ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After a hectic Firestone Fast Six session, Romain Grosjean won his second NTT IndyCar Series pole position of his career ahead of Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda went around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile street circuit in 59.5532 seconds to average 108.810 mph.
Grosjean is in his second year with Andretti Autosport and is looking to start 2023 off on a high note after placing 13th in points last season.
“We improved a lot from last year as a team,” Grosjean said. “I was impressed when I came to Thermal (Club for spring testing), all the efforts. It was a good test. Sebring was another good one.
“On track, obviously 27 cars, hard to get a lap. You never knew your best performance. Having three of us in the Fast Six, locked in the front row, is pretty impressive to start the season. [I’m] thankful for the team. We worked really hard from a tough season last year. There were some better days, but today is a good one.”
Fellow Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta qualified second in the No. 26 Honda ahead of Pato O’Ward. Marcus Ericsson qualified fourth to complete the second row.
Herta was second fastest in Friday’s practice session and fastest in the Saturday morning session. Missing pole position was frustrating for the 2021 St. Petersburg race winner.
“Just missed it on that last run,” Herta said. “We were looking really good all day. Just a sloppy last lap. But it was still good enough for P2. Two Andretti cars on the front row and two Hondas on the front row. Keeping those Chevies and McLarens back. Good day, happy with it.”
The Fast Six session had two red flag interruptions. Kyle Kirkwood locked up his tires on approach to Turn 13, hitting the outside wall with the left front corner of the car. Kirkwood brought the car back to pit lane, but the car would not continue.
The second red flag was for Scott McLaughlin spinning after Turn 12 and coming to a stop in the Turn 13 hairpin. McLaughlin stalled his car, requiring the safety team to assist him. Because Kirkwood was faster than McLaughlin in the second round and both drivers had their lap times deleted after the red flags, Kirkwood will start fifth ahead of McLaughlin.
In the first round of qualifying, Felix Rosenqvist led the first group ahead of Christian Lundgaard, Kirkwood, O’Ward, McLaughlin and Ericsson. Scott Dixon led the second group of round one ahead of Herta, Grosjean, Alex Palou, Alexander Rossi and Will Power.
The second group had its share of controversy. It appeared that Rinus VeeKay was impeded on the approach to Turn 10 as the session concluded. IndyCar race control did not announce any penalties and VeeKay qualified 24th.
The second round was incident-free other than a pair of spins in Turn 4 for Kirkwood and Lundgaard. Both were able to keep their cars in motion and continue in the session.