It’s looking like it could be a long IndyCar season for those drivers behind the wheel of a Honda. Team Chevy’s Will Power put his Penske-Chevrolet on pole for the Firestone Grand Prix at St. Petersburg today, with teammates Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya shuffling in behind him in second, third and fourth, respectively.
Cars running Chevrolet’s new aero kit and the Ilmor/Chevy-developed 2.2-liter turbocharged V6 engine topped IndyCar’s pre-season testing at Barber Motorsports Park earlier this month, leading some to speculate Chevy will have the upper hand all season. The addition of the aero kits was meant to make for more differentiation between the series’ two manufacturers, and if lap times are any indication, they certainly have.
Reigning series champion Power set his 37th ever career pole position Saturday after lapping the St. Petersburg street course in 60.6931 sec, trumping the previous course record of 60.928sec set by Champ Car in 2003. The Aussie said he was supposed to run four laps during qualifying, but only ran three after getting confused by chatter on his radio.
“Man, I was programed to run four laps,” Power told RACER. “As I began my third, Tim (Cindric) said ‘This is it,’ and about two-thirds of the way around he said ‘You’re still second’ so I had to throw it in there. It feels great to beat the old Champ Car record, but that was too close.”
The fastest Honda driver during the session was last year’s pole-sitter Takuma Sato, who was 0.45 seconds off of pole pace in his AJ Foyt Honda, landing him in fifth place on the grid. The lap was almost fast enough to bump the KVSH Racing Chevy of Sebastien Bourdais’ down to fifth, having been less than a hundredth of a second off of his pace.
Chevy will be searching for its first IndyCar win of the year when the green flag flys in St. Petersburg today at 3 p.m.