Herta snatches St. Pete pole

Colton Herta bested Jack Harvey in the waning seconds to claim pole position for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The 21-year-old Californian came out strong in qualifying by first advancing out of Group 1 just a tick off his Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi. He upstaged is own performance in Q2 by logging the quickest lap of the day at 1 minute 00.2207 seconds.

The Fast Six kicked off with Herta’s Pseudo-teammate Jack Harvey setting the early pace in his Andretti Autosport supported Meyer Shank Racing Honda. The Briton had a pole within grasp only to be upstaged by Herta in the waning seconds as he logged a lap of 1:00.3210s.

The pole is Herta’s fifth NTT IndyCar Series pole and his first at St. Petersburg. Colton’s father and race strategist Bryan Herta won the pole for the 2005 running.

“I knew we had a good race car for here,” said the driver of the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. “Just had to get through those first two stages nice and clean. Gainbridge car was so good today and everybody did a phenomenal job up until this point.”

Harvey claimed his third career outside pole start just ahead of the Team Penske brigade of Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagneaud.

Two-time St. Pete champ Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top five follow by Barber polesitter Pato O’Ward. O’Ward gambled on using fresh black tires early in the session but found himself .75 of a second off the pole time.

Rinus VeeKay came up a scant .0473s short of the Fast Six to slot in seventh. Scott Dixon salvaged an eighth place start after losing his fastest lap for spinning in Q1. The start is the New Zealander’s first start outside the top six in nearly a year.

Rounding out the top ten are 2008 St. Pete winner Graham Rahal and Barber winner Alex Palou.

Fresh after signing a contract extension with Team Penske, St. Pete pole master Will Power had an uncharacteristic day that left him 20th on the grid. The Aussie hit the wall coming into the final straightaway and spun which cost him his quickest two laps.

The result is the 39 time race winner’s worst starting spot since qualifying 22nd for last year’s Indianapolis 500 and his first start outside the top six at St. Pete.

“I was up a little and tried to get a good exit and touched the wall and it bent the tow,” said Power. “It’s nuts to go from one of the best cars on Friday to the worst car today – unbelievable.”

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