Defending Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner Helio Castroneves continued to be the man to beat on the Florida street circuit, claiming the pole for Sunday’s second round in the 2007 IndyCar Series in anaction-filled day of practice and qualifying.
Castroneves’ best lap of 101.6839 (105.052 mph), set during the “Firestone Fast Six” qualifying shootout, was actually only second-quickest on the day. Tony Kanaan set the quickest time of the day during the opening round of single-car qualifying and appeared headed towards his first pole of the ’07 IndyCar season. But a crash in Turn 9 during the 10-minute “Fast Six” shootout did extensive damage to the left side of Kanaan’s Andretti Green Racing Honda, ending his day.
Because the incident brought out a full-course caution, Kanaan was dropped to sixth on grid, presuming his car can be repaired in time for Sunday’s 100-lap race. A change to his back-up Honda Dallara would force Kanaan to start from the rear of the 18-car starting field.
Third-generation racer Marco Andretti will start on the outside of the front row, with teammate Dario Franchitti in third and 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon rounding out the top four. DarrenManning produced the strongest qualifying run for A.J. Foyt Racing in more than two years to round out the top five qualifiers. Sunday’s race starts at 2:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on ESPN.
Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda) Pole qualifier, a league-record 17th IndyCar Series
pole, defending race winner
“It’s always good to start up front, but particularly so at a street circuit. I knew it would be a close battle for the pole between our team and Andretti Green. But since the very first[practice] session, we’ve been figuring out what works for our car here. We’ve been building a fast car,putting in good laps and it all paid off in qualifying. Today was my day, but tomorrow will still be very, verytough. With the heat here this weekend, I’m expecting a physical race, but I’m ready for that.”