The nine-time pole-sitter takes the green flag in Row 10. The fastest driver in the first qualifying session lines up 11th. Last week’s winner starts 10th and the six-time IndyCar champion stalks his first win of the season from the eighth slot. That was the tale of the tape in Saturday’s crazy qualifying session at St. Pete.
Will Power, the fast qualifier nine times who had never started worse than sixth, banged off the wall, bent his suspension and spun into the grass trying to advance of out of the Top 12 in his Verizon Chevy.
REPLAY: @12WillPower makes contact with the wall during his qualifications attempt.
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Alexander Rossi, who was atop the first wave of qualifiers, wound up a disappointing 11th in the Auto Union Honda.
Alex Palou, fresh off his impressive victory at Barber, showed pace early but had to settle for 10th in the Ganassi Honda.
And Scott Dixon overcame a spin and a handful of a race car, but will still start from Row 4 in the PNC Honda.
For Power it was certainly a mixed bag of emotions because after being re-signed by Roger Penske through 2023 earlier this week he made a mess of what his always his strength on street and road courses.
“It was definitely not the qualifying session we were looking for,” said the 40-year-old Aussie. “We just didn’t get the set-up quite right and the series is so tough now, if you’re not right on point, you’re certainly going to pay for it and then start back somewhere like 20th. So, it looks like a two-stop strategy. We are hoping there are some yellows, which will open the windows up and give us a chance to potentially jump some people.
“So, the aim for tomorrow will be a top 10. We’ll try to get some points and get in that Top 10 and that would be good for us.”
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Rossi was on his way to victory here in last year’s season finale when he made an uncharacteristic mistake and hit the wall and he looked like one of the favorites after the first round of time trials.
“We led all of our sessions in qualifying and we were never out of the top four in practice,” said Rossi. “We put on a set of red tires for round 2 in qualifying and gained no time over the blacks. This isn’t a first time occurrence, which is unfortunate, but something that is out of our control. We will rebound tomorrow as the AutoNation Honda is fast.”