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Power gets St. Pete IndyCar pole

– The same driver will lead the field to the green flag through the streets of the St. Petersburg for the fourth consecutive year.

However, Will Power will have some new faces right behind him today in the season-opening IndyCar race.

Power earned his fourth consecutive pole at St. Pete by posting a best lap Saturday of 1 minute, 01.2070 seconds on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit.

“Good start to the year,” said the Australian, who won his 30th pole to move ahead of Dario Franchitti for seventh on the career list.

Right behind Power was Takuma Sato, making his first start for A.J. Foyt Racing. Sato had never qualified higher than 11th at St. Pete before claiming a spot on the front row for the first time since Edmonton in 2011.

Qualifying a career-best third was Simona de Silvestro, who had never before even advanced to the Fast Six round of qualifications. She’s been among the fastest drivers all weekend in her debut for new team KV Racing Technology and can sense a huge opportunity ahead.

De Silvestro finished a career-best fourth at St. Pete in 2011, losing third place to Tony Kanaan in the closing laps.

“It’s really cool to finally get the results we wanted,” she said.

James Hinchcliffe qualified fourth for Andretti Autosport and was followed by Helio Castroneves, who joined his Penske Racing teammate Power in the Fast Six.

Then it was rookie Tristan Vautier, the 2012 Indy Lights champion, who marked his IndyCar debut weekend by claiming a spot in the Fast Six in his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry.

Five teams were represented in the Fast Six, with only Penske putting teammates in the final group.

Failing to advance was defending IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Franchitti and Scott Dixon.

It’s just Chevrolets and Honda engines this season, and Chevy has been fastest so far this weekend.