Newgarden earns third career pole, IndyCar field set to race at Barber

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Only 4 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers in the field of 23 at Barber Motorsports Park have found victory at this 2.3-mile road course. Interestingly, 3 of those drivers have won twice – Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevy, Team Penske), in 2011 and 2012, Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda, Andretti Autosport) in 2013 and 2014, and Josef Newgarden (No. 1 Hitachi Chevy, Team Penske) in 2015 with CFH Racing and 2017 with Team Penske.

Qualifying statistics are equally segmented, with only 4 names to the title. That is, until today.

Helio Castroneves won pole twice here, with Pagenaud and Hunter-Reay each picking up the honor once. Will Power on the other hand, has claimed 4 of the 9 IndyCar pole positions at Barber Motorsports Park. It looked like he was going to grab number 5, but ended up just missing out on the top spot to teammate Josef Newgarden. The difference in lap speeds? A hundredth of a second. The top 12 were separated by less than a second. Newgarden remarked on his effort after the Verizon P1 Award ceremony, 

“We just had a good car, for sure. It’s been fast all weekend. We tried to make a car that could be drivable. It sounds silly, but this morning it was tough to put a lap together. Creating drivability, comfort in the car is what we focused on. Felt pretty good in qualifying.”

The driver of the No. 1 Hitachi Chevy for Team Penske earned his third career pole and first one here in Alabama with a fast lap of 1:07.4413. We were riding about a second slower than the record with the new universal kits, which was expected due to the lessened downforce creating sooner braking zones and a longer distance to full throttle coming out of turn. The increased raciness and added passing zones that we’ve seen in the past races this year have absolutely been worth the trade-off, however.

That qualifying record by the way, was set by Sebastien Bourdais (No. 18 SealMaster Honda, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan) in 2016. He starts P3 today. That beats his previous best start of P5. He has yet to win at Barber, but has managed a Top 10 finish in half the races here. He seemed satisfied with his qualifying results,

“It was a solid effort. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. If it’s going to be raining, it’s going to be a guessing game setup-wise.”

That was the general consensus across the board, which makes sense considering that today could be the first time these cars see wet conditions, and it’s in a race setting, so… in the words of Bourdais, ‘Yeehaw!’

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Barber 2018 – Qualifications Results

If I’m being honest with you guys, it wouldn’t be Barber without some rooster tails on track, and the media center flooding. I’ll be kind of disappointed if I don’t have to put my rain boots on when I go inside today. I know it sounds weird, but hey man… it’s tradition!

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Photo credit: Shay Hazen / Live Full Throttle

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