ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Colton Herta won the NTT P1 Award for pole position for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Saturday in a qualifying session that featured as much news for who didn’t make the Firestone Fast Six as for who did.
Herta took his first pole of the season and fifth of his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career with a best lap of 1 minute, .3210 of a second in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. His previous best start at St. Petersburg was third last October, and his last pole came last September at Mid-Ohio.
“I knew we had a good race car for here and really good qualifying pace from last year,” Herta said. “We just had to get through those first two stages nice and clean. The Gainbridge car was so good today, and everybody did a phenomenal job all weekend up until this point. Really happy for the guys, and hope we have a great race tomorrow.”
This was the second pole at St. Petersburg for the Herta family. Colton’s father, Bryan, who calls race strategy on his radio for Andretti Autosport, earned the top spot for this event in 2005 while driving for the Andretti team.
Jack Harvey will join the younger Herta on the front row of the 100-lap race Sunday (noon ET, NBC and INDYCAR Radio Network) after a best lap of 1:00.5709 in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda.
Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden will start third after a best lap of 1:00.6078 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden led both practices and both qualifying rounds up to the Firestone Fast Six this weekend on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit.
It will be an all-Team Penske second row, as 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud will start fourth after a top lap of 1:00.6353 in the No. 22 Menards Australian Gold Team Penske Chevrolet.
St. Petersburg resident and two-time winner of this event Sebastien Bourdais continued the resurgence for AJ Foyt Racing this season by qualifying fifth at 1:01.0017 in the No. 14 ROKiT AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet.
Pato O’Ward, the NTT P1 Award winner last weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, will start sixth after a best lap of 1:01.0799 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. O’Ward was the only driver in the Firestone Fast Six to not use the more grippy Firestone alternate “red” tires, instead opting for the primary “black” tires that have less grip but more durability.
Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon was eliminated in the second round and will start eighth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. In a stunning development, nine-time St. Petersburg pole winner Will Power didn’t advance out of the first round and will start 20th in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet.
Dixon barely made it through to the second session after one of his best laps was nullified in the first session for causing a local yellow that affected another competitor, per INDYCAR’s rules. Dixon spun in Turn 8 earlier in the first session to trigger a local yellow, but he snuck into the second group by grabbing the final available spot on his last lap.
Power’s best lap of 1:01.1140 in the first session was only 10th best in the group and too slow to advance. He brushed the wall on his final flying lap, bending a toe link on his suspension, and spun on a short straightaway approaching the timing line, ending any chance of making the second round.
2014 series champion Power will start from his furthest position ever on this circuit. His previous St. Petersburg low was sixth in 2009.
You’ll have an odd mix of drivers up front like Harvey, Bourdais and VeeKay all in the top seven with three Andretti cars (11-12-13) and two Penske’s (14-20) behind.