Sato puts Honda on the pole for the GP of St. Pete

Takuma Sato, of Japan, celebrates after qualifying for the pole position for the IndyCar Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Takuma Sato, of Japan, celebrates after qualifying for the pole position for the IndyCar Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Takuma Sato won the pole at St. Petersburg for today weather permitting. It is the season-opening IndyCar Series race, where Tony Kanaan will make his debut in his new Target/Chip Ganassi Racing ride starting alongside him on the front row.

Sato circled the street course in 1 minute, 0.01 seconds Saturday in the rain-delayed qualifying session to put his A.J. Foyt Racing entry out front. It was a stellar debut for Honda and its new twin turbo engine.

Sato also praised Honda Performance Development, which struggled mightily in this race a year ago. He said having the engine ready early in the offseason allowed his team to do needed testing in advance of the opener.

But the Chevy of Tony Kanaan put him in second, 0.2951 seconds behind the Japanese driver. Kanaan, the defending Indianapolis 500 winner, replaced Dario Franchitti during the offseason following Franchitti’s forced retirement from injuries suffered in an October crash.His first qualifying session with his new team led to Kanaan’s best starting spot at St. Pete since 2010. It’s the first time he advanced to the final Fast Six round of qualifying at this course in three years.

Pos. Car Driver Time Speed Round
1 14 Takuma Sato 1:01.8686 104.738 Firestone Fast Six
2 10 Tony Kanaan 1:02.1637 104.241 Firestone Fast Six
3 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1:02.2167 104.152 Firestone Fast Six
4 12 Will Power 1:02.3955 103.854 Firestone Fast Six
5 9 Scott Dixon 1:02.4454 103.771 Firestone Fast Six
6 25 Marco Andretti 1:02.9595 102.923 Firestone Fast Six
7 34 Carlos Munoz (R) 1:03.3955 102.214 Round 2 / Top 12
8 98 Jack Hawksworth (R) 1:03.5738 101.929 Round 2 / Top 12
9 8 Ryan Briscoe 1:03.6206 101.854 Round 2 / Top 12
10 3 Helio Castroneves 1:03.6635 101.785 Round 2 / Top 12
11 17 Sebastian Saavedra 1:03.8374 101.508 Round 2 / Top 12
12 20 Mike Conway 1:03.9618 101.310 Round 2 / Top 12
13 11 Sebastien Bourdais 1:15.8337 85.450 Qual / Group 1
14 77 Simon Pagenaud 1:12.3741 89.535 Qual / Group 2
15 7 Mikail Aleshin (R) 1:15.9111 85.363 Qual / Group 1
16 19 Justin Wilson 1:12.5890 89.270 Qual / Group 2
17 18 Carlos Huertas (R) 1:16.8105 84.363 Qual / Group 1
18 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 1:12.6994 89.134 Qual / Group 2
19 27 James Hinchcliffe 2.34.4862 41.945 Qual / Group 1
20 83 Charlie Kimball 1:13.0048 88.761 Qual / Group 2
21 15 Graham Rahal No Time No Speed Qual / Group 1
22 67 Josef Newgarden 1:13.1170 88.625 Qual / Group 2

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