Notes: Qualifying segments take on greater meaning in 2016

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – When the Verizon IndyCar Series begins its first qualifying session of the 2016 season later today at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, it will do so with a stronger emphasis on each of the knockout rounds.

The qualifications format on road and street courses – including the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary circuit in St. Petersburg – remains the same with drivers progressing through three knockout segments to battle for the Verizon P1 Award and pole position. Under a rules modification announced March 3 by INDYCAR, should conditions not permit completion of all three segments, the starting lineup for the race will be determined by the last fully completed segment.

In Segment 1, the entire field is split into two groups based on practice times from today’s practice session that runs from 10:50 a.m.-12:05 p.m. ET. Each group in Segment 1 receives 10 minutes of track time, inclusive of any red-flag time. The fastest six drivers from each group advance to Segment 2, with those not advancing filling starting positions 13 on back based on lap speeds, with those from Group 1 slotted into the odd-numbered starting from 13th on back and those from Group 2 filling from 14th to the rear of the field.

In Segment 2, the 12 drivers again receive 10 minutes of track time inclusive of red flags. The fastest six advance to Segment 3, known as the Firestone Fast Six. Those not advancing are slotted into starting positions 7-12 based on lap times in this segment.

The Firestone Fast Six runs for 10 minutes as well, with 5 minutes of guaranteed green-flag time. The fastest lap posted in this segment earns the pole position for the race. The second through sixth starting positions are determined by lap times in this segment.

However, should qualifying be interrupted and not completed, the following rules take effect:

Qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg begins at 3:40 p.m. ET. A live stream with timing and scoring is available at racecontrol.indycar.com. The 2016 Firestone Grand Prix airs at 12:30 p.m. ET March 13 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network available on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com and indycarradio.com.

Kaiser claims pole for Indy Lights opener

Kyle Kaiser kicked off his second season in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires on the right foot, claiming his first career pole position for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Kaiser and his Juncos Racing team used an extra set of tires to propel the Santa Clara, Calif., native to the pole. He began the session in the No. 18 Dallara IL-15 on a scuffed set of tires, then came in and changed tires twice before laying down a flyer of 1 minute, 5.8728 seconds (98.371 mph) with just under 14 minutes remaining.

The lap stood for the remainder of the session, with an incident involving Andretti Autosport’s Dean Stoneman ending the session two minutes early.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic right now!” said Kaiser, who turned 20 on March 6. “I’ve been wanting this pole for a long time and the team gave me the car. I think it helped we got the red at the end, but I think that we still would have gone even faster.”

After being fastest in both practice sessions March 11, Felix Rosenqvist qualified second at 1:05.9187.  His Belardi Auto Racing teammate, Zach Veach, will start third in his first Indy Lights race in nearly a year and a half.

Andretti Autosport’s Shelby Blackstock qualified fourth and Team Pelfrey’s Scott Hargrove fifth.

The first of two Indy Lights races this weekend begins at 12:55 p.m. ET today and will be streamed live at racecontrol.indycar.com.

Team Pelfrey sweeps Pro Mazda front row in qualifying

Pato O’Ward led a Team Pelfrey 1-2 sweep to claim the pole for the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

It was a reversal of March 11 practice as the Mexican driver overtook teammate Aaron Telitz with a fast lap of 1:11.5723 (90.538 mph) to take the pole in his first Pro Mazda start. Telitz logged a lap of 1:11.6481 (90.442 mph).

Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammates Jake Eidson and Nico Jamin qualified third and fourth ahead of another Team Pelfrey entry, Weiron Tan.

The first of two Pro Mazda races begins at 10:50 a.m. ET today and will be streamed live at racecontrol.indycar.com.

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