Newgarden Qualifies 22nd in Soggy St. Petersburg


Gloomy weather conditions covered the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Saturday, and the gloom lingered for third-year Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (SFHR) driver Josef Newgarden when the weather cleared for Verizon IndyCar Series qualifications to go green.

St Pete Quals 2

Newgarden turned a lap of 1 minute, 13.1170 seconds in the No. 67 Florida Lottery/SFHR Dallara/Honda/Firestone car in qualifying Saturday evening and will start 22nd in the 110-lap race Sunday. Takuma Sato will start from pole.

“We had a tough qualifying today,” Newgarden said. “Not the way you want to start the year, obviously. But it’s very early in the game, and Sunday is where the money is paid out. We just have to be as prepared as we can for the race. We have to put our head down and get refocused for tomorrow.”

Severe weather conditions caused IndyCar teams, drivers and fans to evacuate open areas of the track Saturday afternoon, and qualifications were delayed for more than three hours. Newgarden finished 11th in his respective group in Round 1 of the Firestone Fast 6 qualifying format

Newgarden is mentally preparing for a focused run through the 22-car field in the race around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street-circuit.

“Tomorrow is going to be tough because it’s a long event and you have to have very good tire degradation,” Newgarden said. “You don’t want to run the tires off too quickly, and there are 30-lap stints around St. Petersburg per tire set.

“We don’t really know about the reds (alternate tires) yet. We didn’t get time on them in qualifying, but we should get a chance to run on them during morning warm-up. We just have to be smart about which tires we choose at which point and how we use them, and hopefully we have a strong race car for the whole stint. That’s what we really need.”

The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will air live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday. For live trackside updates, follow @SFHRindy on Twitter and Instagram.