By: Spencer Neff
March 4, 2023
Continuing a dominant weekend for his team and engine manufacturer, Romain Grosjean took his No. 28 Andretti Autosport Dallara-Honda to the pole position for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
In earning his second career pole, the Geneva, Switzerland-born Frenchman clocked a best lap of 59.5532 (108.810 mph) on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course in Florida. This is his first pole with Andretti Autosport. His lone previous pole was at the 2021 GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, driving for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing.
Grosjean’s previous best start on a street course was second at the 2022 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville. It was also Grosjean’s only previous front row start with Andretti Autosport, who begin their second season together. During the 2022 opener, Grosjean started and finished fifth in St. Petersburg, his previous best effort at this venue
Teammate Colton Herta will lineup beside Grosjean on the grid after posting a lap .4155 of a second back. Arrow McLaren’s Pato O”Ward finished third, best among the Chevrolet entries.
Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing capped off the drivers who recorded a lap in the six-minute final session. Kyle Kirkwood and Scott McLaughlin line up fifth and sixth as separate incidents prohibited them from being credited with a timed lap.
Round 3-Fast 6
A promising start to the first weekend with his new teammate hit a snag early in the final session as Kirkwood drifted off the racing surface between Turns 13 and 14. Despite slowing down, he was unable to stop his car in time and the No. 27 made heavy contact with the inside wall, sustaining major damage to the left-front of his Dallara-Honda.
Just over two minutes later,McLaughlin’s frustrating weekend continued. The 2022 St. Petersburg pole and race winner spun and drifted off course in Turn 13, prompting another red flag.
In accordance with Rule 184.108.40.206-“If the violation occurs during Segment Three (3), all Segment Three (3) times shall be voided, and the Car shall not be permitted to participate in the remainder of Qualifications.” neither Kirkwood nor McLaughlin was not allowed to participate in the remainder of qualifying, relegating them to fifth and sixth on the grid.
Since Kirkwood has a better time in the previous round, he was given fifth while McLaughlin lines up sixth. This is done per Rule 220.127.116.11-“If one or more Cars does not post a time within its respective group or segment, such Cars will be ranked at the rear of its respective group or segment based upon”:
Segment One (1): Qualifications order Segment Two (2): Segment One (1) lap times Segment Three (3): Segment Two (2) lap times, the latter of those three being the applicable scenario.
Round 2-Fast 12
Herta would lead the way again for the “Fast 12” in round 2, posting a best lap of 59.5442 (108.827 mph). He led a 1-2-3 finish of the session for Andretti Autosport, with Kirkwood and Grosjean slotting in behind their teammate.
Advancing to the “Fast Six” with them would be O’Ward, Ericsson and McLaughlin. Not advancing to the final round would be Alex Palou, Felix Rosenqvist, Scott Dixon, Will Power, Christian Lundgaard and Alexander Rossi. Those six will line up 7th-12th for tomorrow’s race. Power, 2022 INDYCAR Champion, begins his title defense from 10th on the grid.
After a brief spin in Turn 4, Kirkwood was assessed a drive-through penalty for causing a local yellow. Later on in the session, Lundgaard was docked his best alp for doing the same and impeding another driver in the process.
The ruling on Lundgaard is pursuant to INDYCAR rule 18.104.22.168-“Road/Street Courses (Local) – All Drivers shall demonstrate caution as defined by the criteria set forth in Rule 22.214.171.124. (a) & (b) and be prepared to stop. Overtaking is not permitted between the first Yellow Condition and the subsequent Green Condition. Any Driver passing through a Local Yellow Condition in Practice or Qualifying will have that lap time invalidated.”
Aside from the issues with Kirkwood and Lundgaard, the Fast 12 was run under green conditions during the 10 minutes of allotted time.
Kirkwood was penalized under rule 126.96.36.199-
“In the event of a violation of the Rules, the black flag may be declared to impose a penalty (a “black flag penalty”) requiring a Driver to:
- a) Drive through Pit Lane at Pit Lane speed limits (“drive through”);
- b) Stop in his/her Pit Box (“stop and go”); or
- c) Stop in his/her Pit Box for a prescribed period (“stop and hold”).”
Round 1-Group 1
Arrow McLaren kicked off their first season as a three-car full-time effort in style. Rosenqvist took his No. 6 entry to P1 for the opening group in Round 1. The Swede notched a best lap of 59.9396 (108.109 mph), the only driver in the sub-minute bracket.
Advancing to Round 2 with Rosenqvist would be Lundgaard, Kirkwood, O’Ward, McLaughlin and Ericsson.
The drivers who did not advance to Round 2 were Marcus Armstrong, Helio Castroneves, Santino Ferrucci, Jack Harvey, Agustin Canapino, Sting Ray Robb and Simon Pagenaud. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Armstrong would be the top rookie in qualifying.
With 12 seconds remaining, the first red flag of thew session was displayed after Pagenaud nosed the front of his No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing entry into the Turn 4 tire barriers. As many have so far this weekend, Pagenaud suffered a rear-brake lock-up. Under INDYCAR rules, Pagenaud lost his two best laps and was unable to advance into the Fast 12.
Per INDYCAR rule 8.3.6-“If a Car causes a Red Condition in any segment, the Car’s best two (2) timed laps of the segment shall be disallowed, the Car may not continue in the segment, and the Car shall not advance to the next segment. “
Round 1-Group 2
Rebounding from his practice crash in the morning, Dixon led the way among the 14 cars in Group 2. He posted a best lap of 59.821 (108.323 mph), one of four drivers to post a lap in the 59-second range. Joining Dixon in the Fast 12 would be Herta, Grosjean, Palou, Rossi and Power.
The drivers who did not advance out of the group running were Josef Newgarden, David Malukas, Devlin DeFrancesco, Graham Rahal, Callum Ilott,Rinus VeeKay, Conor Daly and Benjamin Pedersen. They will start on the outside of the last seven rows. Group 2 featured a clean session with no stoppages.
Now that the 27-car grid has been set, preparations will be finalized for Sunday’s 100-lap race. Here’s a look at the on-track session info for tomorrow.-
At-track schedule (All Times Local/Eastern Time):
Sunday, March 5
9-9:30 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock
Noon – NBC Sports on air
12:23 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines”
12:30 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding (100 laps / 181 miles), NBC, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and Peacock (Live)
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