ST. PETERSBURG — The significance of Colton Herta’s fifth career IndyCar Series pole goes beyond the fact that he’ll start first in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The honor, earned with a lap of 01:00.3210, came at the hometown track for the 21-year-old Belleair resident. It was the first pole Herta has won with his father, Bryan, as the race strategist for his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. And it came 16 years after his dad won the pole here.
“It’s cool to kind of try to carry on the legacy as best I can,” Herta said.
Herta did so Saturday by topping Jack Harvey by almost a quarter second to qualify first at the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course.
Two-time defending race winner Josef Newgarden qualified third, followed by Team Penske teammate Simon Padenaud. The series’ other local, St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais, will start fifth.
Saturday’s biggest shock came when perennial favorite Will Power failed to advance out of the first stage. Power, who won the pole in nine of the past 11 races, struggled during the session and spun out on his final lap. His No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet qualified 20th in the 24-car field.
“It’s nuts to go from one of the best cars on Friday to the worst car today,” Power said. “Unbelievable.”
Rookie Jimmie Johnson — the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion — will start 23rd. The series’ two other high-profile rookies (former Australian Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin and Formula One veteran Romain Grosjean), will start 14th and 17th.
Johnson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, failed to advance to the final round. He’ll start eighth, behind Rinus VeeKay.
Sunday’s green flag is scheduled for 12:42 p.m. The 100-lap race will be shown on NBC.