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Power wins third consecutive pole at St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, FL (Sports Network) - Will Power from Team Penske will start on the pole position for Sunday's IZOD IndyCar Series season-opener at St. Petersburg after setting a new track qualifying record.

Power broke his previous record at this 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit with a lap in one minute, 1.3721 seconds.

It's the third year in a row the Australian has won the pole at St. Petersburg. He won the 2010 race and finished second to Dario Franchitti in last year's event.

"It's only the beginning of the weekend," said Power, who also finished second to Franchitti in the championship point standings in 2011. "We need to have a good strategy for the race and see what comes."

Ryan Briscoe qualified 0.16 seconds behind his teammate Power to give Penske the front starting row. Briscoe won this race in 2009.

Andretti Autosport drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe placed third and fourth, respectively, while Helio Castroneves captured the fifth spot. Castroneves made contact with the wall and sustained damage to his rear suspension during the second round of qualifying.

"Unfortunately I went over the limit of the car and ended up hitting turn nine, and I thought it was over," Castroneves said. "But the guys came fully focused to fix the car and rear suspension, and in seven minutes, they switched the entire suspension, and we were able to go back there."

Chevrolet -- one of the two new engine manufactures in IndyCar this year -- had an impressive debut by sweeping the top-five positions in qualifying.

"I'm very happy to get the first pole for Chevy, as they return to the series," Power said. "We worked hard over the winter. [Team owner] Roger [Penske] has been pretty keen on winning this championship after the last couple of years."

Simon Pagenaud from Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports gave Honda its best qualifying run with a sixth-place finish. However, Pagenaud received a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change. He will start 16th.

Surprisingly, Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon failed to make it into the third and final qualifying stint -- the "Fast Six." Dixon qualified seventh and missed advancing to the last round by 0.0022 seconds. Franchitti, who claimed his record third straight and fourth overall series championship last season, finished a disappointing 10th.

"Our setup wasn't where it needed to be obviously," said Franchitti, who won last year's season-opener at St. Petersburg. "I don't think it's by accident the Chevy guys were up there. We'll just keep our heads up and get the work done. We still have some tricks up our sleeve."

Marco Andretti, who is teammates with Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe, placed eighth, while Tony Kanaan from KV Racing Technology took the ninth spot.

Dixon, Andretti, Kanaan and Franchitti will advance one position in the starting field due to Pagenaud's penalty.

Kanaan's teammate, Rubens Barrichello, qualified 14th in what will be his first start in the series. Barrichello spent 19 years in Formula One before switching to IndyCar.

"I am still learning the circuit while the rest of the field is going flat out," Barrichello said. "I am pleased though."

Alex Tagliani from Bryan Herta Autosport qualified 17th, making him the quickest among those drivers using Lotus -- the other new engine supplier in IndyCar this season.

The 100-lap Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m.(ET).

03/24 17:31:58 ET


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