Will Power broke the track record & won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Verizon P1 Award

04CJ5403AWill Power wins the Verizon P1 Award for claiming the pole position for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 12, 2016) – Will Power’s qualifying dominance on the streets of St. Petersburg can’t be stopped even by illness. Battling a stomach virus, Power broke the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg track record in each of the first two segments of knockout qualifying and then turned the best lap in the Firestone Fast Six to collect the Verizon P1 Award. The sixth St. Pete pole position puts Power at the front of the pack for the 110-lap race on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit, as the Verizon IndyCar Series drops the green flag on the 2016 season March 13 (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

Power, who set the track record of 1 minute, 0.6509 of a second (106.841 mph) in 2015 qualifying, toppled the mark in the first segment today with a lap of 1:00.5678 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. He advanced to the Firestone Fast Six with another record-setting lap of 1:00.0658 (107.882 mph) using a new set of Firestone alternate tires. While he didn’t quite match that effort in the final segment, Power’s lap of 1:00.2450 (107.561 mph) was nearly two-tenths better than anyone else in the Firestone Fast Six and easily good enough to secure the 43rd pole of his career, fifth on the all-time Indy car list. It also led a Team Penske sweep of the first four St. Pete starting positions for the second straight year.

“What a great run today for the Verizon Chevy team,” said Power, who won the St. Pete race in 2010 and 2014. “It’s an awesome feeling to be able to put the new-look Verizon car on pole again here at St. Pete.

“Unfortunately, I’ve been feeling pretty ill all day,” he added. “It was a struggle to get through qualifying, honestly, but we were able to do it and after the Verizon P1 Award presentation I just started feeling a lot worse. “The car was great today and a big credit to the guys for doing a terrific job in qualifying. I’ll try to get some good rest tonight and come back ready to race on Sunday.”

04CJ5410Team Penske Enginer David Augistino is presented the Verizon P1 Award from Verizon Executive Vice President and President of Strategic Initiatives Dan Mead after winning the pole for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones

Simon Pagenaud, in the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet, will start second following a lap of 1:00.4421 (107.210 mph).

Three-time St. Pete winner Helio Castroneves qualified third in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:00.4995, 107.108 mph) and defending race winner Juan Pablo Montoya fourth in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (1:00.5312, 107.052 mph). “Great effort for the whole organization,” Castroneves said. “To have 1-2-3-4 again, it shows we’re really working together as a team. We want to win as a team and we’re going to keep pushing. Great effort for Team Penske.”

Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was the top non-Penske qualifier, fifth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (1:00.5395, 107.038 mph). “Good to see Chevy (sweep) the top five,” Dixon said. “Sad to see the first four being Penskes. That’s the way it is.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, in the Andretti Autosport No. 28 DHL Honda, was sixth (1:00.8803, 106.438 mph).

“It’s been very tough for us, to tell you the truth,” Hunter-Reay said, “but we pulled it together, found some speed in qualifying. It’s tough to be happy with sixth, but we’re slowly talking ourselves into it. We salvaged something today.”

Twenty-two cars qualified for the race, 12 using Honda engines and aero kits and 10 with Chevrolet. A 30-minute warmup session at 9 a.m. ET March 13 precedes the race. The warmup will stream live on racecontrol.indycar.com. In addition to ABC, the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network will air the race on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile App.

Team Penske adds seventh winner’s plaque to St. Pete monument It’s become nearly an annual tradition for Roger Penske to visit the Victory Circle monument at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

04CJ5148AWill Power streaks across the start-finish line during practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones

Juan Pablo Montoya delivered the seventh Team Penske win on the streets of St. Petersburg in 2015, so he and Penske attended a ceremony this morning to affix Montoya’s name to the monument’s wall of winners.

Montoya joins Helio Castroneves (2006, 2007, 2012), Ryan Briscoe (2009) and Will Power (2010, 2014) as Penske drivers to win on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit – all in the last 10 years.

“It’s an honor to see all of these plaques representing wins by so many of our drivers,” Penske said. “It’s a great team effort. …

Certainly this is a place where we have had a lot of success and we’re hoping we can continue this weekend.”

Not usually one to gush over ceremonies, Montoya could appreciate the significance of his name being placed alongside the other Penske drivers, as well as past winners Dan Wheldon (2005), Graham Rahal (2008) and James Hinchcliffe (2013). This year’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the 13th edition of the popular event, dating to 2003 when Paul Tracy won the Champ Car-sanctioned race.

“You don’t realize little things like (the wall of champions) go a long way for the future and it’s cool,” said Montoya, driver of the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “Now we’ve got to go back and focus on what we do. This year you want to keep it up and do the best you can. It doesn’t mean you’re going to go out there and win every race, but you still want to. We’re going to try.”

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – Day 2 Quotes

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was OK. We struggled. We were really good this morning. I was really happy. We only ran one set of new tires. On red tires we were not as good as we needed to be. I think the track went off a little bit. Didn’t adjust the Verizon car enough for qualifying, so we were a little bit behind. Overall it was good. Last year I won the race from there, so I don’t mind.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Hitachi car was pretty good. At the beginning we were not that strong on the qualifying, but we were able to dig in. My engineer (Jonathan Diuguid) and Roger (Penske) and the entire No. 3 team did a phenomenal job. They were working during qualifying. Every step of the way, we were making improvements and the car was getting faster and faster. In the end we took a big gamble. It almost paid off. Unfortunately, it was a little bit too much. But great effort for the whole organization. To have 1-2-3-4, again, it shows we’re really working together as a team, we want to win as a team, and we’re going to keep pushing. Great effort for Team Penske.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) : “I think we can be happy with that. Certainly, only being a tenth out of the Fast Six and a tenth away from top Honda is tough, but from the imbalance we had this morning, the Arrow Electronics crew did a great job to tune it in for qualifying. It’s tough when you throw on those Firestone reds for the first time in 10 months to try and figure out how much grip there is, but like I said, it was a solid effort from everybody in the No. 5 car. I think we can race from ninth place. We’ve seen that these guys are as good as anybody at calling strategy so the goal is just to get through Turn 1 and take the rest of the race from there.”

IMG_0956---TH (1)James Hinchcliffe exits Turn 1 during qualifications for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Tim Holle

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was a good day at the beginning and everything was going well. We didn’t put everything together for our red set of tires. It’s a bit of a shame because the No. 7 SMP Racing car had good speed in the last practice, and I think it shows that we could be top 10. It’s going to be a long race, so we’re just going to need to prepare for it, and it’s going to be good.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was a difficult morning for sure. We made a change during the first practice session that was just too much and ultimately didn’t really work. We went back to the way we had originally set up the car for qualifying, but it seemed to have the same balance issues we saw this morning. It’s not as high as we would’ve hoped to qualify, but I came out as the top rookie and I don’t think I did too bad of a job today. We’ll regroup tonight and be ready for the race tomorrow.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “We had a pretty poor session this morning just with traffic and not being able to get a clean run. The No. 9 Target Chevrolet has been strong for most of the weekend and it’s good to see those top five spots in the Firestone Fast Six being Chevy-powered. It’s tough to see all four Penske cars walk off in those top four spots, but at least we made some big improvements over last year’s car. I know we’re going to race well, so hopefully we’ll have a good strategy to gain a few spots and make it to the podium tomorrow.”

JGS_2069-1Scott Dixon navigates the Turn 11-12 chicane during practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “We’re obviously not happy with our qualifying effort today. We’ve struggled this weekend to get the car where it needs to be and get the times that we know we can get. It just wasn’t there today in qualifying for the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet, but we’ll bounce back tomorrow.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut Chevrolet): “Obviously, not as good a qualifying session as last year, not as competitive as the Hydroxycut KVSH Racing team would have liked. Everything came back together very late so we didn’t get in all the work we needed. We will just keep digging. That is what we do. It’s tough, there are big teams with a lot of resources and we go out there
with our limited tools and try and give them a run for their money. Eighth is not where we wanted to start, but we are looking forward to a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “What a great run today for the Verizon Chevy team. It’s an awesome feeling to be able to put the new look Verizon car on pole again here at St. Pete. Unfortunately, I’ve been feeling pretty ill all day. It was a struggle to get through qualifying, honestly, but we were able to do it and after the Verizon P1 Pole Award presentation I just started feeling a lot worse. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be at the press conference afterward. The car was great today and a big
credit to the guys for doing a terrific job in qualifying. I’ll try to get some good rest tonight and come back ready to race on Sunday.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Tough day for us. We learned a lot in the second session to make the car faster. The first round was exciting. We had a good feeling on the black tire and had no problem with the red tires on the first segment although the field was very tight. We went for more performance in the second round and it didn’t work so we lost speed in the second segment, unfortunately. We’ll try to find more speed tomorrow morning. We have always been strong in qualifying here so it’s a shame to miss the Fast Six here but we’re looking to finish strong.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “I left it all out there. I didn’t have anything else. We’ve been up front all weekend and we have been close but unfortunately we just didn’t have quite enough there. These Steak ‘n Shake boys continue to work hard all weekend and ultimately we race better than we qualify so for us to start seventh, I think we can have a good race. We have been
competitive, but I think we are all struggling to find a balance. The Firestone tire we brought here is maybe a little bit different than last year’s compound so it’s been difficult to get everything how we want it, setup-wise but we like the challenge and my guys have responded really well. We have to turn our eyes toward the race now and I think we will be pretty strong. Overall we wanted to be the top Honda but we came up three-hundredths of a second short but that’s how this thing goes.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 16 RLL/Andersen Interior Contracting Honda): “Definitely the red Firestone tires are a big difference, there is a lot more grip which is awesome. It’s amazing how much grip the car has with those tires. It was good to finally get a chance to try them out. It’s tough out there. I thought I put some good laps together. I think we had a few tenths left which wouldn’t have gotten us through (to the next round) but it might have moved us up a couple of spots that I left on the table. That’s part of earning and part of being a rookie. I definitely learned a lot in those few laps that will help me next time I’m on the reds. I think the goal for tomorrow is to just do our best and hopefully we can make up a few spots on the start and then just see how the race unfolds. It’s a long race and sometimes this race can be pretty unpredictable and pretty crazy. You never know what is going to happen but we will try to keep our nose clean and pick them off as we can.”

CONOR DALY (No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda): “I’m disappointed for sure. You’re never, ever happy in the back. We have quite a bit to do but we’ve done a lot, we’ve investigated a lot, we’ve tried a lot, so no matter what it will help going down the road for the season. I also got impeded by traffic, sadly, but that’s part of the game. If you go through a weekend without, at one point, getting traffic you won the lottery so, no blame there, it’s just part of their game and we just have to put ourselves in a better position next time. We’ll see what happens in the race.”

LUCA FILIPPI (No. 19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Honda): “We made some changes to the car, it is reacting well. We were just a little too conservative and we had a little too much understeer which is probably our limit to get a little quicker. But it’s not too bad, the gap to P1 is not huge and the gap to P6, to go through to the next round, was very, very small. It’s important that we made an improvement but it’s more important that we are in the fight. One tenth in qualifying can put you further up in the classification but in the race it just means that if we can be consistent we can really fight for the top positions. Obviously, you always want to do better than this and you always want to be in the top five or 10 but we are not far and especially for tomorrow, I think we have some cards to play.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “I felt pretty positive all day, but it’s perplexing why we didn’t have the speed there in qualifying. Sometimes this is a perplexing track. You can have good balance, the car can feel like it has good grip and but you just don’t have the speed. We’ll try and get it sorted for tomorrow and have a good racecar. We’ve got a great crew here with the Fuzzy’s Vodka boys, I’m not worried about doing a good job and executing during the race tomorrow. I feel confident still, it’s just a shame we couldn’t be a little bit quicker. I felt like we had more performance than what we showed, the car was really good and it felt good, it just wasn’t quick enough.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet): “It was a good day. It was a really good day. It’s been a good weekend so far. You can feel a good difference in our group, on the No. 22 side, in our second year together. It’s a lot of fun actually. The lap time shows. It’s all good at the moment. Qualifying was super, super intense. I had a blast out there. The car felt really good. It’s just about getting those last little bits everywhere you can. But, yeah, super happy about the performance so far. I think in race trim we will be in probably a little bit better shape, so I’m excited about that.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “We expected much more in qualifying, so we are disappointed. We will have to work it out for tomorrow to put the Andretti Autosport Honda on top, but we’re starting 13th, so we’ll see how it goes.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “Credit to Ryan (Hunter-Reay) to squeeze it out and get in the Firestone Fast Six. We just were lacking rear grip in qualifying. The (Firestone alternate) red didn’t do what I expected they would do. We’ll meet tonight and pull together to work towards a set up for the Snapple car for tomorrow.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “Yeah, it was a bit of a struggle today. It was a thrash. We were really searching for some speed just to catch up with these guys. They’ve been the class of the field so far. It’s been very tough for us, to tell you the truth. But we pulled it together, found some speed in qualifying. It’s tough to be happy with sixth, but we’re slowly today talking ourselves into it. We salvaged something today. Those Firestone reds were like a life vest for me in the middle of the ocean. Once I got those on, finally the car woke up a bit and I could really hustle it and drive it the way it needed to be driven. Prior to that we’d been struggling for overall grip. We’ll take the starting spot and hopefully we can go out and have a really good race tomorrow and start the season off the way it should.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “The day started off well; we had a good practice this morning. The car feels really good. The guys have done a good job and it’s nice to see that all of the work over the winter is paying off and the fundamentals are getting better. In the qualifying I think we misunderstood the red tires, so I think we missed it a little bit there but it’s certainly something we banked and will take to Long Beach. I think car-wise we have really good cars, both drivers. I believe we’ll have a good day tomorrow.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet): “It was disappointing to not transfer through to the Firestone Fast Six – it’s just so competitive here in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet was good. We just didn’t quite get it done. We’ll bounce back and get it ready for tomorrow. I think we have a little bit to learn over night from Scott and the Target team – he did a great job getting into the Firestone Fast 6. We’ll learn from what he was able to do and develop a strategy and be ready to go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): “Based on yesterday afternoon, we were expecting quite a bit more today. We had a bit of an issue this morning on the Castrol Edge/Curb Honda with braking that we weren’t able to resolve this afternoon. That is a little disappointing but it’s the way it goes sometimes. I think that we, as a group of four cars, need to put our heads together tonight and figure out what the best solution is. We all know Indy car racing is very different on Sunday than it is on Saturday, so we’ll have to make sure we dot all our “I’s” and cross all our “t’s” to put our best foot forward for tomorrow.”

_9SG7106-1The Streets of St. Petersburg, FL comes to life for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher

Mazda Road to Indy starts season in high gear

The three Mazda Road to Indy series kicked off their 2016 seasons, with Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires each conducting the first of two weekend races at St. Petersburg while the Cooper Tires

USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda ran both of its weekend events.

In Indy Lights, Felix Serralles took his second career win and the third straight Grand Prix of St. Petersburg triumph for Carlin Motorsport in the opening race of a doubleheader weekend to start the season. Starting seventh, Serralles quickly forced his No. 4 car into second place, following Zach Veach to the front on the first lap.

When the engine on Veach’s No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing Dallara IL-15 suddenly shut off on Lap 18, Serralles screamed past and never looked back. The native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, drove flawlessly in the final 13 laps and took his first win since Milwaukee last year by 5.5336 seconds over Scott Hargrove of Team Pelfrey. “I just had to keep everything clean,” Serralles said. “Qualifying didn’t really go to plan, the red flag really hurt our session.

“It was a good result. I just tried to do everything right, minimize any mistake and save the Cooper tires. I could push to catch Veach, but my front tires were going away. I’m just really happy to get my first win to start the year.”

In Pro Mazda, 16-year-old Pato O’Ward led wire-to-wire to claim his first series win by 2.70 seconds over Team Pelfrey teammate Aaron Telitz.

“I’m just speechless,” said O’Ward, the 16-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico. “I’m so happy for the team. The Pelfrey car was absolutely on rails, it was fantastic. … Everybody did such an amazing job and such hard work through the days coming to St. Pete. This one is definitely for them.”

Pabst Racing teammates Jordan Lloyd and Yufeng Luo each claimed victory in a same-say doubleheader of races to start the USF2000 season.

Lloyd backed up his first career pole from the day before by winning his first race in the Priority Main Construction Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Later in the day, Luo made the pass for the lead on a late restart to win the Hi-Tide Boat Lifts Grand Prix of St.Petersburg. The two races kicked off the 2016 USF2000 season.

“I had no idea that I was going to be able to get by those guys at the end,” Luo said. “Opportunity came and I took it. I’m just speechless right now.”

ESPN hosts international journalists at St. Pete

In addition to producing Verizon IndyCar Series broadcasts airing in the United States on ABC, ESPN distributes race telecaststhrough a combination of ESPN networks and syndication to more than 198 countries and 103 million homes around the world.

In an effort to build interest in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil this May and the Verizon IndyCar Series in Europe, ESPN International brought a group of eight journalists to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend for an immersion into the sport. The journalists are from Italy, The Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain, all countries where Verizon IndyCar Series races will be telecast this year.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Qualifying Results & Starting Line Up

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Qualifying Saturday for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.8-mile St Petersburg street circuit, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:00.2450 (107.561)
2. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:00.4421 (107.210)
3. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:00.4995 (107.108)
4. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:00.5312 (107.052)
5. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:00.5395 (107.038)
6. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:00.8803 (106.438)
7. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:00.5893 (106.950)
8. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:00.6711 (106.805)
9. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:00.6724 (106.803)
10. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:00.7188 (106.721)
11. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:00.9745 (106.274)
12. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:01.0571 (106.130)
13. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:01.1856 (105.907)
14. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:01.0433 (106.154)
15. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:01.2417 (105.810)
16. (19) Luca Filippi, Honda, 01:01.1699 (105.934)
17. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:01.5372 (105.302)
18. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:01.2934 (105.721)
19. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:01.5794 (105.230)
20. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:01.3414 (105.638)
21. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 01:01.9385 (104.620)
22. (16) Spencer Pigot, Honda, 01:01.3881 (105.558)
Starting Line Up unless a team make an engine change, unauthorised modifications, engine change or switch to back-up car.

IndyCar

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Graphics & Photos Courtesy of Indycar

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