St. Petersburg Pole Snaps Newgarden’s Long Drought

Newgarden

Josef Newgarden celebrates the NTT P1 Award Saturday after qualifying in St. Petersburg. (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment photo)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – One of Josef Newgarden’s goals entering the new NTT IndyCar Series season was to win a pole, especially considering his last NTT P1 Award came in June of 2022 at Belle Isle Park in Detroit.

After Saturday’s qualifying session on the streets of St. Petersburg, he can get a magic marker and put a big check in that box.

An exuberant Newgarden ended a 27-race pole drought and captured his 17th career Indy car pole on Saturday with a top lap of 59.5714 seconds in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, taking the top spot for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding.

“I get jacked up every time I show up for an IndyCar race,” said the two-time series champion. “It’s an elevated level when you start out the year because you have no idea if you’re going to keep coming back and producing results. It’s very difficult. You saw how tight it was.

“I didn’t know this would come today,” he added. “I just thought, ‘Look, let’s [get] through round one; let’s get through round two and see what we can make happen in the (Firestone) Fast Six. Really proud of this team. This is a rock star team.”

Felix Rosenqvist continued a magic carpet ride in his first weekend with Meyer Shank Racing, ending up second at 59.5772 in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda – just .0058 of a second behind reigning Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Newgarden.

That’s the closest front row for an IndyCar Series street race since June of 2012 at Detroit, when Scott Dixon edged Will Power by .0044 of a second.

The drama ratcheted up in the closing seconds as Newgarden took the top spot on his final flying lap with about 15 seconds remaining in the Firestone Fast Six. Rosenqvist then fell just short of toppling Newgarden just five seconds before qualifying ended on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit.

Rosenqvist, who moved to MSR after three seasons with Arrow McLaren, led practice Friday.

“It’s been an incredible start,” Rosenqvist said. “We don’t want to get carried away; the race is a different challenge. But we had a feeling from practice, from rolling off the truck, and that’s great. It’s not often you have that, especially the first weekend with a new team.”

Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta will share row two on the starting grid. O’Ward qualified third at 59.6540 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, with Saturday morning practice leader Herta fourth at 59.8189 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Global.

Romain Grosjean continued the strong start with his new team at Juncos Hollinger Racing, qualifying fifth at 1:00.0642 in the team’s No. 77 Chevrolet. Reigning St. Petersburg winner Marcus Ericsson rounded out the Firestone Fast Six at 1:03.5583 in the No. 28 Delaware Life Honda.

There was plenty of parity in the Firestone Fast Six, as five teams – Andretti Global, Arrow McLaren, Juncos Hollinger Racing, Meyer Shank Racing and Team Penske – fought for the NTT P1 Award.

Speed was also a storyline of the three-segment qualifying session. Rosenqvist broke the track record in the Group of 12 with his leading lap of 59.2706 in advancing to the Firestone Fast Six, eclipsing the mark of 59.3466 set by Power in 2022.

The top three finishers in last year’s standings – champion Alex Palou, runner-up Dixon and Scott McLaughlin – will have work to do to climb the order Sunday in the race.

McLaughlin was best among the trio, landing ninth in the No. 3 DEX Imaging Team Penske Chevrolet.

Six-time series champion Dixon starts 11th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, while two-time series champion Palou will roll off 13th in the No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Tom Blomqvist was the quickest of the five rookies in the 27-driver field. He will start 17th after a top lap of 59.9968 in the No. 66 AutoNation/Arctic Wolf Honda fielded by Meyer Shank Racing.

Sunday’s 100-lap race at noon will air live on NBC, Peacock, Universo, and the IndyCar Radio Network.

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