They say that best way to predict the future is to study past behavior. If that’s true, then we should see a Team Penske driver holding up the Verizon P1 Award by the end of the day. But, will it be one of the drivers who has already won a pole position at Barber Motorsports Park or will it be the newest Penske teammate, Josef Newgarden?
Newgarden had the second fastest lap in the final practice this morning, with his teammate Will Power topping the session times. But with the additional cloud cover and the temperatures not nearly as gnarly as they were on Friday, we saw slightly quicker lap times – with 14 of the 21 cars running faster than the fastest time clocked yesterday (Andretti, 1:07.7134).
Side note: The temps are supposed to decrease slowly for the remainder of the afternoon and maintain an air temp of 79 degrees for the duration of the qualifying rounds. Mother Nature must be a racing fan because she seems to have taken pity on us for now… if we are lucky, she’ll hold back the impending rain until about 8pm Central. And for that, we would all be grateful.
Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevy, Penske) is the only car to break the 1:07 this weekend with a 1:06.9953 lap, and that of course was done this morning. Power is going for his fourth Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama pole; he clinched the P1 Award in 2010, 2011, and 2014.
I played a game with another member of the media-folk crew this afternoon, guessing who would advance today from each qualifying group and round. So here are my picks, in no particular order…
Round 1, Group 1 advancing:
Round 1, Group 2 advancing:
Round 2 advancing (making up the Firestone Fast 6):
As far as a pick for the Verizon P1 Award, that’s hard.
Newgarden is hungry for it and wants to keep the Penske power at Barber strong… and of course he is looking to impress his new boss whenever possible!
Hinchcliffe has been finding speed here, running nearly a second quicker between yesterday and today and he’s hot off his win in Long Beach, two weekends ago.
Power is, well… for lack of a better term and because I like cheesy puns… a powerhouse at Barber. There’s no argument there.
Castroneves is the most recent pole winner, earning the award at the last event in California. And while he’s been in a victory dry spell for nearly 3 years now, he’s still capable of putting together a single impeccable lap. He has 48 poles to prove it – 8 of those coming in this current winless span.
If Pagenaud was a super hero, he’d be “The Defender” this weekend. He’s defending not only a series championship, but he won Barber last season from the pole. So, yeah. Do not even count this guy out.
Scott Dixon has been on podium for all but one of the 7 races completed at Barber Motorsports Park, but never on the highest step. He finished P2 from 2010 – 2013 and P3 in 2014 and 2015. Always a bridesmaid, am I right? Dixon also holds the fastest race lap time, set last year when he clocked a 1:08.4533.
It’s anyone’s game, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Roger Penske is gonna be one happy guy at the end of the Firestone Fast 6 round this afternoon.