By: Spencer Neff
April 24, 2021
Saturday at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg meant one final practice and qualifying. Before Sunday’s 100-lap race on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit in Florida, here’s how the day panned out.
Colton Herta grabs Pole
After a frustrating weekend at Barber Motorsports Park to start 2021, Colton Herta was looking for better luck in St. Petersburg.
During Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session, that arrived when he ran a best lap of 1m00.3210 in the final round to win the pole position for Sunday’s race.
The Andretti Autosport driver beat out Michael Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey by.2499 of a second. This is the fifth pole of his career and first since Mid-Ohio Race 2 last year, a race he went on to win.
Harvey, whose team shares a technical alliance with Herta’s, equaled MSR’s best starting spot from the IndyCar Grand Prix and Road America Race 1 in 2020.
Honda also earned their first lockout of the front row since that second Mid-Ohio race last year (Herta and Santino Ferrucci). The last time the engine manufacturer did so on a temporary street course was at Long Beach in 2019 with Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud will share Row 2 with A.J. Foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais and Arrow McLaren Sp’s Pato O’Ward bringing up Row 3. After winning the pole last weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, O’Ward is the only driver to advance to the final round of qualifying in each of the first two races.
In Round 2, Herta ended Newgarden’s dominant start to the weekend by posting a best lap of 1m00.2207. Those not advancing from the group of 12 were Rinus VeeKay, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, Alex Palou, Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe. They will start seventh through twelfth.
In the first group of Round 1, Rossi led with a fastest lap of 1m00.2949, with Herta, O’Ward, Pagenaud, Bourdais and Dixon also advancing. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, Felix Rosenqvist, Conor Daly, Ed Jones and Jimmie Johnson did not advance. They will star on the inside of Row 7-12.
During the Group 2 session, Newgarden was fastest with a best lap of 1m00.4437 with Rahal, Harvey, Hinchcliffe, VeeKay and Palou also making it to Round 2. Scott McLaughlin, Marcus Ericsson, Romain Grosjean, Will Power, Max Chilton and Dalton Kellett were unable to advance and start tomorrow’s race on the outside of Rows 7-12.
Newgarden leads Final Practice
In a repeat performance, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden led the final 45-minute practice session for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. After topping Friday’s only session, the two-time race winner ran a best lap of 1m00.0622 (107.888 mph).
Just .1127 of a second off the Team Penske driver was Alexander Rossi, leading Honda’s efforts against Chevrolet. Final Practice was run without incident as drivers finished dialing in their cars for the afternoon qualifying session.
Here is the remaining schedule for this weekend’s on-track activity. Keep tabs on this weekend’s action with IndyCar1909.com and our social media platforms, listed at the bottom of our webpage. All times listed are track local (Eastern).
Sunday, April 25
9:05-9:35 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock Premium
Noon – NBC Sports on air
12:35 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines”
12:42 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (100 laps / 181 miles), NBC (Live)
Header Image By Chris Jones/INDYCAR