ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Esteban Guerrieri, what's that about saving the best for last?

Guerrieri became the eighth driver -- and first since Graham Rahal in 2006 -- to earn the Sunoco Pole Award in their debut race with a quick lap of 1 minute, 7.6903 seconds on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street course.

Guerrieri, driving the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, jumped to the top on the final green flag lap of the 45-minute session. He leapfrogged Conor Daly, who rose to P1 (1:07.9338) in the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car with 13 minutes remaining and further improved his lap time (1:07.7009).

“We’ve had competitive cars all weekend," said Guerrieri, of Argentina. "It will be great to start my first race from P1 and I hope our race day goes well. I like the track a lot and it will be  fun to race with the field and my teammates. I want to thank Sam for this opportunity and start the season well tomorrow from the front."

Added Daly, a resident of Noblesville, Ind.: "I was strongly P1 the whole session, but just at the end Esteban got me with a good lap. I'm looking forward to the race. I think we’ve got a really fast consistent car and I think we’ll be OK.”

Josef Newgarden completed a 1-2-3 for Sam Schmidt Motorsports with a best lap of 1:07.8731. He'll be joined on the second row by Stephan Wilson (1:07.9582) in the No. 5 Andretti Autosport car.

"Obviously, we would have liked to have been on pole position," said Newgarden, who was P1 with 30 minutes left in the session. "It’s a great effort by the entire Sam Schmidt Motorsports organization. What more can you ask for to have the top three being all your cars.

"In the race, I think  you’re going to want to keep your nose clean and try to learn as much as possible. It’s the first race of the year. I don’t think you want to get too excited and throw something away this early in the season. I definitely want to learn as much as I can and just take what the track gives you."

Sam Schmidt Motorsports cars have started 1-2 14 times -- the most recent at the Firestone Freedom 100 last May. It's also the fourth 1-2-3 start for the team.

Peter Dempsey, driving the No. 36 Pulse/O2 Racing car, and Gustavo Yacaman in the No. 2 TMR-Tuvacol-Xtreme Coil Drilling car for Team Moore Racing will share Row 3. Yacaman is the only driver in the season opener who competed in the 2010 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.