Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, Josef Newgarden, will start on pole position for this weekend’s 2018 Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park. The American edged out his Team Penske team-mate Will Power to take the pole by just one-hundredth of a second.
Entering the weekend, Newgarden and Penske were considered the favourites for the race win and perhaps pole position too, with a Penske car having started on the pole for seven of the eight IndyCar races held at Barber, with their drivers going on to take five victories from those races.
Halfway through the second round of qualifying, there was a brief moment where Penske looked to be on the backfoot, but as the time ticked down, the team showed their hand. Newgarden and Power suddenly jumped up into the top six that would advance to the final round, but Simon Pagenaud would be left behind after just failing to make the cut.
In the final session, the Firestone Fast Six, it was all about Newgarden versus Power. Sebastien Bourdais briefly popped himself onto the provisional pole with a few minutes remaining, but Power would soon reinstate himself at the top of the time-sheets as the chequered flag came out. His time on top was short-lived, however, as Newgarden’s last lap of the session would be good enough to see him pip Power to take the pole by just one-hundredth of a second.
Newgarden has already won at Barber Motorsports Park twice in his career, once with CFH Racing in 2015 and the second time with Penske last year. This year will be the first time he has started this race on pole position, which could be the foundation that leads to him taking his third win in Alabama. That is, of course, if he can manage the expected heavy rain in tomorrow’s race.
Power and Bourdais will line-up second and third respectively, with Sebastien doing a great job to take third ahead of several drivers who had been expected to be faster than the Frenchman. Ryan Hunter-Reay will start fourth as the leading Andretti Autosport driver, with James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon rounding out the top six that made it to the final round.
After a tough start to the season, Marco Andretti will be hoping his seventh place in qualifying today will be the start of a turn around in fortune. The #98 Andretti Herta driver was running right with his team-mates all day long and only just missed out a spot in the fast six. Starting right behind him will be the sister #27 car of Alexander Rossi, who will line-up eighth after admitting that he did not get all of the speed out of his car in session two.
Simon Pagenaud was lower down the order than his team-mates on the front-row. He will start ninth, with Robert Wickens rounding out the top ten and finishing the day as the fastest rookie. Fellow rookie Zach Veach will start right behind him in eleventh, with the young American doing an impressive job considering the fact that he has been battling illness and nausea throughout the weekend so far.
Slightly further back, British team Carlin continued to show an improvement in pace. Their drivers, Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball will start thirteenth and fourteenth respectively as they hope to finish well in their first road course race of the season.
It was a tough session for Ed Carpenter Racing. Despite both drivers having shown good pace in practice, neither managed to make it out of round one. Spencer Pigot will start seventeenth, with Jordan King two places back in nineteenth.
Finally, it was a day to forget for A.J. Foyt Enterprises driver Tony Kanaan. The Brazilian will line-up last on the grid after his #14 Chevrolet spun just after exiting the pit-lane. Kanaan hit the wall with the rear of his car and could not continue on in the session. To add insult to injury, because he caused a red flag, his best time was deleted and left him all the way down in twenty-third and last place. The IndyCar veteran will be hoping to capitalize on tomorrow’s expected heavy rain to move through the field in a potentially chaotic race.
2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Alabama – Qualifying results:
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