Josef Newgarden edged teammate Will Power by a mere 0.0128s to claim the pole for Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, continuing Team Penske’s qualifying dominance at the track with eight poles in nine attempts.
“Tim [Cindric] was telling me when I came in what the lap time was,” said Newgarden, who has won two of the last three races here, to NBC Sports. “I didn’t know if that was going to be enough. It was a good lap, actually – I like this set of [used red] tires a little better than the other. You almost have a favorite sometimes with the Firestones, but they held up well. He had a slight advantage because he didn’t have to do a hot lap on his but I knew our car was quick. After I saw the time we did on this set of tires I knew we had a shot at it.
“We’re gonna need some fuel mileage tomorrow which I think we’ll have, but it’s going to get mixed up with the rain, so I think the first part of this weekend’s done, we just have to focus on tomorrow now and see how we’re going to get through the weather.
Power, who’s no stranger to taking the top spot here with four poles in nine events, could only shrug and point to possible little things that could have put him on top.
“Little mistake out of 9, little lift here or there,” said Power, who won the Barber pole in 2017. “We had good tires, we just got to do one out lap on them when it went red in the first round, but, yeah, just not good enough.”
Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais will start third, his best start at Barber.
“It’s just a big effort for us,” he said. “To be able to trail the Penskes and be in front of all the other Honda teams, we’re pretty happy.”
Nine of the top 12 are Hondas. Following Bourdais will be Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in fifth and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon. Marco Andretti’s seventh starting spot is his best start this season.
Andretti’s teammate Alexander Rossi will roll off eighth after he said his team “missed it by a bit.”
“We’ve been kind of on the outside of the top five, bottom of the top six all weekend, so we tried to be aggressive with it see if we could get through and we missed it by a bit,” the Long Beach race winner said. “We didn’t put the lap together, honestly. The car had enough of a performance capability to transfer, I just didn’t put it together.”
Simon Pagenaud’s Chevy will roll off ninth and rookie Robert Wickens, who lost a practice session to a water leak, rounds out the top 10.
Zach Veach, who is battling a possible case of food poisoning, fought to an 11th-place starting spot.
“It was one of the toughest conditions physically that I’ve had to go through,” he admitted to NBC Sports. “Some sort of food poisoning last night. Four IV bags later and haven’t eaten anything since 7:30 yesterday. Very draining in the car but so thankful, leaving Long Beach we wanted to break that top 12, and my crew have done a great job, they pushed me along today because I was struggling. But excited to get our best start here and see what we can do tomorrow in some tricky conditions.”
Tony Kanaan brought out the red with three minutes to go in Round 1’s second group after losing control on a cold set of sticker reds and backing into the tires at the exit of pit road.