Power leads Penske domination in St. Petersburg qualifying

Will Power celebrates after winning the Verizon P1 Pole Award on Saturday.

IndyCar champion Will Power is back out front for the first race of his reign. He’ll lead the Team Penske quartet to the start of the IndyCar season-opening race at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Power twice broke the track record in Saturday qualifying through the temporary street circuit in downtown St. Petersburg. He was briefly bumped from the top starting spot by new teammate Simon Pagenaud, but quickly reclaimed it with a lap at 1 minute, .6931 seconds.

"I was really satisfied to get pole," said Power, who has won five of the last six poles at St. Petersburg, and opened last year’s championship season with a win here.

His lap at 1:00.6509 in the second qualifying group stands as the new track record, breaking the mark of 1:00.928 set by Sebastien Bourdais in 2003.

In all, Team Penske swept the top four spots in qualifying and will hold down the first two rows when Sunday’s race begins. Pagenaud qualified second and was followed by Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Takuma Sato qualified fifth and Bourdais, for KVSH Racing, was sixth.

"It’s a bit of a Penske lockout," said Bourdais. "We’re sort of the best of the rest — it makes you feel good and bad."

In all Chevrolet took five of the six spots in the Fast Six round of qualifying. Sato, for AJ Foyt Racing, was the only Honda driver to make the top six. Also absent from the final qualifying round was any drivers from Andretti Autosport or Chip Ganassi Racing.

IndyCar this year has introduced new aerodynamic kits that have replaced the spec Dallara chassis. In addition to helping manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda differentiate themselves from each other, the cars will have additional downforce that will allow drivers to run faster and deeper into the corners.

Through preseason testing and the first two days of track activity at St. Pete, Chevy has a clear advantage.