Power provides speed in St. Pete quals

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By Dave Lewandowski

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – So far anyway, everything has gone right for William Steven (he’ll answer to Will) Power this weekend in the IZOD IndyCar Series domestic opener.

Power continued his domination on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course alongside scenic Tampa Bay by claiming the PEAK Pole Award for the sixth Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a quick lap of 1 minute, 1.6026 seconds (105.190 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six session.

It is the third pole start in his IZOD IndyCar Series career. The previous times he won at Edmonton and was runner-up at Long Beach in 2009.

Power won the season opener on another temporary street course two weeks ago in Brazil, and had topped every practice session time chart this weekend. He set the track qualifying record in the second round of qualifications at 1:01.4816 (the record had been 1:01.6839 in 2007 by Helio Castroneves).

“It’s a good weekend so far for the Verizon Team Penske,” said Power, who started and finished sixth in his Penske Racing debut here last year – substituting for Castroneves. “We’re still at the front and so I’m very happy. It’s been a process. We’ve been working away at it and go through each session and look after our reds (alternate tire allotment).

“I came away with pole. We would have been disappointed if we didn’t given our pace this weekend.”

Tony Kanaan, who also participated in the Firestone Fast Six in Brazil, will join Power on the front row for the 100-lap race. He posted a quick lap of 1:01.8797 in the Team 7-Eleven car for Andretti Autosport.

“I haven’t started (on the front row) in awhile,” said Kanaan, who recorded his best starting position since winning the pole at Richmond in 2008, “I think we did a great job. We took a gamble on the tires. We went out on the blacks in the Fast Six and it paid off. I think once I realized that we are quite a bit away we might as well just see what we can do and take a gamble.

“It’s nice to have Michael Andretti there (as race strategist) because I was keen to start on the reds and he said, ‘No, no, going to the blacks.’ And we can’t say no to the boss. So I said, ‘All right, the black.’ It’s a whole different atmosphere on the 11 team right now. I am enjoying it. Hopefully no one had hits me from behind like in Brazil and we will be able to have a good race.”

Scott Dixon (1:02.0820), makking his series-record 34th consecutive top-10 start, and Justin Wilson (1:02.1992) will share Row 2, while Castroneves (1:02.2118; a two-time St. Pete winner) and Marco Andretti (1:02.3461) will occupy Row 3.

“It’s nice to be back on a groove,” Castroneves said. ”We want Mr. Power to obviously continue doing well, but we can’t let him get too many points. Otherwise, we’re going to be in trouble. Tomorrow is going to be a good race as long as everybody will be OK on the start.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished second to Ryan Briscoe in the ’09 race, missed advancing to the Firestone Fast Six by 0.0014 of a second and will start seventh in the No. 37 IZOD car for Andretti Autosport. He’ll be joined on the fourth row by FAZZT Race Team driver Alex Tagliani.

KV Racing Technology’s E.J. Viso and Mike Conway of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will start on Row 5.

Dario Franchitti failed to qualify for the Firestone Fast Six for the first time when he was knocked out in the first round. Franchitti, the reigning series champion, started from the pole for the season opener March 14 in Brazil and was the only driver to participate in all seven Firestone Fast Six sessions in ’09. He’ll start 13th in the No. 10 Cottonelle car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, his lowest road/street course starting position since 21st at Infineon Raceway in 2005.

“We had a good run and the car didn’t slow down at all,” he said. “(Ryan) Briscoe had some problems of his own and I caught him in Turn 8 and got held up. That was unfortunate. The guys made some great changes to the car and we were pretty quick after the crash in practice yesterday.”

Graham Rahal, competing this weekend for Sarah Fisher Racing in the No. 67 Dollar General car, will start 16th. He won the race in 2008 and was the pole sitter last year.

source http://www.indycar.com

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