Kyle Kirkwood, the polesitter from the most recent race, spun on new tires, damaged his car, and fell to 12th in the Firestone Fast 12 session. Rinus VeeKay, the polesitter from last year’s Barber Motorsports Park NTT IndyCar Series race, got caught in a bottleneck with Team Penske drivers and then ran off track on his last flying lap and dropped to ninth.
IndyCar’s all-time pole winner Will Power also fell off the circuit and plummeted to 11th. Championship leader Marcus Ericsson simply lacked the speed to make the Fast 12 and settled for 13th. Those were just four of many IndyCar front runners who were expected to vie for strong starting positions but find themselves with a lot of passing to do over 90 laps on Sunday in Alabama if they want to salvage their weekends.
“It was just a dumb mistake, to be honest,” Kirkwood said of looping his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda and ripping a downforce-producing component from his car’s diffuser. “We lost the rear-left strake and that just caused a ton of understeer in the left-hand corners and a ton of oversteer on the right-hand corners.”
Power pointed to Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin as one of the authors of his adversity and also reckoned an engine on the verge of needing a rebuild conspired against finding greater success.
“Scott went off in Turn 1 on the money lap and just put all that grass on (the circuit),” he said. “So I went wide there and lost some time there and was definitely up (on pace) coming to that. And then in Turn 13, the wheel locked and unwound itself because there was so much grip in the middle of that corner. And I just had to get out of the throttle and ran off, which screwed the next lap. But we’ve been a tenth-and-a-half down with the engine this weekend. We’re just hanging in there.”
Championship leader Marcus Ericsson was out of touch as Chip Ganassi Racing stablemates Alex Palou and Scott Dixon qualified second and fifth, respectively. Lining up 13th was not what Ericsson had in mind after delivering two strong qualifying performances at St. Petersburg and Long Beach.
“Yesterday we were really happy, and then today, in the morning session, we felt like the car was not as good,” he said. “So we went back a little bit to what we had yesterday and it felt a lot better. I think the car was pretty nice to drive, but it’s missing a few tenths. Disappointing.”
Kirkwood’s teammate Colton Herta didn’t have a spin or lose any bodywork from his car to explain the lack of speed with his No. 26 Honda at Barber.
“I never qualify well here; I’ve never been in the Fast Six,” he said after placing 14th. “We should transfer but unfortunately we didn’t. Have to look at what went wrong and why we’re so slow, but we shouldn’t be getting knocked out in round one.”