Power gets sixth IndyCar St. Pete pole

 Australia’s Will Power took the pole position for today’s IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that will be opener for this year’s IndyCar season. INDYCAR.COM

Australia’s Will Power took the pole position for today’s IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that will be opener for this year’s IndyCar season. INDYCAR.COM

MIAMI: Australia’s Will Power set a track record on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) and captured his sixth pole position for the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) season-opening race over the Florida city’s streets.

Power led a Roger Penske Racing Team sweep of the four top qualifying spots, with France’s Simon Pagenaud joining him in row one while Brazil’s Helio Castroneves and defending race champion Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia booked starts in row two.

The Aussie owned the record over the 1.8-mile street circuit after winning last year’s pole in 1min, 0.6509 of a second.

Power, the 2014 IndyCar series champion, broke that mark in the first of three qualifying segments with a lap at 1:00.5678, then shattered that record with a lap at 1:00.0658 to qualify for the “Fast Six” session that decided the order for the first three rows. All six racers broke Power’s first-session mark to advance.

In the last session, Power again came out on top in 1:00.2450 to claim the pole.

Defending series champion Scott Dixon of New Zealand qualified fifth with American Ryan Hunter-Reay sixth in a field of 22.

Power crashes in practice session
Power crashed in Friday’s (Saturday in Manila) first practice session then recovered to set the speed pace in sunny Florida.

The 2016 campaign in the US-based open cockpit series begins Sunday over a 1.8-mile (2.89km), 14-turn temporary street circuit with Dixon trying to defend his season points title, won on a tie-breaker of Montoya last August.

Team Penske racer Power’s lap on 1min, 0.9431 of a second at 106.329 mph was the best for any of the 22 drivers set the compete for the crown, but still .3 off the track record lap Power set last year in winning his fifth pole position at St. Petersburg.

On only his fifth practice lap, Power crashed entering turn nine. The car sustained heavy right-side damage when it hit the wall.

Power, the 2010 and 2014 winner in St. Petersburg, said he was adjusting the brake when the vehicle hit a bump and he lost control, forcing mechanics to repair it before the second practice session.

“Definitely a bad start,” said Power. “But full credit to the guys to get the car back out there, get some laps, get my head around the track and so on. It was a good session. (We) ran in circles with the setup, but P1, pretty happy.”

Dixon, a 38-time IndyCar race winner, was second fastest at 1:00.9573 (106.304 mph) for Chip Ganassi Racing. The three-time St. Pete runner-up seeks his first checkered flag on the Florida layout.

France’s Simon Pagenaud, Power’s teammate, was third on 1:01.1796.

Montoya, the defending St. Petersburg race champion, was 10th in the practice session.

Power won six poles last season and led the most laps in four races but only won once, at the Indianapolis road course race, while Montoya won only twice, at St. Pete and the Indianapolis 500.

Dixon won at Long Beach and Texas and took the season-ender at Sonoma to capture the season crown by having won once more than Montoya over the 16-race campaign.

This year’s 16-race calendar will not have races in New Orleans, Milwaukee and Fontana, California, from 2015 but new races were added at Boston in September, an oval in Phoenix in April and at Road America in June.

The feature event will be the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.



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