Will Power’s Chevrolet is identified by the prominent No. 1 on the nose and rear wheel guards, but that’s in recognition of 2014 accomplishments.

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the start of a new Verizon IndyCar Series season full of its own competition, challenges and conversations about whether the 34-year-old Aussie can repeat as series champion.

Power is confident he’ll be among the challengers when the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma rolls around in late August, and he started with a bang by setting the track record March 28 on the way to the Verizon P1 award on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit.

“I can’t help but want to win,” said Power, who won three times last season. “Your own personal pressure comes with that. Nothing has changed; I feel the same as I did when I wasn’t a champion. I have to go out there and win races; it’s what I want to do.”

He’ll attempt to realize that goal again in the 110-lap race March 29 (3 p.m. ET on ABC).

“Racing’s always a different story to qualifying,” he said. “Everything’s got to fall your way on race day. Just have to focus on the things you can control. A bit of guesswork with this new body kit. Don’t know how the tires will degrade, that type of thing.”

Power recorded a lap of 1 minute, 0.6931 of a second in the 10-minute Firestone Fast Six to secure the Verizon P1 Award. In the first two rounds of qualifying, Power set and reset the track record that Sebastien Bourdais (1:00.928) held since the inaugural St. Pete Indy car race in 2003. Power lowered the standard to 1:00.8344 in Round 1 and bettered it with a lap of 1:00.6509 in Round 2.

It was the 37th career pole (sixth all time) for Power, who previously was the top qualifier at St. Petersburg in 2010-13.

“Obviously, winning the championship makes it a very pleasant offseason,” Power said. “You’re not sitting around wondering why you didn’t win again. I was really satisfied to get pole here. All the practice sessions are working toward that, literally one lap that gets you pole. It’s a session where everyone gives it everything they’ve absolutely got.

“When you get pole, it’s very satisfying. It’s really difficult these days to do that. You don’t see anyone getting more than three or four poles during a season now. It’s the same for wins. Anytime you’re at that end of an IndyCar field, it’s awesome.”

Power also noted the close lap times throughout the field.

“What was surprising is how tight it was in qualifying between Chevy and Honda,” he said. “When you think about it, different engine, different body kit, but very similar lap times. I was kind of worried that the competitiveness of this series wouldn’t be such this year. But it’s right there as it was. To me, this is the toughest open-wheel series in the world to compete in, and probably the best racing that fans can watch. We just got to get it out there because I think people would love it.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here