ST. PETERSBURG, Fla – Will Power vowed on Friday that you’re going to see new faces and teams in the Fast Six on most race weekends this season. With a new car, it’s going to be very unpredictable to figure out. You won’t see him and his Team Penske teammates battling Scott Dixon and a few others for poles in 2018.
He was right.
Three rookies made it to the Fast Six on Saturday, including six different teams overall. It was as surprising to see as it sounds.
The veterans have all been saying that they have to retrain their brains and feet to drive this new car. Braking points and everything is different. For the rookies, they don’t know any better.
Rookie Robert Wickens won the pole for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete (12:30 p.m. ET/ABC/INDYCAR Radio Network) with a lap of 1:01.6643-seconds in his No. 6 Honda. Sunday, will be Wickens’ first INDYCAR race and here he is ending Will Power’s reign of St. Pete poles.
Power, had won three straight poles and seven of the last eight entering this weekend. Instead, he will start second in his No. 12 Chevrolet (1:01.7346-seconds).
Two rookies will share Row 2 with Matheus Leist (1:01.7631-seconds) and Jordan King (1:01.7633-seconds) starting third and fourth respectively.
That’s three rookies in the top four of the staring lineup. King, actually broke the previous track record with a lap of 1:00.0476-seconds in Round 1.
That’s rookies stealing the show. None of those three have ever been in an INDYCAR prior to this season.
Simon Pagenaud spun three times on one lap towards the end of the second round and will start 12th. That pinned drivers like James Hinchcliffe (7th), Scott Dixon (9th) and Tony Kanaan (10th) outside of the Fast Six.
Ryan Hunter-Reay thought he wouldn’t be moving on but his teammate Alexander Rossi lost his two fastest laps which put Hunter-Reay back in.
Defending series champion Josef Newgarden failed to make it out of the first round of qualifying. He will start 13th as a result. Newgarden, was fifth and second respectively over the last two practice sessions of the weekend, but he couldn’t get his No. 1 Chevrolet up to part in knockout qualifying. He’s never had a top five finish in six career St. Pete starts, with a best result of eighth coming last year.
Newgarden will share Row 7 with the defending St. Pete winner in Sebastien Bourdais. Originally, he was slated to share the row with the defending Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato, but Marco Andretti was penalized for an infraction in the second group and lost his two fastest laps. He will start 18th now, which allowed Sato to get into the second round as a result.
Graham Rahal also lost his fastest two laps for spinning and bringing out the caution flag in that group too. He will start last in 24th.
Dixon, Rossi, Pagenaud, Newgarden, Bourdais, Kanaan, Jones, Andretti and Rahal will all be coming from ninth on back.
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete Starting Lineup
Row 1: Robert Wickens R, Will Power
Row 2: Matheus Leist R, Jordan King R
Row 3: Takuma Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay
Row 4: James Hinchcliffe, Gabby Chaves
Row 5: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan
Row 6: Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud
Row 7: Josef Newgarden, Sebastien Bourdais
Row 8: Zach Veach R, Spencer Pigot
Row 9: Ed Jones, Marco Andretti
Row 10: Jack Harvey R, Max Chilton
Row 11: Charlie Kimball, Zachary Claman DeMelo R
Row 12: Rene Binder R, Graham Rahal