Everyone seems to love Barber Motorsports Park. No one loves it more than Will Power.
Not only has Power won here twice already, but he has actually finished in the top five in all seven races at Barber. Today, Power earned pole position for the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama for the fourth time. This is his 46th career pole in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and will be his seventh start on the front row at Barber.
Team Penske has been flexing their muscle all weekend, and it rolled into qualifying as well, as they earned the top three qualifying positions on Saturday. Helio Castroneves will join Power on the front row, and defending race winner Simon Pagenaud will start third. Scott Dixon will start alongside Simon. Dixon is still searching for his first win at Barber, despite having finished on the podium in six of the seven races here.
Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe will share Row 3 on Sunday. Hunter-Reay has won here twice, but also has finished outside of the Top Ten in four Barber races. Hinchcliffe has six starts at Barber, but has never finished in the Top Five. Josef Newgarden, Mikhail Aleshin, Max Chilton, and Tony Kanaan round out the top ten starting positions.
Qualification Results for the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama
Dale Coyne Racing leads the championship standings after two races. Ed Jones and Sebastien Bourdais will start 11th and 12th tomorrow. Marco Andretti was fastest yesterday in practice, but just missed the cutoff in the first round of knock out qualifying. He was obviously disappointed in the result, and will start 13th on Sunday. Takuma Sato (14th) and Alexander Rossi (18th) rounded out the qualifying for the Andretti group.
The biggest disappointment on Saturday though, came from the RLL camp. Graham Rahal’s 2017 struggles continued, as he will start last (21st) on Sunday. It hasn’t been a great start to the season for Graham, but fortunately for him, this is a place where he can turn it around. Rahal finished runner-up in each of the last two races at Barber, including that epic back-and-forth with Pagenaud last year.
Another driver to keep an eye on tomorrow is Kanaan. In his seven starts at Barber, he has never finished in the top five, or even led a lap. He is another driver aiming to turn his season around, as he currently sits 16th in the championship standings after finishes of 12th and 15th to begin the season.
The race distance is 90 laps, which is 207 miles around the 2.3-mile 17-turn road course. Pagenaud earned Pole for last year’s race, and is the defending race winner.
Coverage for the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama begins at 3 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Simon Pagenaud: “It’s phenomenal for the Penske team. They did a fantastic job preparing these cars. This is a really good track for us in general. We have a really good grip and an understanding of the aero package, as well. Personally, it was a good session for the No.1 Menards Chevy. It was a little hectic in the beginning on pit lane. I couldn’t really go on my out lap to get the tires up to speed, so it was very difficult to transfer with only one lap on the tires. So, unfortunately, we wore out the tires Q1, Q2, and then I pushed a little too hard in the Firestone Fast Six, but I guess that’s what it’s all about. It’s racing. We were very aggressive with the setup and I think we went a tick too far. That was great qualifying and phenomenal for the race team starting 1-2-3.”
Josef Newgarden: “We took a gamble on trying to save a set of sticker reds for the Firestone Fast Six and we just missed. We wanted to put the Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet on the pole and thought it was worth it. We’re a little disappointed, but we’re in good shape for the race. It was a good session for Team Penske. Our cars have been good all weekend and definitely looking forward to tomorrow.”
Helio Castroneves: “It’s a great team effort, especially the No. 3 AAA Chevy guys who did a phenomenal job during qualifying because we kept chasing the car. It was phenomenal towards the end. My teammate, Will Power, he definitely has something on this place. He did a great job putting a lap towards to the end. Now we’re looking for tomorrow. Hopefully the weather, it’s going to be a little bit cooler, and I think everybody’s car is going to be fast. Starting from the front row is a good place to be and now we’ve just got to look forward and hopefully beat my teammate.”
Conor Daly: “I think we would have had a pretty good lap had we not caught Helio (Castroneves) on our best lap there. It is what it is. We caught a little traffic which is a shame because I think we could have shown a little better than we did.”
James Hinchcliffe: “It’s super competitive in the Verizon IndyCar Series at the moment and track position and a good starting position is such an important part of it. We focused a lot of our energy and efforts on that in over the off-season. We were decent and had a decent strike rate in that last year but certainly consistently getting the No. 5 Arrow Honda in the Firestone Fast Six is great and has put us in the position to lead laps so far this season and obviously take a victory last week in Long Beach. Proud of the Arrow Electronics guys, and everybody at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to consistently be giving us a car good enough to be competing with the best of the best.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “Well that was a very good qualifying. I think it was great for the whole team. James (Hinchcliffe) was in the top six and I was in the top eight, so I think it shows our potential for tomorrow. I was definitely happy to move on from the first group of qualifying. Tomorrow we’ll have different weather. We might have rain, but definitely cooler weather. We’ll see how the car setup does in warmup, but I think it’s a great result for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with both cars starting in the top 10.”
Max Chilton: “Well considering we weren’t great yesterday, this is the best turnaround we’ve had since I’ve been with Ganassi. But this is where we should’ve been or even higher because we were P2 here at the test a month ago. I was slightly disappointed with that last run – there was definitely more in the car there. We did something to go backwards. On the whole though, we’re starting in the top 10 and hopefully we’ll have a good day tomorrow.”
Scott Dixon: “We have a very good NTT Data Honda. The Penske cars are pretty fast, but we kept up pretty well given the rise in temperature today. Tomorrow is supposed to be much cooler and I feel our car will respond to that better than the temps we saw today. I’m happy with our starting spot and hope we have something to get to the front here at Barber Sunday.”
Tony Kanaan: “The No. 10 NTT Data Honda was pretty quick in that first round of qualifying, but we just couldn’t put a good lap together to move on to the Firestone Fast Six in the second round. We’re still struggling with grip, but we’re definitely making progress and moving in the right direction.”
Will Power: “Having a very good team and car is key and the No.12 Verizon Chevy is definitely working well this weekend. I’m kind of focusing very well, making sure I’m looking at the right things, and felt like I had a much better car on used tires. I think that’s kind of where we’ve been going wrong. It’s a very good result.”
Carlos Munoz: “We made some changes at the end and it didn’t work as we expected. But we learned from it and we’ll go back over the changes we did. The Verizon IndyCar series is like that–if you don’t put everything together you won’t be in the top six. Our group was pretty tough but I think we have a better race car than qualifying car. We have to keep working. It’s a long race tomorrow and anything can happen.”
Graham Rahal: “We’re all sliding around, it’s just the level at which you are doing that. We can’t seem to get the tire to bite the road at all. I had nothing else for qualifying. This morning I put in one miracle lap but couldn’t get within half of a second of it again. That’s what we have been banking on in qualifying. It got us through once in St. Pete and got us into the Firestone Fast Six in Long Beach but we weren’t able to do that today. We have to unload competitive right away because we don’t have a second car to split the workload and try different setups, spring rates or anything. For us as a single car team, it’s impossible to catch up over a race weekend. We’ve always been good here. We want to win races and get the PennGrade car in victory lane.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “We made some major changes to the car but they didn’t work. There’s something missing and we’re just not quite understanding what it is. Quite truthfully to make it into the fast 12 was a big surprise with the understeer we had. Using another set of (Firestone alternate) reds didn’t feel like the right thing to do to maybe get a better lap time, so we kept a new set for tomorrow and used the same reds we ran in Round 1. We figured it was best to swallow the pill today and hope for a better day tomorrow with two brand new sets of Firestone reds. We’re scratching our heads but we’ll keep working and see what we can do. As I’ve said before, some weekends we’ll get it and some weekends we won’t, but we’ll keep on trying and not give up.”
Ed Jones: “It was a really good day. We started off Practice 3 this morning with some changes to the Boy Scouts of America car and I made improvements in myself as well. The team and myself came together and we produced a really good car. We were 12th in practice this morning which was so much better than yesterday. We made a little bit more of jump again this afternoon for qualifying and got through to the fast 12 which was our qualifying target this weekend, and we’ve accomplished that. I look forward to the race and hopefully we can get another top 10 finish.”
Spencer Pigot: “It’s definitely not how we wanted qualifying to go. It’s frustrating to be starting in the back. We could have potentially gone a little quicker. I made a mistake and went off in Turn 1 on the set of (Firestone alternate) reds at the end. We’ll be working hard to get the Fuzzy’s Vodka car to the front tomorrow.”
Zach Veach: “Literally every session we’ve picked up a half a second, we just keep closing that gap. I’ve wanted to come into this weekend very methodically for Ed Carpenter Racing, I didn’t want to jump in too deep, too fast. We are working our way up to speed. This is my first time in a race car since last October. It’s been a lot to get in and process in just a day and a half. The Fuzzy’s Vodka guys have been doing a great job, just helping me get up to speed. JR Hildebrand has been coaching me this weekend as well, which has been so helpful. If we can find another half a second in warm up tomorrow, we will only be a half a second after the leaders and we can go for it from there.”
Takuma Sato: “Tough qualifying. It looked really close – a few hundredths of a second through the top positions. Obviously disappointed, the boys have done a great job to recover the speed today. We are just going to have to build a good car for tomorrow, have a solid warm up and hopefully we will have a strong race.”
Marco Andretti: “I was just a bit loose, but with the margin I had this morning, there is really no excuse – I should’ve had it through. I don’t know what to say, this one definitely hurts to miss (Round Two) by a hundredth (of a second) over fifth. I’m going to need a start like I did last year for sure.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Not a bad place to start, considering last year we qualified 18th – it’s a good turn around. I definitely had my hands full out there. We need to try to make some changes for the race tomorrow that could potentially settle the car a little bit and make it a bit more predictable to get that DHL Honda its third victory here. That’s the goal.”
Charlie Kimball: “We just missed it a little bit on balance going to the Firestone alternates. We just didn’t quite have the lap time out of the car that I thought we could’ve had, but overall I’m frustrated for the guys because they worked so hard this weekend. I think the No. 83 Tresiba Honda was better yesterday afternoon and we just didn’t quite get it right today. We’ll make it better for warm-up tomorrow and then ideally have a smart clean race, stay out of trouble, settle into a rhythm, and let the race come to us.”
Alexander Rossi: “It’s pretty disappointing. We’ve been struggling for pace all weekend. I was hoping we’d be able to pull something out with the Firestone reds (alternate tire), but the car balance isn’t there. We’ve run through a lot of different configurations and we can’t seem to find one that works. It’s always tough when it’s like that, but we’ll just keep pushing forward and try to come up with something for tomorrow.”