Pagenaud leads Penske 1-2 in Birmingham

By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter

Fresh off his first win with Team Penske in Long Beach, Simon Pagenaud claimed the pole for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

Pagenaud quietly advanced his way out of Group 1 and into session 2 but made it count when it mattered in the Firestone Fast Six. Pagenaud had an extra set of red tires at his disposal and with only six minutes on the clock in the Fast Six, that was all the time that Pagenaud needed. The Frenchman went out with a light fuel load and clicked off a lap of 1:06.7262s.

“The car is just incredible – the PPG car – especially on the red Firestone tires,” he said. “I really had a good time and was having fun driving it. We put the least amount to fuel in it and tried to save the tires by doing one lap each segment. The car was so good that we went through every segment. On the last lap, I just dug deep. It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had driving. That lap was really good.”

Power set a new track record in Q2 and managed to set a lap of 1:06.9421s to bring himself up to second place. 2015 Barber winner Josef Newgarden made it into the Firestone Fast Six for the first time this year and will start from third place alongside Scott Dixon, who will start fourth. Sebastien Bourdais set a blistering fast lap in Session 2 of 1:06.0001 to eclipse Power’s track record set in Q1 but was forced to settle for fifth place in qualifying. Graham Rahal was the only Honda to make it into the Fast Six and ended the day in sixth place.

Helio Castroneves barely missed making the Firestone Fast Six by .0229s when he overdrove one corner. James Hinchcliffe will start in eighth followed by Tony Kanaan in ninth place and Charlie Kimball will round out the top 10.

Much like in St. Petersburg, the AJ Foyt Racing cars of Jack Hawsworth and Takuma Sato showed impressive pace in practice but were unable to translate those speeds in qualifying and will line up 14th and 16th.

Luca Filippi also showed promise in Q1 as he gambled to run the entire qualifying session on reds when most of the field went out on the primary black tires.  The move payed off as me made it to Q2, but he didn’t replicate his quick pace in Q2 and ended the day in 12th place.

Andretti Autosport’s qualifying struggled continued as none of their cars advanced out of the first group with Carlos Munoz only managing to qualify in 15th place followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay in 18th, Marco Andretti in 19th and Alexander Rossi in 20th place. Also struggling was Juan Pablo Montoya who couldn’t find any grip on the Firestone Reds in Q1 and will start dead last on the field.

Image: Chris Jones/INDYCAR

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Josh Farmer joined the media center in 2012 after first discovering his love of IndyCar racing in 2004 at Auto Club Speedway. He has been an accredited member of the IndyCar media center since 2014 and also contributes to along with The Motorsports Tribune.

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