Will Power leads Penske sweep in GP of Alabama quals

Will Power charges to his 2nd pole of the year
Will Power charges to his 2nd pole of the year

Except for a couple of Ryan Hunter-Reay wins, Team Penske has owned Barber Motorsports Park and Saturday was no different. Team Penske's Will Power was the only driver to crack the 1m06s bracket to win pole for the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Helio Castroneves will start 2nd and Simon Pagenaud 3rd to make it a Penske 1-2-3 sweep of qualifying.

Power negotiated the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course in 1 minute, 6.9614 seconds (123.653 mph) in the Firestone Fast Six, the climactic round of knockout qualifying. It earned the 36-year-old Australian the Verizon P1 Award and his fourth pole position at the track for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America's First.

Power, in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, edged a pair of teammates and past Barber pole winners for qualifying honors. Helio Castroneves was second in the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet (1:07.1429, 123.319 mph) and Simon Pagenaud third in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet (1:07.3817, 122.882 mph).

"Congratulation to Will," said Pagenaud, the defending Barber race winner and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion. "That was great qualifying and phenomenal for the race team: 1-2-3."

Power's 46th career pole – fifth all time – was the seventh for Team Penske in eight events at Barber Motorsports Park. It was also the 248th in Indy car history for the team, which Power said is where it all starts.

"First, it's having a very good team and car, definitely working well this weekend," said Power, the 2014 series champion who has Barber race wins in 2011 and '12. "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."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Scott Dixon qualified fourth in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing (1:07.5817, 122.518 mph). Ryan Hunter-Reay, the only non-Penske driver to ever win a pole at Barber, was fifth in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport (1:07.6851, 122.331 mph).

"This weekend, we struggled with just keeping up with the car," said Dixon, a six-time podium finisher at Barber but never a race winner at the track. "It's been tough in the conditions out here, but I think that was kind of the best we could hope for in qualifying. Pretty happy with that. Penskes have been strong all weekend and I think we're in a good starting position."

James Hinchcliffe, winner of the most recent Verizon IndyCar Series race, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 9, qualified sixth in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda (1:07.8710, 121.996 mph).

Championship points leader Sebastien Bourdais qualified 12th in the No. 18 Sonny's BBQ Honda, one position behind his Dale Coyne Racing teammate, rookie Ed Jones. It's the best qualifying effort for Jones, the driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda, in his three Verizon IndyCar Series races thus far.

A final 30-minute warmup practice is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. ET Sunday (streamed on RaceControl.IndyCar.com). Live coverage of the 90-lap race starts at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

It was the 46th career pole for Will Power placing him fifth on the all-time poles lists. He is two away from tying his Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves, for fourth all-time.. Team Penske has won 7 out of 8 poles at this track.

It is Power’s fourth Verizon P1 Pole Award at Barber Motorsports Park with the others coming in 2010, 2011 and 2014.

This is the seventh pole for Team Penske in eight all-time events at Barber (Power – 4, Castroneves – 2, Simon Pagenaud – 1)

Team Penske has won all three poles this season and 15 of 19 poles dating back to last year.

QUOTES

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet): "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 (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "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 offseason. 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 (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "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 (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): "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 (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): "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 (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "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 (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "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 (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "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 (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "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 (No. 18 Sonny's BBQ Honda): "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 (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "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 (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "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 (No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "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 (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "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 (No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda): "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 (No. 28 DHL Honda): "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 (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "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 (No. 98 Andretti/Curb Honda): "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."

Results

Rank Car Driver Name Make Time Speed Session
1 12 Power, Will CHEVY 01:06.9614 123.653 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
2 3 Castroneves, Helio CHEVY 01:07.1429 123.319 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
3 1 Pagenaud, Simon CHEVY 01:07.3817 122.882 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
4 9 Dixon, Scott HONDA 01:07.5817 122.518 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
5 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan HONDA 01:07.6851 122.331 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
6 5 Hinchcliffe, James HONDA 01:07.8710 121.996 Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six
7 2 Newgarden, Josef CHEVY 01:07.5941 122.496 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
8 7 Aleshin, Mikhail HONDA 01:07.9467 121.860 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
9 8 Chilton, Max HONDA 01:07.9788 121.803 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
10 10 Kanaan, Tony HONDA 01:08.0305 121.710 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
11 19 Jones, Ed (R) HONDA 01:08.2034 121.402 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
12 18 Bourdais, Sebastien HONDA 01:08.2726 121.279 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
13 27 Andretti, Marco HONDA 01:07.5405 122.593 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
14 26 Sato, Takuma HONDA 01:07.6928 122.317 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
15 83 Kimball, Charlie HONDA 01:07.7033 122.298 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
16 14 Munoz, Carlos CHEVY 01:07.7007 122.303 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
17 20 Pigot, Spencer CHEVY 01:07.9211 121.906 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
18 98 Rossi, Alexander HONDA 01:07.7483 122.217 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
19 21 Veach, Zach (R) CHEVY 01:08.4681 120.932 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
20 4 Daly, Conor CHEVY 01:08.0104 121.746 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
21 15 Rahal, Graham HONDA 01:08.0499 121.675 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2

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