Romain Grosjean took the first pole position of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season and the second of his IndyCar career after surviving a hectic qualifying session on Saturday (March 4). Grosjean will be chased to the green flag in Sunday’s (March 5) Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg by teammate Colton Herta, with Pato O’Ward and Marcus Ericsson filling out the second row.
“We got here and I said ‘boys, I think we’ve got something,’ and we put it out,” Grosjean told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “It’s kind of a home race, we live in Miami so we’re good here. And we’ve got 100 laps tomorrow to make it happen.”
Grosjean last started on pole position in the 2021 GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. Grosjean’s best finish at St. Petersburg is fifth in 2022 – he is still searching for his first IndyCar win.
Firestone Fast Six
The action struck immediately in the final round of qualifying when Kyle Kirkwood overshot the entry for Turn 13, destroying the front end of his No. 27 Honda and ending a promising day just under six minutes prematurely. The incident triggered a red flag; the clock was stopped with five minutes and 40 seconds to go, guaranteeing that the Fast Six would see at least six minutes of green flag action.
The loss of his fastest times due to the red flag left Kirkwood to start in sixth place on Sunday.
Scott McLaughlin brought out the second red flag of the session after spinning out in Turn 12 and sustaining right-rear damage – McLaughlin had clipped the wall on the exit of Turn 10, which may well have contributed to his loss of control two turns later.
McLaughlin will start in fifth place on Sunday as he also lost his two fastest laps as a penalty for bringing out a red flag.
Kirkwood, in his first outing for Andretti Autosport, was assessed a drive-through penalty after sliding into the runoff area at Turn 4, triggering a local yellow flag and affecting another competitor. Christian Lundgaard was also given a drive-through penalty for a nearly identical incident at Turn 4. Kirkwood advanced to the Firestone Fast Six while Lundgaard was eliminated.
Defending St. Petersburg winner McLaughlin made it through to the Fast Six by the skin of his teeth, salvaging the day for Team Penske, whose drivers Will Power and Josef Newgarden were unexpectedly eliminated in Round 2 and Round 1, respectively.
Eliminated from Round 2 were:
7. Alex Palou
9. Scott Dixon
10. Will Power
11. Christian Lundgaard
12. Alexander Rossi
Round 1, Group 1
Santino Ferrucci picked up the first penalty of the day after being flagged for leaving his pit box before cars were cleared to do so. Ferrucci was issued a drive-through penalty as a result of this infraction.
Simon Pagenaud brought out the only red flag of Group 1 by locking up his brakes and impacting the tire barriers at Turn 4 with only 12 seconds remaining in his group’s time slot.
According to IndyCar rules, the clock was stopped with 12 seconds to go so that no driver would lose their shot at a flying lap as a result of the incident. However, being as Pagenaud triggered the red flag, his two fastest laps of the session were deleted and he was barred from advancing to the second round.
Earlier in the session, rookie Agustin Canapino made a heart-stopping first impression in IndyCar machinery with a massive save coming out of Turn 7. Despite the fact that the Argentinian kept his Juncos Hollinger Racing entry out of the wall, he was eliminated at the end of the session.
Eliminated from Round 1 in Group 1 were:
13. Marcus Armstrong
17. Santino Ferrucci
19. Jack Harvey
21. Agustin Canapino
23. Sting Ray Robb
25. Simon Pagenaud
Round 1, Group 2
Group 2’s first round unfolded without issue – no penalties or on-track incidents were reported.
Most frustrated after Round 1 was likely two-time champion Newgarden, who failed to advance after being held up by Rinus VeeKay on his final flying lap. VeeKay likewise failed to advance to Round 2, having previously been slightly impeded by Newgarden on his own flying lap.
Eliminated from Round 1 in Group 2 were:
14. Josef Newgarden
16. David Malukas
20. Graham Rahal
22. Callum Ilott
24. Rinus VeeKay
26. Conor Daly
The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place on Sunday, March 5 at 12:00 p.m. ET with coverage on NBC.
About the author
Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.
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