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Newgarden at an 'elevated level', takes pole - IndyCar St. Pete qualifying report

Written by Jake O'Callaghan

The IndyCar season kicked off in St. Petersburg, Florida as the 27-strong field of NTT IndyCar Series drivers took to the city streets to decide the starting order for Sunday’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Round 1 - Group 1

Qualifying in Florida began with a strong group one, with multiple IndyCar champions and five rookies in the fray for the first competitive session of the year. It was a gusty and cloudy day, introducing extra challenges for the drivers. Rookie Tom Blomqvist went top for Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) after the first runs, using the green-sidewalled alternate tyre. 

Ultimately, it was last year’s St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson for his new team Andretti Global that took the top spot. Behind him it was Armstrong, O’Ward, Newgarden, VeeKay, and McLaughlin that advanced. There were some shock eliminations in this session, namely the reigning champion Alex Palou and his two Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) teammates Linus Lundqvist and Kyffin Simpson.

Round 1 - Group 2

Colton Herta topped the timing charts after the first runs in group two, logging an impressive time of 59.56s on primary tyres. In the end, that was the fastest time of the session. Behind him was last year’s pole sitter Romain Grosjean, Rosenqvist, Power, Dixon, and Lundgaard.

The surprise elimination of group two was Andretti’s Kyle Kirkwood, who had reached the Fast Six in last year’s St. Pete qualifying, but an accident in practice on Saturday morning put the 27 team on the back foot, preventing them from advancing.

Fast 12

Team Penske occupied three of the top four spots after the first runs in the Fast 12, with the 2022 St. Pete winner Scott McLaughlin on top. But, when the chequered flag flew to end the session, only one of the Penske cars ultimately advanced, that being Josef Newgarden in third.

Felix Rosenqvist topped the session, recording a 59.27s lap which was a new track record. Elsewhere, it was Herta, Ericsson, Grosjean, and O’Ward that made it into the Fast Six. 

Fast Six

In the end, Josef Newgarden took pole position. After failing to take a single pole in 2023, his focus for 2024 was on achieving better qualifying results and at the first event he has certainly already achieved that. 

Behind him, Felix Rosenqvist bookended a spectacular day for the MSR team, sealing second place and a front-row start for tomorrow’s race. Pato O’Ward will start third, aiming to avenge the win that fell from his grasp in the last St. Pete race after an engine malfunction gifted the top honours to Marcus Ericsson.

Colton Herta starts fourth in the race that he dominated in 2021. Romain Grosjean will start fifth for his new team Juncos Hollinger Racing (JHR), an impressive showing for last year’s pole sitter. Finally, it was Ericsson that ended up sixth, a messy and difficult session for him meant he was unable to lay down a proper fast lap.

Josef Newgarden said he was racing at an “elevated level” and added: “We’re here to go after it every weekend. Team Chevy absolutely delivered today, we asked for a menu of items and they were like, okay, we’re going to give you everything.”

He further announced his intentions for the season, stating that “we can have a very strong year”.

2024 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Starting Order

  1. Josef Newgarden

  2. Felix Rosenqvist

  3. Pato O’Ward

  4. Colton Herta

  5. Romain Grosjean

  6. Marcus Ericsson

  7. Rinus VeeKay

  8. Will Power

  9. Scott McLaughlin

  10. Marcus Armstrong

  11. Scott Dixon

  12. Christian Lundgaard

  13. Alex Palou

  14. Santino Ferrucci 

  15. Alexander Rossi

  16. Callum Ilott

  17. Tom Blomqvist

  18. Kyle Kirkwood

  19. Linus Lundqvist

  20. Agustin Canapino

  21. Christian Rasmussen

  22. Graham Rahal

  23. Kyffin Simpson

  24. Sting Ray Robb

  25. Colin Braun

  26. Pietro Fittipaldi

  27. Jack Harvey


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