St. Petersburg Qualifying Wrap-Up

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Call this the first of the year jitters. Throughout the first three practices of the new 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, it was hard to get a grasp as to who was struggling and who had the upper-hand. By the end of the day on Friday, it certainly appeared that this was not going to be the weekend for Team Penske. Felix Rosenqvist led the first practice, while Ryan Hunter-Reay led Practice Two. The highest placed Penske car on Friday was Josef Newgarden, who was seventh quick in Practice One and and ninth quick in Practice Two.

By this morning, Team Penske started coming to life. Josef Newgarden was second quickest and all three Penske cars were in the Top-Seven. Some suggested they were sandbagging, but I’m thinking they were just getting a handle on things. Regardless of their method, suffice it to say they figured it out

Will Power is once again on the pole, with Josef Newgarden alongside on the front row. It looked as if Newgarden would have it, but Power got him on his last lap of the Firestone Fast Six. Power and Newgarden will be followed by rookie Fexlix Rosenqvist and Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon. Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi rounded out the Fast Six.

But it what happened in Round One, that has everyone buzzing. First Marco Andretti came to a stop in the pit entrance bringing out the first red flag, with the clock running. Then just as things got going with a couple of minutes left in the session, Santino Ferrucci plowed into the tire barrier – effectively bringing an end to the session.

I happened to be standing behind the pit of Sébastien Bourdais when Ferrucci crashed. They threw their hands up in disgust, because Bourdais was still on the outside looking in when his teammate brought the session to a close. Bourdais will start nineteenth.

Many people I talked to thought that IndyCar should stop the clock or at least have one untimed hot lap when that situation arises. I know I’m in the vast minority, but I think that teams should just bank a hot lap at the first. I know that sounds simplistic or harsh – but all the teams know the rules. Sometimes the breaks don’t go their way all the time. That’s what makes this type qualifying interesting – the wild card factor. I’m sure Ben Hanley isn’t complaining about this format.

Then there was the Sato penalty during Group Two of Round One that allowed Scott Dixon to make Round Two. To be honest, I don’t know exactly what happened. I was in the pits and could not hear the PA announcer, but I know some people were unhappy about the penalty. But Dixon lived through Round Two and ended up starting fourth on the grid.

But congratulations to Will Power and Team Penske for winning the NTT P1 award – the first for anyone in this new NTT era.

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This should be an interesting race. Even though the Fast Six had all the usual names, this should an interesting race. Can Bourdais come from the back of the field to make it three in a row at St. Petersburg? Will Felix Rosenqvist match his hype and win the first time out of the box in an Indy car? Will Colton Herta and Harding Steinbrenner overcome their offseason drama as well as a qualifying penalty and have a good start to his IndyCar career?

These will all be fascinating storylines to follow as this race unfolds. But I’m still sticking with my prediction that Alexander Rossi will be the one standing at the top of the podium tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned.

That will do it for us today. We ate some fabulous seafood last night, and we are going to sample some more local fare somewhere else tonight. We are going to be here extra early in the morning. One of the perks for being a lowly blogger is that occasionally we are offered hot laps in the pace car. Tomorrow at 7:30 am, we get that honor again. I will wait to post tomorrow morning after that. Then I think Susan is preparing another post for sometime tomorrow.

So check back in the morning. Again, thanks for following along today

George Phillips

2 Responses to “St. Petersburg Qualifying Wrap-Up”

  1. Sorry. Off topic, but nothing ruins my weekend more than Roger Penske’s constant lobbying for mandatory spots on the 500 grid for “season-long” teams. He can spin the economics all he wants but IMO he’s challenging the historical spirit of the greatest spectacle in racing. I strongly disagree with him and am hoping he doesn’t bully the Indycar brass into this tradition destroying fiasco.

  2. I thought the NTT Data pole award was impressive. Thanks George.

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