- Three of the top four qualifiers for tomorrow’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg are Verizon IndyCar Series rookies, including Ed Carpenter Racing’s Jordan King. King will be making his debut tomorrow in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet from the 4th position after setting a new track record in the opening round of qualifications. Teammate Spencer Pigot’s qualifying run was interrupted by a red flag, miring the No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet to the 16th starting position.
- The teammates were on pace with each other through the three sessions leading up to this afternoon’s qualifying session. With clear track, King and Pigot showed their speed in this morning’s practice session. The pair of 24-year-olds turned heads by setting the fourth (King) and seventh (Pigot) fastest times. Throughout the weekend, Pigot turned 49 laps of practice while King turned 50 laps.
- Drivers were assigned qualifying groups based on times from the preceding practice. King was assigned to Group 1 and started the 10 minute session on a set of scuffed black Firestone Firehawks. After three laps, he came into the pits for a new set of the softer, yet faster red tires. On his 5th lap, he shot to the top of the scoring sheet with a lap of 107.914 miles per hour. That lap broke Will Power’s previous record from 2016, making King the new track record holder for the Streets of St. Petersburg.
- At the conclusion of Group 1, a light drizzle began to fall around the circuit. Starting on sticker black tires, Pigot set a lap time quick enough for third overall in Group 2. Just as he was getting up to speed on his set of sticker red tires, the red flag waved after Graham Rahal spun and stalled on track. The session went back green with one minute, 36 seconds left, enough time to set only one lap. Though Pigot turned his fastest lap of the weekend at 106.287 miles per hour, he wasn’t able to get enough of a gap and was only 8th quick in the group.
- King started Round 2 on a set of scuffed red tires with moderate precipitation continuing to fall. His first lap up to speed on the reds had him sitting in the third position, the stopped for a set of sticker reds. After one lap on the new set of tires, he elected to come back into the pits as the track was becoming quite slick. His lap held and he would advance to the Firestone Fast 6 in his first-ever Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying session.
- The Firestone Fast 6 featured a six-minute segment with the fastest six drivers of qualifying. Because King had already turned laps on both of his sets of sticker reds, he ran the session on a set of scuffed reds. His fifth and final lap was his fastest at 104.917 miles per hour, landing him the fourth starting position for tomorrow’s 110-lap race.
- The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the home race for Pigot, who hails from nearby Orlando, Fla. The 1.8-mile street circuit is also home to Pigot’s Verizon IndyCar Series debut, which he made in 2016 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. In last year’s event with ECR, Pigot gained eight positions at a track notoriously difficult for passing before making his first pit stop from 5th place. When he entered the pit lane, an overheated rear brake assembly caught fire. While Pigot was able to re-enter the race following repairs, a promising result in the season opener was not to be as he had fallen 16 laps behind the leaders.
- King’s Firestone Fast 6 appearance was the first for ECR since Mid-Ohio in 2016 and the first for the No. 20 since Toronto in 2015. A true Indy car rookie, King will be making his first Verizon IndyCar Series start in the streets of St. Petersburg, just as Pigot did two years ago. King competed in Formula 2 (formerly GP2) for the past three seasons and served as a development driver for Manor F1 in 2015 and 2016. Though the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be King’s debut Indy car race, Brit brings years of experience from the world’s most famous Grand Prix circuits.
- The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series will officially begin at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 11 at the drop of the green flag for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The race will be broadcast live on ABC.
JORDAN KING, No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet:
“It’s good, but I still think we should have been a bit quicker! It was quite slippery at Turn 1, but I found quite a good way around there. Actually, at the back of the circuit, it was reasonably quite dry. Unfortunately, I almost went off at Turn 10 on my first push lap, so I came into there on my last lap a little bit tentative and looking at the times, that was the difference. But 4th, I can’t complain! I’m really happy. It’s all gone well, we’ve made some pretty good progress for my first time so I can’t grumble too much, but when there was potential to be a bit higher up, you can’t help as a racing driver but want a bit more! I’m trying not to put too much expectation on tomorrow
, we’ve got a good car if I do my job I’m sure the rest of it will unfold quite nicely.”
SPENCER PIGOT, No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet: “It was a messy session there with the red flag, then trying to find a gap to get a good lap in. I made a few little mistakes; one area, I accidentally upshifted twice when I should have only done once that that cost us. Overall, I am just frustrated. Hopefully, we can get the Autogeek car back up front tomorrow where we need to be!”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!