ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Not even illness could slow Will Power on the streets of St. Petersburg.
Power led a Team Penske sweep of the top four spots in qualifying for the IndyCar season-opener, and he did it in record time.
Power broke his own track record three times Saturday. His best time around the streets of St. Petersburg was in the second session, but he won the pole in the third session at 1 minute, 0.2450 seconds. The record set in his second session was 1:00.0658.
It was Power’s sixth pole at St. Pete in nine career races. The Australian has won 43 career poles.
Power downplayed the qualifying session, but praised his Penske team for repairing his car after he wrecked on Friday.
"Had to replace the whole rear end. First-class team, I love driving for Team Penske," he said.
Power is a two-time winner at St. Pete but didn’t reveal much in terms of his strategy for the race Sunday.
"We’ll be good, do our thing and see what happens," he said.
He later admitted he wasn’t feeling well and skipped the post-qualifying news conference.
"Unfortunately, I’ve been feeling pretty ill all day," he said. "It was a struggle to get through qualifying, honestly, but we were able to do it … I just started feeling a lot worse. I’ll try to get some good rest tonight and come back ready to race on Sunday."
Simon Pagenaud qualified second and was followed by Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, the defending race winner. The four Penske drivers will try to give owner Roger Penske his eighth win in 12 tries at St. Pete.
Scott Dixon qualified fifth as Chevrolets took the top five spots. But the reigning IndyCar champion wasn’t pleased with the session.
"It’s tough to see the Penske’s in the top four spots," Dixon said.
NOT A GOOD DAY: It was a miserable qualifying session for Andretti Autosport, which failed to advance three of its four drivers out of the first round. Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz and Alexander Rossi were eliminated in the first group, while Ryan Hunter-Reay made it out of his group into the second round. Andretti appeared angry as he exited his car, and Munoz said "as a team, we were not competitive in qualifying."
LISTEN TO ME: Sebastien Bourdais had a heated exchange with Mikhail Aleshin following Saturday’s practice session. Bourdais was upset that the Russian driver pulled out in front of him as Bourdais was trying to make a fast lap. He stormed over to Aleshin, who wasn’t very interested in anything Bourdais had to say. Bourdais at one point yelled "Listen to me!" and called Aleshin an "idiot." Asked about it later, Bourdais said "it’s not even worth discussing."
MAYOR RETURNS: James Hinchcliffe is making his return to racing following a near-fatal accident last May during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500. Hinchcliffe crashed during practice and a broken piece of suspension pierced his leg and he nearly bled to death as rescue workers raced him to the hospital for emergency surgery. He has praised IndyCar’s safety crew for saving his life. Hinchcliffe will start ninth on Sunday.