Penske’s Will Power Earns IndyCar Pole in St. Petersburg

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 24 2012

Will Power is off to a very fast start in the 2012 IndyCar Series. (INDYCAR/LAT USA)

Team Penske and Chevrolet-powered Dallara DW12s dominated qualifying for the season-opening IndyCar Series race on Saturday afternoon.

Penske’s Will Power won the pole and teammate Ryan Briscoe earned the right to start alongside for the start of Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Power set a circuit-qualifying record of 1 minute, 1.3721 seconds in winning the pole.

Qualifying third was Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport while his teammate, James Hinchcliffe was fourth.

Fifth was Penske driver Helio Castroneves, giving Chevy power the top five spots on the grid.

“The Chevy was obviously the strongest engine,” said Power, following his third consecutive pole at St. Petersburg. “We made a couple of adjustments for the Fast Six, and the car was really good.”

Power won at 1.8-mile street course in 2010.

“It’s been a great effort to get the season started with this kind of speed,” said Briscoe, who finished 0.1636 seconds off the pace, and won at St. Pete in 2009. “We’ve been really busy testing this year, with

Will Power is on the pole in St. Pete. (F. Peirce Williams LAT Photo USA)

the new DW-12, the new Chevy engine. It’s just been a lot of fun, a lot of hard work as well getting it to this point.”

“We’re happy, really proud of Chevy for being in the top five, absolutely,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s a good way to start the season.”

The fastest non-Chevy belonged to newcomer Simon Pagenaud. He was sixth fastest but will start the race at the rear of the field because of an unauthorized engine change.

Defending series champion Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing was 10th in qualifying in a Honda-powered Dallara.

Formula 1 refugee Rubens Barrichello will start from P14 Sunday.

Barrichello, who earned 14 poles during his 19-year Formula One career, had an interesting IndyCar qualifying debut. The 39-year-old Brazilian, who signed with the team on March 1, ran just eight laps (mechanical problem) during the first practice session on Friday putting him behind on a track he had never seen before and needed as many laps as possible. He had not been higher than 20th on the speed charts in the three practice sessions prior to qualifying, but just missed making the second round in his first try.

“I think my first qualifying session went well,” Barrichello said. “I am playing catch up all the time. We unfortunately lost the morning session yesterday and I am still learning the circuit while the rest of the field is going flat out. I am pleased though, I improved this morning and today was the first time I have ever used the red (alternate) tires. I can never be pleased with 13th or 14th, but we have to set targets and my targets are high. I have done less than 50 laps on this track so far, so I have to be happy-ish with that. I am excited for tomorrow though and starting my first IndyCar race.”

(This story will be updated shortly)

Qualifying Saturday for the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg IZOD IndyCar Series event on the 1.8 mile(s) St Petersburg Street Circuit, with starting position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.3721 (105.585)

2. (2) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.5357 (105.305)

3. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.9321 (104.631)

4. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.9701 (104.567)

5. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.9987 (104.518)

*6. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.1095 (104.332)

7. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.7636 (104.916)

8. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.7895 (104.872)

9. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 01:01.8699 (104.736)

10. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 01:01.9570 (104.589)

11. (38) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.0233 (104.477)

12. (14) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.5084 (103.666)

13. (5) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 01:02.5146 (103.656)

14. (8) Rubens Barrichello, Dallara-Chevy, 01:02.2009 (104.179)

15. (15) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.6015 (103.512)

16. (18) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.2538 (104.090)

17. (98) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Lotus, 01:02.6506 (103.431)

18. (4) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 01:02.4426 (103.775)

19. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.7155 (103.324)

20. (19) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 01:02.5271 (103.635)

21. (78) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Lotus, 01:02.8218 (103.149)

22. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 01:03.0437 (102.786)

23. (22) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Lotus, 01:02.8771 (103.058)

24. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 01:03.3591 (102.274)

25. (6) Katherine Legge, Dallara-Lotus, 01:04.1654 (100.989)

26. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Lotus, 01:05.6858 (98.651)

*Note: Pagenaud has been given a 10-grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change on March 23.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 24 2012
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