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Pagenaud On Barber Pole

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 23 2016
Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske drove to the pole position Saturday in Alabama.

Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske drove to the pole position Saturday in Alabama.

Points leader Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske won the pole on Saturday for Sunday’s IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

Pagenaud, the winner at Long Beach last weekend, had a fast lap at 01:06.7262 (124.089 mph) at the 2.3-mile road circuit.

“It was awesome,” the Frenchman said. “The car was just incredible, the PPG Car, especially on the red Firestone tires. I really had a good time just driving it. We put the least amount of fuel in it and tried to save the tires by only going one lap in each segment. The car was so good that we just went through every segment. That last lap I just dug deep and that was one of the best feelings that I have ever had driving. Just that lap was good.”

Pagenaud arrived at Barber with a 14-point lead over defending champion Scott Dixon. Both have one victory.

“Yeah, I’m just, honestly, I’m just having a lot of fun,” Pagenaud said. “But of course I’m working really hard. I’m still working as hard as I worked before, but suddenly everything is rolling really well and really easily. The whole team is fantastic, and we don’t have to really think about it too much to make it work.

“You know, like I said, the biggest thing for me is to make myself comfortable with the car, whatever the setup is, and once I am comfortable, I can really push it and do some things like today. So that’s where we’re at right now, and it feels really nice. We’re just going to — I don’t want to jinx it, so we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing and not get too excited.

Finishing just behind him was teammate Will Power, who had a lap at 01:06.7262 (124.089 mph) in his Chevrolet-powered car.

“I’m happy to be starting on the front row,” Power said. “We’ll see if we can get a podium, a win, something to try and close that points gap so we have a shot at the end of the year.”

Rounding out the top five were Josef Newegarden, defending series champion Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and Sebastien Bourdais of KVSH.

Newgarden is driving for the one-car Ed Carpenter Racing team.

“Our guys have been working so hard, I’m glad we found a little pace over the weekend,” Newgarden said. “We’ve been in the Top 10 but not quite in that top group; however, we found a little bit on that last change heading into qualifying. it’s great to start 3rd, that’s right where we need to be to try and win this race tomorrow.

Newgarden is the defending champion at Barber. Yes, he said, a repeat would be wonderful for him and his one-car team.

“Felt really good last year winning the race,” he said. “I think it’s a special place now for me just – I’ve always loved this track, but I love it so much more now because it’s the first place – I got my first win here, so it’s very special. But I think everyone just assumes you’re going to go back and do the same thing, and that’s been kind of hard to manage over the weekend. Not hard, but it’s just funny because everyone is like, hey, you’re going to do this again, right? You’re going to win the race because you won last year, and I’m like, well, that’s not really how it works. It changes every year, and things are different. You’ve always got to try and be catching up. All the teams are evolving all the time, and same as the drivers.

“We’ve been doing our best to try and keep up with the changes this year and everything that’s been going on, and you know, in qualifying I did a pretty good job. I was really proud of everyone. We hit on it right where we needed to, so I feel a lot more confident now going into tomorrow that we can try and repeat a win.”

All of the top five cars were powered by Chevrolet engines.

Boudais’s result was his best of the season.

“The car reacted very well on the red Firestone tires,” he said. “The Europa/Hydroxycut machine did really awesome, and the crew did a great job. We were fast off the truck and didn’t really find anything that made the car better. But we were very worried about the reds because more often than not we are on par with the top guys on blacks, then we put on the reds and we struggle. I’m really happy with the way it turned out and a track record. It’s not a bad thing, but too bad I couldn’t put it together in the Fast Six. We’ll make the most of it tomorrow.”

Qualifying sixth fastest was Graham Rahal in his Honda-powered Rahal Letterman Lanigan car.

“It will make life a little easier being this far forward,” Rahal said. “It’s always an interesting race around this place but we’ll just have to see how it plays out tomorrow. I think we have a pretty good race car. Qualifying pace is typically our concern. When our other teams can turn it up a bit, we kind of struggle with pace.  For us to get in to the Fast Six, the 1:06.8 I did was about as good of a lap as I think I have ever put together here.

“From comments I’ve heard from others, they are struggling with the rear tires going off a lot in the long run and I don’t really have that problem.  We’re going to keep our heads down, keep focused and try to do what we always do, just out race them a little bit. And if we can keep the rear tires under us, save some fuel hopefully to make the end of the race easier so we can attack hard, I think it will put us in a good spot.”

(This story will be updated shortly)

Qualifying Saturday for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar Series race on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:06.7262 (124.089)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:06.9421 (123.689)
3. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:07.0283 (123.530)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:07.2083 (123.199)
5. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:07.2965 (123.038)
6. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:07.6388 (122.415)
7. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:07.0129 (123.558)
8. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:07.0955 (123.406)
9. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:07.1715 (123.267)
10. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:07.3020 (123.028)
11. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:08.0728 (121.634)
12. (19) Luca Filippi, Honda, 01:08.3655 (121.114)
13. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:07.2417 (123.138)
14. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:07.2360 (123.148)
15. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:07.2435 (123.135)
16. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:07.2385 (123.144)
17. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 01:07.2974 (123.036)
18. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:07.4449 (122.767)
19. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:07.6570 (122.382)
20. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:07.5612 (122.556)
21. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:07.5627 (122.553)

 

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 23 2016
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