LINEUP: The grid for Sunday’s race

TIRES DESIGNATIONS: Primary or alternate choices at the start

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Click here for St. Petersburg qualifying results | Round 1, Group 1 | Round 1, Group 2 Round 2 l Round 3 (Fast Six)

“I’ll be starting from the front leading a group to the first corner. I’m used to braking with people in front of me, so I’ll have to make sure I don’t overshoot it like an idiot, but we’ll have fun. Appreciate all the fans coming out and can’t wait for tomorrow. Show’s going to be big.”

McLaughlin said Sunday would be the first time he led a rolling start to the green flag in more than 12 years.

In his first 17 IndyCar races, the three-time champion of Australia’s Supercars series (which uses standing starts) had a previous best start of fifth at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. That was the only time he made the Fast Six final round in qualifying last season as a rookie and his only top-10 start on qualifying speed.

ST. PETE PRIMERDetails for following the 2022 season opener

Power, who has 63 career pole positions ranking second all-time behind Mario Andretti’s 67), said he just got beat by his teammate on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile street course in downtown St. Petersburg.

“It was really close,” Power, who still set the track record with a lap of 59.3466 seconds in Round 2, told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “That was two good laps I did. Scott got the most out of it. That’s a solid lap.”

Colton Herta qualified third, followed by Rinus VeeKay, Romain Grosjean (who rebounded from a practice wreck) and Simon Pagenaud, who reached the Fast Six final round of qualifying in his debut for Meyer Shank Racing.

Just missing advancement to the Fast Six final round were Scott Dixon (seventh after brushing the wall with the right-front tire of his No. 9 Dallara-Honda but avoided suspension damage after being 20th fastest in practice) and Josef Newgarden (ninth).

The two-time series champion was satisfied with his team’s performance after an offseason personnel shuffle that included new engineer Eric Leichtle.

“I think the car was really comfy,” Newgarden told Snider. “It’s a new team for us, really, and everyone is doing a great job getting along really well and geling. Just a couple of things you wouldn’t like to have around to start out our weekend and what we’re dealing with, but overall I still feel really confident.

“This was probably the hardest offseason because we had one test day. For Eric, it’s trial by fire, but he’s doing a great job. He’s been around for a while around us in IndyCar with the Team Chevy camp. I think we’ve got a great group here. I’m reminding myself this is the first race. As much as I want to come out knocking down the fence and being the fastest car every session, I’d love to do that, but it doesn’t seem that was destined to start this year, so we’ll try to make the most of tomorrow and hopefully get a podium and maybe a win.”

As expected with a record-tying field of 26 cars, some big-name drivers will be starting from deeper in the field.

ST. PETE PRIMERDetails for following the 2022 season opener

Alexander Rossi (13th), Pato O’Ward (16th) and Helio Castroneves (17th) were among those who failed to advance from the first round.

O’Ward scraped the wall in Turn 9 with the left-rear of his No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet, bending a suspension piece. The damage prevented O’Ward from another attempt at bettering his lap time later in the session. It was a tough result for Arrow McLaren SP, whose No. 7 Chevy of Felix Roesnqvist (21st) also struggled,

“I had the pace for sure,” O’Ward told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “The car had it. We started off the weekend not very good but made some great changes. The car has pace.

“Just note to self for next time: Don’t smash the wall halfway through your lap if you want to transfer. It’s all my mistake. I didn’t quite judge the amount of the snap I was going to get, and I didn’t want to back out of it, so I paid the consequences, but I think we’ll have a good race.”

Jimmie Johnson will start last in Sunday’s race, which will begin his first full-time IndyCar season (and include his expected debut in the Indy 500).

David Malukas was penalized with the loss of his two fastest laps for impeding Johnson’s progress, but the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion shouldered some blame for a dismal start to the weekend.

Johnson spun twice in Saturday morning practice after also looping his No. 48 Dallara-Honda in Friday afternoon’s session.

“We’ve had a couple of challenges along the way getting the car where it needs to be,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “Those were my first laps on red tires just as a result of some of the challenges. I certainly didn’t get all that I could out of the Carvana Honda. I did get some laps and looking forward to building on that in the race.

“I’m in a much different headspace (than last year). Far more confidence. Far more expectations. I’m not completely happy with myself and what’s transpired the last couple of days, but we’ll keep working hard, and I’ll keep learning. I know I’ve got this team’s support. We’ll get there.”

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change