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Qualifying Report: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG – Four-time INDYCAR champion Sebastien Bourdais delivered AJ Foyt Racing its best qualifying run of the season with his seventh place showing in the No. 14 Sexton Companies Chevrolet. He barely missed out on competing in the Firestone Fast Six in front of his hometown crowd in an event that was postponed from March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Originally from LeMans, France and now a St. Petersburg resident, Bourdais is a two-time winner of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Saturday, he posted a time of 1:00.8102 for a speed of 106.561 mph around the 1.8-mile street course. In just his second weekend of racing for Foyt, Bourdais’s run was the first time this season that a Foyt entry cracked the top-10 in qualifying.

“A much better start to the weekend here in St. Petersburg compared to our starting positions in Indy, so really proud of the group on the 14 car,” Bourdais said afterwards. “It’s still touch and go, you never know what you’re going to get [in the race], but it all worked out today. We’ll take P7 out of qualifying and start there tomorrow so looking forward to it and thanks for everybody’s support.”

A perfectionist by nature, Bourdais checks out the Sexton Companies Chevrolet.

Bourdais, who won the pole here in its inaugural event in 2003, won the race twice—from the back of the grid in 2017 and 2018. In his first weekend of racing for Foyt at the Harvest Grand Prix in Indianapolis earlier this month, Bourdais qualified 16th and 21st. He was more confident coming into this weekend because in February, the team had tested in Sebring, Fla. in preparation for this event.

Teammate Charlie Kimball qualified 20th after posting a time of 1:01.2425 (105.809 mph) in the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet.

Kimball checks out some data from data acquisition engineer C.J. Nielsen.

“It’s nice to be back with fans and nice to be back at St Pete. It feels strange to be ending the season here and running our last qualifying of the year instead of our first qualifying of the year. It is nice to be back at a street circuit because that’s one of the places where INDYCAR really shines. Man, it’s really tight here at St Pete. We were just within a couple tenths of advancing the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet into the top 12, I think it was something like .3 of a percent we were off - really small - but there is definitely room to improve the car and we’ll do that overnight and be ready to go racing tomorrow. There’s always a little bit of chaos that seems to happen here at St Pete and we’ll just be ready to take advantage of it.”

Will Power won his ninth pole here in 12 attempts with a time and speed of 01:01.0369 and 106.165 mph in the final round of six in the knockout qualifying session. Second through sixth were Alexander Rossi, Colton Herta, James Hinchcliffe, Jack Harvey and Pato O’Ward.

Teams will have a 30-minute warm-up session tomorrow morning in a final prep for the race which will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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