ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 29, 2014) -- Team Penske produced mixed results Saturday during a rain-delayed qualifying for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the 2014 season opener for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Will Power led the way for Team Penske with a fast lap of 1:02.3955 around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile course and he was the lone Team Penske driver to advance to the Firestone Fast Six final round of qualifying. Power will start the race in fourth place in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. The result ended the streak of four-consecutive Verizon P1 pole awards for Power on the waterfront street circuit in St. Petersburg.
Qualifying was delayed more than two hours because of heavy rain. It began under wet conditions and ended with a nearly dry track. Most drivers started the first qualifying session on rain tires, including all three Team Penske pilots who ran the entire first session on rain treads, but the Firestone Fast Six final session ended with the drivers on “red” slick tires.
“The Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet is okay. Balance-wise, it feels good,” said Power, who will be looking for his second win in St. Pete Sunday to go along with his 2010 victory. “We got a bit of the insight there on the red tires and bit of a dry track in the Fast Six. Just have to make we have a good look at the data overnight and work to make it better for the race.”
Helio Castroneves will start 10th after posting a fast lap of 1:03.6635 in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet during the second round of qualifying.
"It was a little bit tough out there but the Hitachi Team Penske Chevy was really fast,” stated Castroneves, a three-time winner of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “I had no reference point in some areas so it made it challenging and it was a little wet for me, in Turn 5 especially. We came up a little short to advance into the Firestone Fast Six and we have a little bit of work to do tomorrow. But I can't wait. I have Roger (Penske) on my side with the strategy and the Hitachi guys will be strong. It should be a really exciting race to start the season here in St. Pete."
In his first qualifying session in an IndyCar race since 2000, Juan Pablo Montoya posted a fast lap of 1:12.6994 in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet, good for ninth in the second group of the second session. He’ll line up 18th on Sunday in his first-ever start for Team Penske.
“The biggest problem for the No. 2 Verizon Chevy was the last corner, for some reason,” said Montoya, who will also make his first start in St. Pete tomorrow. “I just couldn’t come off that corner and get the car to turn. (Takuma) Sato was in front of me and I would lose everything to him right there. It is what it is. I haven’t driven in wet conditions in a long time and we never had an opportunity to do it in testing. I don’t think we’re that far off. I’m still getting acclimated back to the Verizon IndyCar Series. My team is still getting acclimated to me. If that process was complete we would be a lot better. We are definitely making progress.”
The ABC-TV broadcast of Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg begins at 3 p.m. ET. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:20 p.m.