BIRMINGHAM, Alabama –Team Penske’s strength at Barber Motorsports Park has been evident since the Verizon IndyCar Series first came to the scenic road course in 2010.
With a 1-2-3 result in Verizon P1 Award qualifying today, Roger Penske’s team remains a formidable favorite again in Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First.
Two-time Barber race winner Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) will lead the field to start the 90-lap race after posting the fastest lap of the Firestone Fast Six, the last of three rounds of knockout qualifying. Power’s lap of 1 minute, 6.9614 seconds (123.653 mph) earned his fourth pole at Barber and the 46th of his career, fifth on the all-time list. It is also the seventh pole for Team Penske in eight tries at Barber and the 248th pole for the vaunted team in Indy car history.
“First, it's having a very good team and car,” said Power, who won the 2011 and 2012 races at Barber. “(It’s) definitely working well this weekend. (I’m) kind of focusing very well and making sure I'm looking at the right things. Felt like I had a much better car on used tires. I think that's kind of where we've been going wrong.
“Yeah, just very good result.”
HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA: Qualifying results
Power will lead teammates Helio Castroneves (No. 3 AAA Insurance Chevrolet) and Simon Pagenaud (No. 1 Menards Chevrolet) to the green flag Sunday, as Team Penske claimed third pole of the season in as many tries. Castroneves and Pagenaud are also past Barber race winners for Team Penske. Fourth Team Penske pilot Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet) will start his home race from the seventh position after being eliminated in Round 2 of qualifying.
Scott Dixon (No. 9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) and James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) qualified fourth and sixth, respectively, and remain the only drivers in the series to reach the Firestone Fast Six in each of the first three races this season. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2013 and ’14 Barber race winner, will start fifth in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport.
“The car's been really strong from the start of the season,” said Dixon, who has finished on the podium in six of the seven previous Barber races but is yet to win. “This weekend, we struggled with just keeping up with the car. It's been tough in the conditions out here, but I think that was kind of the best we could hope for in qualifying.”
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal has finished runner-up the last two seasons at Barber, but will have his work cut out for him Sunday after qualifying last in the 21-car field.
“We can’t seem to get the tire to bite the road at all,” said Rahal, coming off a 10th-place finish two weeks ago at Long Beach. “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.”
Fortunately for Rahal, drivers who have started last in the first two races of the season have fared well. Championship leader Sebastien Bourdais won at St. Petersburg after starting from the back and Pagenaud rallied from 21st to finish fifth at Long Beach.
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama marks the third race of 2017 for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the eighth in series history at the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course. Coverage of morning practice can be found at 10:45 a.m. ET on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The race airs live at 3 p.m. on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.