Qualifying Report: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
ST> PETERSBURG, Fla. March 12—Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato qualified 10thand 11threspectively in their ABC Supply Hondas today but they feel their cars will carry them to the front in tomorrow’sFirestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Both drivers made it out of the first round of qualifying only to have unexpected problems in the second round with the red-rimmed, softer compound tires. Trying a more aggressive approach with the tires backfired but the team learned from the experience which will help them in the future. The good news is that the drivers are confident in their cars and believe that they will be contenders in the race.
Hawksworth, who was second quickest in today’s morning practice, was quite confident going into today’s qualifying. Although it didn’t work out quite the way he envisioned, he is happy with his No. 41 ABC Supply Honda.
“The day started off well; we had a good practice this morning,” said Hawksworth, who posted a time of 1 minute, 0.78 seconds (106.721mph). “The car feels really good, the guys have done a good job and it’s nice to see that all of the work over the winter is paying off and the fundamentals are getting better. In the qualifying rounds, I think we misunderstood the red tires, so we missed it a little bit there but it’s [the information] certainly something we banked and will take to Long Beach. I think car-wise we have really good cars, both of us. I believe we’ll have a good day tomorrow.”
Last year Hawksworth started 21st and climbed through the field to finish eighth.
“Tough day for us,” said Sato, who posted a lap time of 1 minute, 0.97 seconds (106.274mph), “The first round was exciting, we had a good feeling on the black tires and had no problem with the red tires in the first segment although the field was very tight. We went for more performance in the second round and it didn’t work, so we lost speed unfortunately. We have always been strong in qualifying here so it’s a shame to miss the Firestone Fast Six but we’re looking to finish strong.”
Sato had qualified in the Firestone Fast Six the past three years in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda but his best finish was seventh, which is where he finished after starting from the pole in 2014.
Will Power won the pole for the sixth time here with a time of 1 minute, 0.24 seconds (107.561mph). Second through fourth were his teammates Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya. Scott Dixon was fifth with Ryan Hunter-Reay completing the top six.
There will be a morning warmup before the race. The race will be broadcast on ABC-TV starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time.