St. Petersburg, Fla., (4 March 2023) – Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) drivers Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud were hoping to see their progress through the St. Pete weekend translate in qualifying, but a tough Saturday session left them to start 15th and 25th respectively for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete (12:00pm ET, NBC, SiriusXM Ch. 160).
The team showed speed in Friday’s practice runs on the 1.8-mile street course with Pagenaud closing out the first day of action fifth fastest in the No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda. With high hopes to continue that pace in qualifying, Pagenaud was running in the top-five in his opening qualifying session before he slid gently into the Turn Four tire barrier while on a quick lap, bringing out a red flag and ending his day with just 12-seconds left in the session.
Castroneves and the No. 06 AutoNation / SiriusXM crew made big process overnight with the Brazilian getting back up to speed for practice on Saturday morning. The three-time winner on the street of St. Petersburg briefly went to P1 in Group 1 qualifying and was sitting fifth before the red flag halted the session with 12-seconds remaining.
A new-for-2023 rule would allow the drivers to all get one more lap to post a fast time following the red flag. Going back out with a second set of scuffed Firestone Guayule tires, Castroneves unfortunately just missed the cut off to finish eighth in Group 1 which puts him 15th on the grid for Sunday’s race.
The 100-lap Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will air on NBC on Sunday starting at Noon ET. SiriusXM will also host live IndyCar Radio coverage of both sessions on XM Ch. 160.
Simon Pagenaud (No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda)
“Unfortunately it was not the qualifying that I wanted or expected to start the season off. I simply attacked too much. I felt like we were in a bit of a danger zone, so I felt like we really needed to attack and it was just too much for the rear of the car and unfortunately I couldn’t make the corner. Very unfortunate to start at the back of the grid, but the car has felt good all weekend and I think we can have the pace in the race. I look forward to recovering tomorrow.”
Helio Castroneves (No. 06 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda)
“From yesterday to today was a big improvement of course. The interesting thing is with the new rules we can use two different Guayule [alternate] tires in qualifying. I had a huge difference from one set to the other, it was about eight-tenths, which is a big deal. The red flag kind of upset us little bit because we had good momentum. I’ll tell you what, there were a lot of fast cars out there, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Where going to be working hard to get the No. 06 AutoNation, SiriusXM, Arctic Wolf, Cliffs machine up through the field for tomorrow’s race.”