Power tosses down gauntlet in final St. Pete practice before qualifying

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – In a flurry of last-minute hot laps, Team Penske pilot Will Power took the top spot in the final Verizon IndyCar Series practice ahead of qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It was the second straight session where the Australian’s No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet finished P1 and also nudged the 2014 series champion within a quarter-second of the track record he set in 2015 qualifying.

With the softer Firestone alternate tires available for teams to use in Verizon P1 Award qualifying, Power's track standard of 1 minute, 0.6509 of a second (106.841 mph) could fall this afternoon when knockout qualifying begins at 3:40 p.m. ET.

CLICK HERE: Practice 3 results; Combined practice results; Qualifying groups.

Team Penske, which has won seven of the 12 Indy car races on the St. Petersburg street course, was strong again in Practice 3, with all four drivers landing in the top seven. Power clocked the fastest lap of the weekend in today's practice, 1:00.8965 (106.410 mph), topping Jack Hawksworth in the No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda (1:00.9798, 106.265 mph).

Defending St. Pete race winner Juan Pablo Montoya, in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, was third quick at 1:01.0500, with Helio Castroneves fifth in the No,. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:01.1430) and Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud seventh in the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet (1:01.1912).

Hawksworth's impressive showing was the third consecutive session that an AJ Foyt Racing entry floated toward the top of the charts. Teammate and 2014 St. Petersburg pole sitter Takuma Sato ended the session ninth at 1:01.2552 in his No. 14 ABC Supply Honda.

Live video streaming of qualifying, along with timing and scoring, can be found at racecontrol.indycar.com. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will get the green flag March 13. Coverage on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio network begins at 12:30 p.m. ET.

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