Veteran Tony Kanaan prevailed through three rounds of “knockout” IndyCar Series qualifying Saturday
under hot and humid conditions to claim the pole for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The new qualifying format, to be used at all road courses and temporary street circuits, starts with the 26-car field divided in half, with an initial 20 minute session for each. The top six cars from each session
then advance to the second round, and the top six from that session then advance to the final “Firestone
Top Six Shootout.”
Kanaan ran second to KV Racing’s Will Power in each of the first two sessions, taking him safely into the
final session along with Power, Justin Wilson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves.
In the final, Power initially topped the charts, but with a fresh set of tires Kanaan moved his Andretti
Green Racing machine to the front and claimed his ninth career IndyCar pole, his first of the still-young
Power will start second, one of five former Champ Car drivers in the top 10 grid positions, along with thirdstarting
Justin Wilson. In all, nine Champ Car drivers and five teams have started the 2008 as part of the
unified IndyCar Series, with additional entries expected later this season.
Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, who is seeking his third consecutive St. Petersburg victory, and
teammate Ryan Briscoe will start fourth and fifth, respectively, with Ryan Hunter-Reay rounding out the
top six for Rahal Letterman Racing. Castroneves almost missed the final round, jumping from 10th to
sixth in his final lap of Round 2, and knocking Power’s KV Racing teammate Oriol Servia out in the
In the first qualifying rounds, rookie Hideki Mutoh led much of Group 1, but slipped down the order in the
final minutes and was bumped at the end by fellow rookie Franck Perera. Meanwhile, Wilson recovered
from an early spin to jump to the top of the Group 2 timesheet and bumping Homestead race winner Scott
Sunday’s 100-lap Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the second of 18 IndyCar Series races this year,
starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on ESPN.
Tony Kanaan (#11 Andretti Green Racing Honda) pole qualifier, ninth career IndyCar pole, 19th
consecutive top-10 start:
“It was tough. I think the IndyCar Series is so competitive now that you have
to give everything you have. When I finished my [qualifying] run, I was exhausted. My engineer said I
had [fuel for] one more lap but I told him ‘No, I don’t; I’m done’. It’s great to have all the [former] Champ
Car teams here, it makes things very difficult, very competitive. But that’s what IndyCar racing is
supposed to be, so I’m glad. Tomorrow the race will be hot, and even more hard work, but that’s why I
Erik Berkman (President Honda Performance Development) on 2008’s new ‘knockout’ road course
“It was an exciting debut for the new IndyCar qualifying format and I think it worked
very well. We’re also pleased that the drivers all seem to be adapting so well to our new paddle-shift
transmission system, and that the Honda HI8R Indy V-8 is handling the heat and humidity with the
reliability we’ve come to expect from it.”