By Steve Wittich
Josh Green will start a race from the pole for the first time in his Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires career. The winner of the last USF2000 race last season and Turn 3 Motorsport Indy Pro 2000 rookie turned a lap at 69.6117 seconds on his first set of Cooper Tire slicks.
An ill-timed red flag meant only Enaam Ahmed (Juncos Racing) could improve on his time in the second half of the 20-minute session, starting on the outside of the front row. The second-place starting position matches the 22-year-olds best career Indy Pro 2000 start.
Nolan Siegel (DEForce Racing), the quickest driver in practice on Thursday, held the provisional pole for a while but will have to settle for an inside second-row start. Joining him will be fellow rookie Louis Foster (Exclusive Autosport).
The pole win by a Turn 3 Motorsport driver means the Peter Dempsey operated squad has now won a pole in three consecutive Indy Pro 2000 seasons.
Drivers from five different teams hold the top five spots on the grid.
After a brief hold to sort out some communication issues, the 16 brand new Indy Pro 2000 took to the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit.
The first qualifying session still guaranteed the teams and drivers 20 minutes in a half-hour time frame.
The green flag to get the first Road To Indy qualifying session of the season underway came bright and early 7:47 am under beautiful sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 60s.
The early leader was Eves, the St. Petersburg Race #1 pole sitter from last year.
The first two drivers to go under the 70-second barrier were Foster and Ahmed, turning laps over a half-second quicker than Thursday’s top practice time.
Green held the provisional pole with a lap of 69.6117 seconds at the halfway point of qualifying, with Siegel, Foster, Eves, and Ahmed following closely behind. At the halfway point of qualifying, the top eight drivers were within a half-second of the provisional pole.
At the mid-point of the 20-minute session, the majority of the field came to pit road for adjustment and fresh Cooper Tires slicks before heading back out on the track to methodically get their tires up to the optimal operating temperature.
With just under four minutes remaining in the session, the red flag came out when Exclusive Autosport rookie Christian Brooks impacted the barriers on drivers left at the exit of Turn 3.
Drivers were starting to go quicker with fresh tires, with Ahmed turning a lap on three-hundredths of a second slower than Green.
The Delta D8 sponsored No. 91 left behind significant debris and moved the wall, necessitating an extensive clean-up and repair effort by the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team.
The top ten were Green, Ahmed, Siegel, Foster, Eves, Gold, Porto, Brichacek, Round-Garrido, and Brooks when the red came out.
Unfortunately, the 30-minute window ran low, and race control threw the checkered flag to end qualifying.
Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented By Andersen Interior Contracting unofficial qualifying results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||FAST LAP||DIFFERENCE|
|1||3||Josh Green||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:09.6117||——|
|2||47||Enaam Ahmed||Juncos Hollinger Racing||1:09.6477||0.0360|
|3||8||Nolan Siegel||DEForce Racing||1:09.7395||0.1278|
|4||90||Louis Foster||Exclusive Autosport||1:09.8747||0.2630|
|5||4||Braden Eves||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:09.9561||0.3444|
|6||55||Reece Gold||Juncos Hollinger Racing||1:10.0143||0.4026|
|7||1||Kiko Porto||DEForce Racing||1:10.1566||0.5449|
|8||5||Wyatt Brichacek||Jay Howard Driver Development||1:10.1630||0.5513|
|9||92||Matt Round-Garrido||Exclusive Autosport||1:10.2258||0.6141|
|10||91||Christian Brooks||Exclusive Autosport||1:10.3355||0.7238|
|11||6||Salvador De Alba||Jay Howard Driver Develpment||1:10.3568||0.7451|
|12||18||Yuven Sundaramoorthy||Pabst Racing||1:10.4304||0.8187|
|13||27||Colin Kaminsky||Pabst Racing||1:10.5282||0.9165|
|14||40||Jack William Miller||Miller Vinatieri Motorsports||1:10.5386||0.9269|
|15||2||Jonathan Browne||Turn 3 Motorsport||1:10.9076||1.2959|
|16||19||Jordan Missig||Pabst Racing||1:11.0563||1.4446|
The first Indy Pro 2000 race of the weekend is scheduled to get the green flag at 11:40 am.