Some thoughts about today’s qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which can be viewed at 8 pm Eastern on NBCSN:
It was nice to have the drama of the Fast Six again. This is only the second time this season the Fast Six has been the qualifying procedure.
It seems the black tires may be faster than the red alternate tires here. Alexander Rossi advanced from round 1 without going to the reds.
Colton Herta’s tire strategy looked good in the Fast Six but hurt him at the end.
Group two results and penalties caused a delay, partly due to an issue with timing and scoring. The delay created a lot of confusion as to who would advance. Indycar got it right in the end, though.
What a very nice run for Sebastien Bourdais in the A. J. Foyt Racing number 14. The team is definitely looking forward to beginning the season here in March.
While Scott McLaughlin starts near the back, he showed some flashes of speed in practice. He has a lot to learn about qualifying, but I think he will have a great year in 2021.
Andretti Autosport looked strong today with three cars and their technical partner Meyer Shank in the Fast Six.
Ironic that Oliver Askew got into Round 2 because Felix Rosenqvist was penalized. An angry Rosenqvist driving from the rear of the field will make for some excitement tomorrow.
I can’t remember a qualifying session where six penalties were assessed.
The Will Power/Colton Herta qualifying rivalry continues. I look for more clashes between them next year, with Herta winning a few more times.
Power’s fifth pole of the year puts him within five of Mario Andretti’s 67 career poles. Power has won 9 poles at St. Pete. Today’s was his 6th pole here in 7 years. He has won this race from the pole just once, however.
Strange that both title contenders , Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden failed to make the Fast Six. Dixon starts 11th and Newgarden starts 8th. Not winning the pole cost Newgarden a valuable point in his chase to overtake Dixon. Dixon still needs to finish ninth or better tomorrow, but depending on what Newgarden does, Dixon may be able to win the title with a lower finish.
James Hinchcliffe had a solid day which should help his chances to secure a seat for next year. He was strong in practice, led group 1 in qualifying, and made the Fast Six.
Tomorrow morning look for my race day preview. I’ll include some things my on site reporters have shared about the the venue.