Scott McLaughlin came from down under in the Firestone fast six to take pole position in emphatic fashion. The battle appeared to be between street course pole master Will Power and defending St. Pete pole winner Colton Herta but out of nowhere in the final lap after Power and Herta had completed their final run, McLaughlin went from sixth to first to take his first P1 pole award with a :59.4821 pole time. The kiwi was the first driver to break the one minute lap time of the weekend in practice two with a :59.734. Talking to NBC about starting from the pole, he said “I’m used to braking with cars in front, so I better not overshoot like an idiot tomorrow.”
Qualifying second was nine-time St. Pete pole winner Will Power with a time of :59.6058. Colton Herta, Rinus Veekay, Romain Grosjean, and Simon Pagenaud qualified third, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. It was quite the rollercoaster for Grosjean so far as he was fastest in practice one but in practice two, he drove hard into the back of Takuma Sato, his old Dale Coyne Racing car, when he failed to slow up and avoid contact with the pack up of cars warming up ahead of him. There was significant damage to the car but the team got Grosjean and the car back out there for qualifying and initially in the fast six, posted the fastest time on the first run.
Making up sixth to twelfth place on the grid is Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Josef Newgarden, Alex Palou, Graham Rahal and rookie Kyle Kirkwood. Talking to NBC, Dixon said he “mistimed the peak” of the softer red tyre and like many others during the day such as Palou and Harvey, had hit the wall in turn nine. During qualifying round one, Pato O’Ward had also smacked the wall coming out of turn nine.
Kyle Kirkwood was the only driver in the fast 12 to not post a time under the one minute mark but was still the fastest rookie and has been all weekend. His rookie teammate Tatiana Calderon, had gained over a second on her best time in practice with a 1:00.939 qualifying 25th, beating Jimmie Johnson. Calderon told NBC she had “found a ton of grip” in qualifying.
Making up the rest of the field, from 13th to 26th place are as follows: Alexander Rossi (13th), Dalton Kellett (14th), Christian Lundgaard (15th), Pato O’Ward (16th), Helio Castroneves (17th), Devlin DeFrancesco (18th), Callum Ilott (19th), Conor Daly (20th), Felix Rosenqvist (21st), Takuma Sato (22nd), Jack Harvey (23rd), David Malukas (24th), Tatiana Calderon (25th) and Jimmie Johnson (26th).
The green flag for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg flies at 12pm ET (5pm GMT) tomorrow.
Featured Image: Scott McLaughlin racing around St. Petersburg (Photo by James Black/IndyCar Media)