Sunday, March 29, 2015

Morning Warm-Up: St. Petersburg 2015

Will Power will lead the field to the green at St. Petersburg
The champ begins his title defense on top. Will Power starts his 2015 campaign from pole position. It is the fourth pole position Power has won at St. Petersburg and 37th of his career. He has two St. Petersburg victories and averages a finish of 5.857 on the street circuit. The Australian shattered the previous track record of 60.928. In round one, Power broke the record with a time of 60.8344. He would obliterate it even further in round two with a time of 60.6509 and in the Firestone Fast Six, Power came out on top with a 60.6931.

Power's pole position leads a Penske 1-2-3-4. Penske debutant Simon Pagenaud will start second after missing out on pole position by 0.0321 seconds. The Frenchman's best finish in three St. Petersburg appearances is fifth. Hélio Castroneves, all-time leader in St. Petersburg victories with three, starts third in the #3 Chevrolet. He has finished on the podium in three consecutive St. Petersburg races. Juan Pablo Montoya starts fourth. The four Penske drivers were the only four to run sub-61 second laps in the final round of qualifying. Penske has won six of the 11 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Takuma Sato was the top Honda and will start fifth and Sébastien Bourdais joins him on row three. Sato has three top tens in five St. Pete starts while Bourdais has never finished in the top ten at St. Pete in four starts. Tony Kanaan starts seventh. The Brazilian has five podiums, seven top tens and nine top tens in ten St. Pete starts. Ryan Hunter-Reay joins Kanaan on row four, who has a history of either finishing really well at St. Pete or finishing really poorly. Hunter-Reay has three podiums in seven starts but his next finish is 11th. Scott Dixon will roll off from ninth with Josef Newgarden in tenth. The furthest back a winner has come from at St. Pete is ninth. Dan Wheldon won from ninth in 2005 and Graham Rahal did it in 2008. However, outside of those two races, the other 9 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg have been won from inside the top five.

Simona de Silvestro starts 11th for her IndyCar return with her Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti in 12th. Both de Silvestro and Andretti have two top tens at St. Petersburg, de Silvestro in four starts, Andretti in nine starts. Just missing out on round two of qualifying were Charlie Kimball and Carlos Muñoz and they will start on row seven. Former Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winners Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe will start on row eight while two IndyCar rookies, Stefano Coletti and Sage Karam, start on row nine. Luca Filippi and James Jakes rounds out the top twenty on the grid.

Jack Hawksworth starts 21st for his debut with A.J. Foyt Racing. Gabby Chaves, who replaced Hawksworth at Bryan Herta Autosport, joins the British driver on row 11. Dale Coyne Racing sweeps the final row of qualifying. Francesco Dracone was the slowest in round one overall but will start 23rd because he was the slowest driver in group one. The Italian's best lap was 64.2654, not within 105% of the best time from round one (63.876). Dracone has not been within 105% of the fastest time in any session this weekend. Carlos Huertas starts 24th after being the slowest driver in round one, group two.

The top 20 drivers from round one of qualifying were covered by one second with the top 23 drivers covered by 1.175 seconds.

The 2015 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg can be seen at 3:00 p.m. ET on ABC with green flag at 3:30 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 110 laps.