Power holds off Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay in Barber qualifying
26 April 2014 – The 2.38mi of undulating track that makes up Barber Motorsports Park are familiar to Will Power, especially when there are no cars in front of him. The winner of the 2011 and 2012 events here will once again start on pole for tomorrow's Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, beating out Canadian James Hinchcliffe by just 0.02s. This Verizon P1 Award marks his 33rd pole position in the Verizon IndyCar Series and his first of 2014. That puts the Queensland native eighth on the all-time IndyCar poles list.
Andretti Autosport had led every practice session of the weekened, with Hinchcliffe finishing this morning's practice session in P1. He remains the only man to run a sub-1:08 lap this weekend---something that would have put him on top for qualifying, as well. Instead, he will lead the Andretti charge instead of his teammate, who won here a year ago.
Ryan Hunter-Reay had led every practice session of the weekend until this morning, and after a disastrous race two weeks ago in Long Beach, last year's Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner hoped this would be the race that would get his season back on track. The 2012 IndyCar champion had positioned himself within the Firestone Fast Six, but his final flying lap of the afternoon wasn't enough to put him on the front row; instead he'll start P3.
Josef Newgarden will start alongside Hunter-Reay after a strong field placed four different teams in the Firestone Fast Six---all of whom were separated by 0.3s. Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves will make up row three for tomorrow's 90-lap race.
In the first group of qualifying, Simon Pagenaud led the way with a 1:08.2918 ahead of Power and Juan Pablo Montoya. Castroneves, a winner here in the inaugural race at Barber in 2010, came in third. Carlos Munoz, the 2012 winner of the Indy Lights race at Barber, and Sebastien Bourdias, who ran the second fastest lap of the weekend in practice, also moved into Q2. Falling just short of the transfer spots were Sebastian Saavedra, Carlos Huertas, Charlie Kimball, Oriol Servia and Mike Conway.
Hinchcliffe set the early pace in the second group of Q1. After the field exchanged their black tyres for reds, no one could top the Canadian's time of 1:08.5593, which was slower than his time in the third practice---when he became the first man of the weekend to lap quicker than 1:08.
Also moving on from the second group were the Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin, Newgarden, Marco Andretti, Hunter-Reay and Dixon. Takuma Sato, who changed chassis last night, was unable to match his form from practice three and just missed out on transferring. Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal, Ryan Briscoe, Jack Hawksworth and Tony Kanaan rounded out the rest of the group, all of whom were separated from Hinchcliffe by 1.02s.
Hunter-Reay was the first on track for Q2, eager to set a time in clean air before changing tyres. In the meantime, both Montoya and Aleshin took their turns at the top of the time charts while the field stayed in the pits to time their final runs.
When they finally did go out with three minutes remaining, Newgarden assumed provisional P1 in front of Munoz, only to be bumped by Power. Castroneves, who found out recently that he was on probation from IndyCar due to a tweet criticizing race officials, moved into P3 before time expired.
The three would be joined by Hinchcliffe, Dixon and Hunter-Reay in the Firestone Fast Six. A disappointed Bourdais could only muster P11, 0.77s off of Power's leading time, but he would later be flagged for qualifying interference on Hunter-Reay and lost his fastest lap. The benefactor was Aleshin, who before was just 0.03s off of the Frenchman's time, so he'll now start P11.