Team Penske’s Power wins record eighth St. Petersburg pole

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Power will lead the field to the green flag for the 2019 IndyCar Series opener on Sunday after speeding around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course in 1 minute, 0.4594 of a second (107.179 mph).

It earned the 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner the 55th pole position of his Indy car career, moving him within 12 of tying Mario Andretti for the most all time.

"That last run, the car felt really good," Power said. "I have to say it was a very neat lap and I didn't really leave anything on the table.

"Honestly, I didn't expect to be on pole because we had used (Firestone alternate) tires," he added about the Firestone Fast Six. "We didn't have new (alternate tires) like a couple of the other guys so, over the moon, man, over the moon to start on pole. I really am happy."

Twenty-four cars will start Sunday's 110-lap race as St. Pete hosts the NTT IndyCar Series opener for the ninth straight year. Team Penske owns the front row on the starting grid. Josef Newgarden qualified second in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske at 1:00.5570 (107.007 mph), his best starting position in eight St. Pete races.

"We definitely found our footing this morning and made the car really good," Newgarden, the 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion, said. "Everyone really executed today. I'm only disappointed in myself. I didn't put together the best lap there when it really counted. We did a great job getting into the Firestone Fast Six as a team, so you can't be dissatisfied. It's really positive for the whole organization."

Chip Ganassi Racing locked down Row 2, with Felix Rosenqvist qualifying third in his first NTT IndyCar Series race. The Swede turned a lap of 1:00.6884 (106.775 mph) in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda. Teammate Scott Dixon, the reigning and five-time series champion, was fourth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda at 1:00.8544 (106.484 mph).

"I'm pretty happy overall with the result," said Rosenqvist. "I'm not even sure yet what exact feedback to give to the team in qualifying, so I didn't want to change anything on the NTT DATA car.

"We are starting side by side tomorrow as teammates and the golden rule there is to always respect your teammate," he added. "Other than that, I just can't wait to get going tomorrow for the race here at St. Petersburg."

Andretti Autosport drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi will start in the third row. Hunter-Reay qualified fifth in the No. 28 DHL Honda with a lap of 1:01.0784.  Rossi was sixth in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda at 1:01.7739.

The first two rounds of qualifying featured incidents that shuffled which drivers advanced to succeeding rounds. A pair of red-flag stoppages in the first group of Round 1 limited green-flag time to a precious few minutes. It prevented Sebastien Bourdais from completing a timed lap so the two-time defending race champion from Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan will start 19th.

Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing initially advanced from his group in the first round but was penalized for causing a local yellow flag that impeded the qualifying effort of another car. Per INDYCAR rules, Sato forfeited his fastest lap to that point, preventing the 2017 Indy 500 winner from advancing to the second round and allowing Dixon to move on instead.

Rookie Colton Herta of Harding Steinbrenner Racing was third fastest in Round 2 but penalized for qualifying interference, surrendering his two best laps by rule. That allowed Rossi, who was seventh quick in the second round, to move up a spot and on to the Firestone Fast Six.

Road to Indy race recap

Zachary Claman (Belardi Auto Racing) celebrated his return to Indy Lights leading every lap of the season opener and winning the race by 0.7271 of a second over Toby Sowery (BN Racing/Team Pelfrey). Claman, who drove in Indy Lights from 2016-17, competed in 10 NTT IndyCar Series races in 2017 and '18, but returned to the top level of the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires this season to hone his race craft in hopes of an eventual return to the NTT IndyCar Series.

Parker Thompson (Abel Motorsports) completed a weekend sweep of the Indy Pro 2000 Championship presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader at St. Petersburg. The 21-year-old Canadian won by 1.4334 seconds over Kyle Kirkwood (RP Motorsport Racing) on Saturday, one day after winning the season opener.

Braden Eves also completed a weekend sweep, his in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, but in most unusual fashion. Eves was running third in Saturday's second race when the two cars ahead of him - Darren Keane (Cape Motorsports) and Christian Rasmussen (Jay Howard Driver Development) - had contact on the next-to-last turn of the final lap. Eves dodged the incident and won by 0.6338 of a second over Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) to collect his second win in as many days.

Full Result:

1.  (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:00.4594 (107.179)

2.  (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:00.5570 (107.007)

3.  (10) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 01:00.6884 (106.775)

4.  (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:00.8544 (106.484)

5.  (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:01.0784 (106.093)

6.  (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:01.7739 (104.899)

7.  (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:00.9531 (106.311)

8.  (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:01.0146 (106.204)

9.  (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:01.0185 (106.197)

10.  (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:01.0944 (106.065)

11.  (88) Colton Herta, Honda, 01:01.4182 (105.506)

12.  (81) Ben Hanley, Chevrolet, 01:02.3703 (103.896)

13.  (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:04.6298 (100.263)

14.  (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 01:00.9061 (106.393)

15.  (20) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 01:06.1422 (97.971)

16.  (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:00.9495 (106.318)

17.  (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, No Time (No Speed)

18.  (7) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 01:01.1345 (105.996)

19.  (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, No Time (No Speed)

20.  (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:01.1511 (105.967)

21.  (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)

22.  (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 01:01.1579 (105.955)

23.  (19) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, No Time (No Speed)

24.  (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:01.3785 (105.574)