Chevy Racing–Indycar–Qualifying Report St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG (March 29, 2014) Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, led the way for Team Chevy as he qualified his Chevrolet IndyCar V6-powered car in second for the first race of the  2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season  – the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It was a challenging round of qualifying as the track went from wet to dry conditions during the three rounds but Kanaan delivered a solid qualifying effort on the Streets of St. Petersburg for his first race with a new team.
“The Verizon IndyCar Series 2014 season has kicked off here on the Streets of St. Petersburg,” said Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing Program Manager for Verizon IndyCar Series. “And it is apparent the fans will be presented with some outstanding racing on Sunday.  The challenge of a qualifying session that was delayed for rain and started out on wets became a rapidly changing set of conditions for each team and driver to adapt to and likely exposed any remaining driveability issues.  Tomorrow’s weather looks spectacular and Team Chevy will be ready to race for the win and as many of the top 5 manufacturer point scoring positions as possible.”
Two additional Team Chevy drivers making it through knock-out qualifying to the Firestone Fast Six were: Will Power, No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, who will start fourth and Scott Dixon, No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, who turned in the fifth fastest time in the final session.
A total of 10 Chevrolet IndyCar V6 powered drivers will start the 110-lap race on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile street course in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida
Takuma Sato (Honda) won the pole.  Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andetti completed the Fast Six.
ABC will have a live telecast of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 30, with pre-race at 3 PM ET. The green flag will fly at 3:27 PM. The IMS Radio Network brings the action live to fans. Both the radio broadcast and live timing and scoring can be found on  Radio broadcast can also be heard on XM Radio 209/Sirius Radio 209.
TONY KANAAN, NO.10 TARGET CHIP GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 2ND: “I  think it has been like 3 years since I have been in the Top 6. It feels really good , I can’t thank the Target Chip Ganassi Racing guys enough. A lot of people made a lot of comments over the years because we struggled so much in qualifying in street and road courses and nobody was counting on that.  I like to be the element of surprise.  Nobody was talking about us at Indy last year and nobody was talking about this weekend.  Although this is not even half of the battle because this is qualifying. Front Row, man it feels pretty good!  I used to see 16 or 17 cars in front of me in a circuit like that so it feels pretty good. I am happy.  It is a new team and those guys had a heck of a year last year and a huge disappointment on Dario’s accident and I still feel like this is Dario’s car.  Those guys went through a lot and they gave me a lot of credibility when I replaced Dario.  They made me feel extremely comfortable and although we have only been working together for the three or four months, I feel part of it.  Every one of them is part of this front row for me.”
WILL POWER, NO. 12 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET:, QUALIFIED 4TH: “The car is OK. Balance-wise, it feels good. We got a bit of the insight there on the red tires and bit of a dry track in the Fast Six. Just have to make we have a good look at the data overnight and work to make the Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet better for the race.”
SCOTT DIXON, NO. 9 TARGET CHIP GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET. QUALIFIED 5TH: “It was a pretty good track out there. It was kinda fun to be in the mixed conditions. This place has been kind of a thorn in my side. I think that might be the best I’ve ever qualified here, but, we typically race well here. I did have loads of understeer, which was a bit of a pain on the backside.  Maybe we didn’t manage the tires well. I think the best lap was when TK (Tony Kanaan) was off in (turn) one. By the new rules, we have to slow down, so it was okay. I have to start there, and that is 15 spots better than last year. I am looking forward to the race.”
RYAN BRISCOE, NO. 8 NTT DATA CHIP GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 8TH:  “We started on the slick tires then went to the red tires and the track just kept getting better and better.  My tires kind of dropped off there at the end and we didn’t have the speed when the track was at its best. We went the safe way expecting there to be a yellow or a red at some point throughout the session and it just never happened. We’ve got the speed but today just didn’t go to plan. We’re still in the top 10 and I’m just excited to get out there tomorrow and be back with the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES, NO. 3 HITACHI TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 10TH: “It was a little bit tough out there but the Hitachi Team Penske Chevy was really fast. I had no reference point in some areas so it made it challenging and it was a little wet for me in Turn 5 especially. We came up a little short to advance into the Firestone Fast Six and we have a little bit of work to do tomorrow. But I can’t wait. I have Roger (Penske) on my side with the strategy and the Hitachi guys will be strong. It should be a really etxciting race to start the season here in St. Pete.”
“I think it was meant to be that 11th position, whether we had qualifying or not. We’re meant to put on a show and I think that’s exactly what we did. The first session was wet, so it’s important to read the track as quickly as possible and try not to make any mistakes. I think the KV AFS team did a great job in predicting what was going to happen. Q2 was positive in the beginning when it was still wet, but as it got drier I misread the track thinking it was wetter than it was. Once I had realized, it was too late so I didn’t get the best out of my tires and wasn’t then in a position to fight for the Firestone Fast Six. I am looking forward to the first race tomorrow and hope to bring home some good points.”
MIKE CONWAY, NO. 20 FUZZY’S ULTRA PREMIUM VODKA ED CARPENTER RACING CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 12TH:  “We generated a lot of tire temperature early in the second session of qualifying when the track was a bit damp.  We are still missing something in the car. We need to look at it overnight. The 12th spot might have been a little better than what we thought coming into qualifying.  The start of the race here is always pretty wild here.  You can’t take too easy and you can’t be too aggressive either. You need to be aware of what and who is around you.  We will need to make up some positions early and I hope we can do that in the first lap.  Even though it bottlenecks into turn one, you usually can go two or three wide through there.  You need to find the space to get through the turn.”
ED CARPENTER, TEAM OWNER, ED CARPENTER RACING, HIS FIRST RACE OUT OF THE CAR AND ON THE PIT STAND: “We felt like the track was ready for slicks at the start of the second session.  And we were right in that regard.  Mike was P1 in his first four or five laps.  If we could have caught yellow in there, we would have been in good shape.  It ended up hurting us in the end because us and Briscoe started on slick reds and we probably used the best part of the tires before the track got better.  So the guys who waited a little bit longer to go to slicks had an advantage at the end.  But we also have some work to do to get the car better
too.  We need get Mike more confident with the car.  We’ll keep chipping at it.  The rain probably helped us the first group with the wet track. I think the transfer was more on Mike than the car then.  I was happy with job he did in qualifying.  We’ll look for a solid run on Sunday.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: NO. 11 TEAM HYDROXYCUT – KVSH RACING CHEVROLE, QUALIFIED 13TH: “It wasn’t much of a qualifying session for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing team. Because of the track conditions we waited to go out to make sure that we had room in case something happened, so everyone else got in a lap before the first red flag. When we went back out I got one lap at speed before the second red flag. We were too conservative and I feel bad for the crew. They did a good job preparing the car. We will just have to go to work and do the best we can in tomorrow’s race.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 2 VERIZON TEAM PENSKE CHEVROLET, QUALFIED 18TH: “The biggest problem for the No. 2  Verizon Chevy was the last corner, for some reason. I just couldn’t come off that corner and get the car to turn. (Takuma) Sato was in front of me and I would lose everything to him right there. It is what it is. I haven’t driven in wet conditions in a long time and we never had an opportunity to do it in testing. I don’t think we’re that far off. I’m still getting acclimated back to the Verizon IndyCar Series. My team is still getting acclimated to me. If that process was complete we would be a lot better. We are definitely making progress.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL, NO. 83 NOVOLOG FLEXPEN CHIP GANASSI RACING CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 20TH: “We started on the slick tires then went to the red tires and the track just kept getting better and better.  My tires kind of dropped off there at the end and we didn’t have the speed when the track was at its best. We went the safe way expecting there to be a yellow or a red at some point throughout the session and it just never happened. We’ve got the speed but today just didn’t go to plan. We’re still in the top 10 and I’m just excited to get out there tomorrow and be back with the Verizon IndyCar Series.”
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR:  We’re joined by Scott Dixon.  Scott, talk about how it was for you out there today.
SCOTT DIXON:  It’s been a tough place for me here.  I think the qualifying today, it was a lot of fun actually with changing conditions and trying to time things right.  Q2, we had to really string it together on that last lap.  That got us in.  Q3 we went out on old, put in a lap, then came in and switched over.
I think kind of best timing for us might have been when T.K. was off in one, so we had to slow down on that lap.  Whether that made any difference or not…
It was a good comeback for the Target team, T.K. starting on the front row, we’re on the inside of the third row.  Considering how the weekend has been going, I think we’ve made some good improvements.  Hopefully we race a little bit better.
THE MODERATOR:  We’re also joined by Team Penske’s drive Will Power.  Will will be starting fourth.  Will has won pole here the last four years here at St. Petersburg and won the race in 2010. 
Will, what was qualifying like for you?
WILL POWER:  Just trying to get through every round without making a mistake.  The Fast Six, that was as quick as I could go.  The car wasn’t that bad.  We got a little bit of work to do, but definitely happy to be qualifying in the front two rows.
It’s a pretty long race.  Make sure we get everything right and see where we come.
THE MODERATOR:  We’ll continue with questions.
Q.        What parts of the track changed the most from your first session to the end?
WILL POWER:  Just got a dry line basically everywhere.  Just got dryer, dryer, dryer.  At the end it was completely basically a dry track.
THE MODERATOR:  We’re also joined by Tony Kanaan.
Tony, another strong start for Chip Ganassi Racing.  You’ll be on the front row.  What are you expecting from tomorrow’s race?
TONY KANAAN:  It feels good not to see 17 cars in front of me on the start.  We were doing the math.  Probably three years I haven’t made it to the Fast Six.
It’s good.  It’s just qualifying.  You still got to make it to turn one tomorrow.  We’ll see.
I’m happy.  The whole team, I think we did a great job.  We were pretty competitive all weekend with one of our cars.  Probably for the fans qualifying was fun, but for us it was quite hard.
THE MODERATOR:  What has the experience at Target Chip Ganassi racing been like you so far?
TONY KANAAN:  It’s been awesome.  It’s quite a bit different than what I was used to.  I have very tough teammates that keep me on my toes.
I have to say they made me feel pretty comfortable in the past three months.  For me to adapt, it wasn’t that difficult.  Obviously there are quite a few things that I need to relearn.  We have a lot more information.
Like I said, with four teammates, it reminds me back of the Andretti Green days.  It’s been good for so far.
THE MODERATOR:  We’ll continue with questions.
Q.        The race being 110 laps, would you rather have two sets of red tires and one black, or distance-wise is it better to have blacks?  I heard Firestone brought the same tire you had last year.  .
TONY KANAAN:  It’s tough to say.  I mean, I would say I would prefer to have more tires, period, for the we
ekend.  Right now it’s hard to say black or red.
We’ll find out tomorrow, that’s for sure.
Q.        Scott, as the reigning series champion, what is it like being back now that you have several practices and a qualifying under your belt?
SCOTT DIXON:  It’s fun.  It’s good to be back at St. Pete.  It’s probably not my favorite track as far as speed-wise.  It’s probably the best place we could kick off the season.
I think with the momentum we’ve had from the past few years, obviously with Verizon coming onboard as a series sponsor, I think it’s huge for us.
I think we’re all excited.  The weather has been a bit funky for the past two days, but tomorrow I think is going to be perfect weather conditions.  Hopefully we have lots of fans out here and put on a good show for everybody.
But, yeah, it’s good to be back in the car.
Q.        Tony, is there any part of the track that feels different this year from last year?  How has that track been maturing?  Any pieces that you have to attack a little differently?
TONY KANAAN:  I was talking to Scott about that.  They did repaint going into turn one where the runway is, the white stripes on the inside.  I felt that they were new.  I think that’s the only part.
Felt it was a little bit bumpier everywhere else, as well.  To me the biggest one was turn one.
Q.        T.K., not only do you look good in red, you seem very happy.  Talk about the rejuvenation you feel to get off to such a good start.
TONY KANAAN:  I think it’s quite normal.  I was in a very good position back in the days when I was with Andretti.  For whatever reason or the circumstances were, I took a big hit on that when I had to leave.
The struggle for the past three years with finding money, not just doing what I want to do, which is drive the car, I didn’t realize then, but for sure now I can see.
Yeah, I’m happy, because I think anybody that would be
driving that 10 car, you could ask anybody on the grid, they would be smiling the entire time.
I’m in a very good organization, probably one of the best positions I’ve been in my career in IndyCar.  There’s no reason to be unhappy.  I’d have to say I’m happier because I was always happy.  I’ve been mad a couple times.
We came out of a great year last year winning the 500 and things just happened after that.  That’s probably it.
Q.        Being a street course, you don’t get to practice here, you just come and race.  Is the track slippery?  I’ve heard them say that on the PA that it’s very slick.
TONY KANAAN:  Always.  When we come here every year I think the track starts a little slippery.  For some reason this year, in my opinion, has been worse than years before.  You can look at the lap times, as well.  We were a little slower in both sessions.
It’s hard to tell.  We don’t know if we came in with the same tires as last year, same conditions.  It’s hard to tell.  But definitely felt that it was slipperier than years past.