ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 24, 2012 – Sam Schmidt Motorsports was in uncharted territory Saturday during qualifying for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Driver Simon Pagenaud attacked the 1.8-mile street circuit through two rounds of qualifying placing him and the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports car into the Firestone Fast Six, the final round of
IZOD IndyCar Series “knock-out style” qualifying on road and street circuits.
When the dust settled, Pagenaud posted a lap of 1:02.1095
seconds at 104.332 mph, which was good enough for sixth on the starting grid. However, the Frenchman will be forced to start the race in 16th
after the team incurred a 10-grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change Friday night.
The engine change was recommended by Honda after Pagenaud
coasted into the pits during Friday’s second round of practice.
Despite the penalty, Pagenaud is optimistic for
Sunday’s race, which is on a track that he thoroughly enjoys.
“This track is fantastic,” said Pagenaud. “There are
some fast-speed corners like the back chicane and some slow-speed corners. The infield is really nice, and you feel very close to the ground, which makes it fun. I am looking forward to Sunday’s race.”
Pagenaud noted that street circuit racing brings out the best in him.
“I love street circuits,” he said. “It is very intense and gets you an adrenaline rush. You’re that close to the wall sometimes and you sometimes brush it. I love it!”
Team Penske’s Will Power won his third consecutive pole for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a lap of 1-minute 1.3721 mph at 105.585 mph. It is Power’s 25th pole of his IZOD IndyCar Series career.
Power’s Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe will start on the outside of row one with his qualifying lap of 1:01.5357 seconds at 105.305 mph. They were the only pair to top 105.mph on the tricky 14-turn circuit.
Row two will be Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay, with a lap of 1:01.9321 at 104.631 mph, and James Hinchcliffe, with a lap of 1:01.9701 at 104.567 mph. This will be Hinchcliffe’s first IndyCar start at St. Petersburg.
Rounding out the top five was Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves with a lap of 1:01.9987 at 104.518 mph.
The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will air live
Sunday, March 25, on ABC beginning with coverage at 12:30 ET. Coverage of the race by the IMS Radio Network can also be heard on Sirius XM Radio channel 94 or through local radio affiliates.
DATE: March 24, 2012
EVENT: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
SERIES: IZOD IndyCar Series
LOCATION: St. Petersburg, Fla. (1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit)
PAGENAUD: 6th (1:02.1095 at 104.332 mph)
POLE WINNER: Will Power of Team Penske (1:01.3721 at 105.585 mph)