Last season, Graham Rahal came to St. Petersburg after a very disappointing outing at the season opener at Homestead. A wreck during practice convinced his team that discretion was the better part of valor, so they decided to hold him out of the event since he had very little time to practice on ovals before the event. The former CCWS team had just received their chassis thanks to the hectic nature of the last minute merger. Despite the setbacks of the first round, Graham Rahal went on to win at St. Petersburg the next weekend, adding a new page to the record books as the youngest driver ever to win in IndyCar. This was in spite of the odds that a CCWS team with almost no testing could even hold a candle to the performance of the reigning big 3 teams.
This year, the season opens at St. Petersburg and Graham Rahal has started off his season with style, placing his car on pole position for today’s event and adding another page to the record book as the youngest polesitter ever in IndyCar competition. The competition in knockout style qualifying was fierce, but in the end, Graham showed everybody that last years win was not a fluke.
IndyCar knockout qualifying consists of the following:
-The field is divided into two 20 minute sessions. Fastest 6 in each session move on.
-The fastest 12 from the first two sessions take part in a 3rd 15 minute session where only the fastest 6 move on.
-The remaining “Firestone Fast 6” take part in a final 10 minute session to determine pole.
Here is the catch, you only get 9 sets of tires for the race weekend. 6 sets of normal tires. 3 sets of red option tires. Another catch is that you must use a fresh “sticker” set of reds on race day, so that only leaves the teams with 2 sets of reds for practice and qualifying. This gives the teams some interesting strategy options. When do you use your red option tires in practice, when do you use them in qualifying. If you use up your option tires in the first qualifying session, you will have no way to set quicker times in the next session.
Full session results and starting order are available here.