Power Wins Pole for Season Opener in St. Petersburg

March 24, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 24, 2012) – Team Penske secured the front row and three of the top five starting positions Saturday during qualifying for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season opener.

The qualifying results of Will Power (first), Ryan Briscoe (second) and Helio Castroneves (fifth) highlighted an impressive performance for Chevrolet, which dominated qualifying in its first IndyCar Series event in six years. Chevy debuted its new twin-turbo V6 this weekend with Team Penske leading the way on Saturday. The Detroit-based manufacturer swept the top five starting spots for Sunday’s race.

Following up its strong effort from Friday practice which saw Power and Briscoe own the two fastest times and Castroneves finish sixth on the day, Team Penske continued to shine on Saturday. Power, who has led the series with eight poles in each of the past two seasons in the Verizon car, was the top qualifier on the streets of St. Pete for the third consecutive year. It marked the 25th pole of his IndyCar career.

“I’m very happy to get the first pole for Chevy as they return to the series,” said Power, the 2010 St. Pete race winner who has finished a close second in the series championship battle over the last two seasons. "I’m really happy for the Verizon Team Penske team. We worked hard over the winter. Roger (Penske) has been pretty keen on winning this championship after the last couple of years. It’s a good start. It’s only the beginning of the weekend. We need to have a good strategy for the race and see what comes.” 

Power led the way in the Firestone Fast Six final qualifying round with a lap of 1:01.3721 around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile course in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. Briscoe wasn’t far behind with a lap of 1:01.5357 in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske machine. The result equaled Briscoe’s top qualifying performance from last season and it represents his best starting position at St. Petersburg in his six career races at the venue.

“It's a great effort to get the season started with this kind of speed,” said Briscoe, the 2009 winner of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “We've been really busy testing this year, with the new DW12 (Dallara chassis), the new Chevy engine. It's just been a lot of fun, a lot of hard work as well getting it to this point. I'm absolutely loving it. Obviously, first time coming to the streets of St. Pete with this package, and the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske performed well, with a new track record today. I'm sure we'll see many more of those this year. Really good effort to start on the front row with my teammate (Power). We've been pushing each other hard, as we always do. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow. I think it will be very exciting.”

Castroneves earned a fifth-place starting spot when he checked in a with a top lap of 1:01.9987 in the No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil-Ultra Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. A two-time winner at St. Petersburg, Castroneves will look to add to his 25 career IndyCar victories on Sunday. After a brush with the wall in the second round of qualifying, the No. 3 Team Penske crew worked hard to fix Castroneves’ car as he tried to fight for the pole in the Fast Six session.

“The Shell V-Power boys did an incredible job fixing my car for qualifying, unfortunately I was having problems with communication,” said Castroneves. “The guys came fully focused to fix the car and rear suspension and in seven minutes they switched the entire suspension and we were able to go back (out) there. But certainly happy for Team Penske having three cars in the top five, and for Chevrolet as well. What a great testament (to) the hard work for everyone. I know the road is going to be tough tomorrow, but if we keep working as a team, we’re certainly going to get the result that we want.”

Sunday’s 100-lap race is scheduled to get the green flag shortly after 12:30 p.m. ET with live coverage on ABC-TV.