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Penske's Will Power wins sixth Grand Prix of St. Petersburg pole

ST. PETERSBURG — Will Power wrecked Friday in the first practice session of the IndyCar season.

Then he got sick after Saturday's final run.

And in the middle, Power broke his own track record (twice) and won the pole for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the sixth time in the past seven years.

"Every driver has a quality," Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves said. "He certainly likes the way the car's set up and takes the best out of it."

Power certainly did Saturday, recording the day's quickest lap (60.0658 seconds) and leading Penske's 1-2-3-4 qualifying effort despite battling an illness.

Power navigated the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course in 60.5678 seconds during the first qualifying run, breaking the record he set last year.

His new mark didn't last long as revamped aero kits led to faster speeds across the board before today's 110-lap race. Power's top time last year (60.6509 seconds) wouldn't have advanced him into this year's final qualifying round; seven drivers had quicker laps Saturday.

Power's No. 12 Chevrolet held off teammate Simon Pagenaud in the final session to win his second straight Grand Prix pole.

The 35-year-old Australian didn't celebrate his 43rd career pole for long. His wife, Liz, helped him sit on the pit wall after a few photographs. Power's complexion looked almost as pale as his new white fire suit. A few minutes later, he was on a golf cart and headed away from the track before he could speak with reporters.

"It was a struggle to get through qualifying, honestly, but we were able to do it," Power said in a statement. "… I'll try to get some rest (Saturday) and come back ready to race on Sunday."

Power's health was the only issue for Penske, which continued its dominance here by sweeping the top four qualifying spots for the second year in a row, and in the same order: Power, followed by Pagenaud, Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya.

"Shocking, isn't it?" said Montoya, the defending Grand Prix winner.

Four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon will start fifth, one spot ahead of Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was the lone Honda to advance to the final round of qualifying.

"It's somewhat frustrating talking about top Honda all the time," said Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champ. "We want to be back where we should be, fighting with these guys."

Graham Rahal qualified seventh, followed by St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais. Former Grand Prix winner James Hinchcliffe will start ninth in his first race back from a horrific crash before last year's Indianapolis 500.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

Starting grid

Pos. (Car No.) Driver Engine MPH Time

1. (12) Will Power Chevrolet 107.561 1:00.245

2. (22) Simon Pagenaud Chevrolet 107.21 1:00.4421

3. (3) Helio Castroneves Chevrolet 107.108 1:00.4995

4. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 107.052 1:00.5312

5. (9) Scott Dixon Chevrolet 107.038 1:00.5385

6. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay Honda 106.438 1:00.8803

7. (15) Graham Rahal Honda 106.95 1:00.5893

8. (11) Sebastien Bourdais Chevrolet 106.805 1:00.6711

9. (5) James Hinchcliffe Honda 106.803 1:00.6724

10. (41) Jack Hawksworth Honda 106.721 1:00.7188

11. (14) Takuma Sato Honda 106.274 1:00.9745

12. (21) Josef Newgarden Chevrolet 106.13 1:01.0571

13. (26) Carlos Munoz Honda 105.907 1:01.1856

14. (83) Charlie Kimball Chevrolet 106.154 1:01.0433

15. (27) Marco Andretti Honda 105.81 1:01.2417

16. (19) Luca Filippi Honda 105.934 1:01.1699

17. (8) Max Chilton Chevrolet 105.302 1:01.5372

18. (7) Mikhail Aleshin Honda 105.721 1:01.2934

19. (98) Alexander Rossi Honda 105.23 1:01.5794

20. (10) Tony Kanaan Chevrolet 105.638 1:01.3414

21. (18) Conor Daly Honda 104.62 1:01.9385

22. (16) Spencer Pigot Honda 105.558 1:01.3881

Note: All cars have Dallara chassis.

Penske's Will Power wins sixth Grand Prix of St. Petersburg pole 03/12/16 [Last modified: Saturday, March 12, 2016 9:50pm]
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