ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Colton Herta bounced back from a disappointing IndyCar opener by winning the pole Saturday for the street course race in downtown St. Petersburg.
Herta was enveloped in a first-lap crash in last week’s season-opening race in Alabama that knocked the championship contender out before he’d even warmed his tires. The Andretti Autosport driver said he’d rebound in St. Pete then delivered on the 1.8-mile downtown temporary course that runs along Tampa Bay.
His pole-winning run put Herta at the front of a competitive field separated by just 0.17955 seconds from first to 24th in qualifying. It is the fifth pole of his career but first since Herta was paired with his father, Bryan, as his race strategist.
Colton Herta and Bryan Herta have now won poles at four of the same tracks: St Pete, Laguna Seca, Portland and Mid-Ohio.
Jack Harvey qualified second for Michael Shank Racing and was followed by Josef Newgarden, who triggered the first-lap crash at Barber Motorsport Park that wrecked Herta last week.
Simon Pagenaud was fourth behind his Team Penske teammate Newgarden, while Sebastien Bourdais and Pato O’Ward rounded out the Fast Six.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, making his second IndyCar start and first on a street course, qualified 23rd. He also avoided qualifying last a week ago — small victories, Johnson said.
Team Penske has signed Will Power to a contract extension that takes him at least through 2023 and crosses one of the names off of Roger Penske’s to-do list.
Simon Pagenaud is also in a contract year for Penske’s IndyCar team, as is Brad Keselowski on the NASCAR side. Keselowski last year signed a one-year extension that put him right back into another round of negotiations.
But in IndyCar, both Power and Pagenaud went into the year as former Indianapolis 500 winners and series champions hoping to continue at Team Penske. It expanded this year to four cars to include rookie Scott McLaughlin. Penske typically prefers to run three-car operations.
Power has 39 career victories and is six pole positions away from tying Mario Andretti’s career record of 67.
“I really love being with the team and they’ve been very loyal to me,” Power said.