ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 4, 2023) — Qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was as wild as the two practices that preceded it. Not just rookies but seasoned veterans hit walls or tire barriers that line the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit. Only two teams out of 10 did not have on track incidents over the two days of on track activity. Repaved areas of the track which made it slicker, and in one case bumpier, were seen as the main contributors to the accidents.
Santino Ferrucci will start 17th inside Row 9 after posting his quickest lap of the weekend in the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet. Ferrucci struggled in the two practices but never to the point of losing control of his car. However, he did suffer a hit in the rear from rookie Augustin Canapino, who was switching his fuel map. The team had to replace the right-side underwing gurney in the rear of the No. 14.
“Solid day for us here at AJ Foyt Racing, P-9 nine in qualifying [Group 1], especially coming after what happened in free practice 2 [referring to the Canapino incident]. Just really struggling with the car early on so making leaps and bounds forward and I think we have a great race car, so I’m going by that. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow,” said Ferrucci, who will make his 44th start after driving part-time in the NTT INDYCAR Series for the last two seasons.
Rookie Benjamin Pedersen previewed what many drivers experienced with braking issues yesterday when he locked up the rears and spun incurring light damage to the left front wing in Turn 4. Ferrucci also had braking issues (as did many others in the field) but caught the car in time. The 23-year-old rookie didn’t have any other incidents and made it through qualifying cleanly in the No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet. He will start 27th.
“So first ever qualifying in INDYCAR done and the best-feeling car I’ve had all weekend,” said Pedersen. “We made a lot of progress since yesterday and just focusing on how to get the most out of this car. Like I said, I’ve never driven an Indy car around here on the streets of St. Petersburg and just learning as much as I can. The next focus is the race and everything from fuel saving to pitstops which will be brand new things for me. Trying to embrace everything this weekend and set ourselves up for good success the rest of this year.”
Romain Grosjean won the pole with a speed of 59.55 seconds, pipping his teammate Colton Herta in the final seconds of the Firestone Fast Six qualifying round. Rounding out the top six were Pato O’Ward, Marcus Ericsson, Kyle Kirkwood and Scott McLaughlin. Both Kirkwood and McLaughlin brought out red flags in separate incidents in the final round erasing their lap times, so their positions were determined by their times in practice 2.
The teams will have a final warmup Sunday morning (which can be viewed live on Peacock TV starting at 9 a.m. ET. The 100-lap race will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 12 noon ET with the green flag waving at 12:30 p.m. ET.