A Surprise on Pole?

At first glance, some  might say that the pole-winner for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is a shock. After all, Scott McLaughlin had a very unremarkable rookie season with Team Penske, finishing fourteenth in points. He finished eleventh at St. Petersburg last season. He didn’t have any disastrous races, but never raised eyebrows either. But he arrived from V-8 Super Cars with a ton of hype, causing a lot of the IndyCar media to practically hand him a championship trophy.

As the season wore on, it became obvious that McLaughlin had a lot to learn to become competitive. This weekend, it became obvious from the first session that McLaughlin was ready to take the training wheels off. He was eighth quick in Friday’s opening practice. This morning, he ended up at the top of the scoring pylon. I think everyone thought it was nice to see a new name up there, but someone else would end up on the pole. But if you paid attention and watched McLaughlin all weekend, you aren’t surprised at all.

Will Power thought he would win the pole. With time expired on the clock, Power said in the post-qualifying press conference that he thought he had wrapped up another pole position, but at the last second he saw he was P2.

Press conf lo

Last year’s pole-sitter, Colton Herta, will start third. He was near the top of the speed charts all weekend, but never the top. Those are the kind of performances that see a driver taking the checkered flag on Sunday. Rinus VeeKay has been quiet all weekend, but got himself into the Firestone Fast Six and will start fourth on Sunday. Romain Grosjean’s team was able to make repairs on his car after he punted Takuma Sato in Saturday morning’s practice. He will start fifth, while Simon Pagenaud will start sixth in his first start for his new team – Meyer Shank Racing.

Some teams that struggled in practice, struggled in qualifying. Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden improved over their practice times, but they will start seventh and ninth respectively.

One driver who looked awfully angry after practice was Alexander Rossi. As everyone was leaving pit lane, I saw Rossi and his father having a private conversation to the side of his pit stand, and neither of them looked happy. I started to take a picture, but Rossi was looking at me as I walked by. I decided to keep my phone in my pocket. After running sixth and fourth in the two practice sessions, Rossi will start thirteenth on Sunday. Is this an indication of what Rossi’s season will look like? Stay tuned.

Other notables who were probably disappointed with their starting spots were Alex Palou (10th), Graham Rahal (11th), Pato O’Ward (16th), Helio Castroneves (17th), Felix Rosenqvist (21st) and Jack Harvey (23rd).

A tip of the hat to AJ Foyt Racing. Many, including myself, thought that the team was headed for a disastrous season with two rookies and a regular backmarker making up their driver lineup. While rookie Tatiana Calderon will start twenty-fifth, Dalton Kellet will start fourteenth and rookie Kyle Kirkwood will start twelfth. Keep an eye of Kirkwood this season. He may not be in a very good car, but he’s going to be fun to watch.

That’s going to do it for us today. Oddly enough, the track went cold for the day after IndyCar Qualifying. There is an opera scheduled for 3:00 this afternoon in the performing arts center that is housing the media center. Whoever came up with this scheduling idea should look elsewhere for employment. The crowds, teams and media are not really welcome on the premises this afternoon, so we are heading back to our hotel and possibly the beach (but probably not). Susan swears she will put up a post here later today from our hotel, so check back later this afternoon.

Please check back here tomorrow morning, before the race. The IndyCar morning warm-up will take place at 8:45 am. It’s an early race, to be shown live on NBC at Noon. Please check back in the morning, and thanks for following along these last two days.

George Phillips

2 Responses to “A Surprise on Pole?”

  1. well, since you brought up opera, and who was running well…..

    from the Running Man movie (Dynamo) :

  2. Missing PT already

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