O’Ward on top in Barber qualifying

Photo credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

Pato O’Ward spoiled the superteam party to take the pole for tomorrow’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the Barber Motorsports Park.

The Firestone Fast Six was a battle between three Chip Ganassi Racing pilots (Scott Dixon, Alex Palou and Marcus Ericson) and one each from Team Penske (Will Power), Andretti Autosport (Alexander Rossi) and Arrow McLaren SP (O’Ward).

O’Ward backed up a solid performance in Q2 with a blitzing lap of 1 minute 5.8479 seconds in the Firestone Fast Six to dispatch Alexander Rossi and take his second career NTT IndyCar Series pole.

“Man, we made some changes after Practice 2, and we’ve been working so hard in the off-season,” O’Ward said. “I knew exactly what I needed to get time out of the Firestone reds. We did that, and we’re starting on pole. We’ve got a race to win tomorrow.”

Rossi’s run gives him his best starting spot at Barber and gives him his second straight front row start.

Alex Palou complemented his pace from this morning to qualify third for his first race with Chip Ganassi Racing ahead of two-time Barber winner Will Power in fourth.

Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson completed the Ganassi brigade with the fifth and sixth fastest times, respectively.

Ex-Formula 1 pilot Romain Grosjean turned an impressive seventh place lap and barely missed making the fast six by .0690s. His result was bolstered by out-qualifying three-time Barber master and two-time champion Josef Newgarden who ended up eighth.

“Had a bit of traffic, but it doesn’t really matter today,” said the Frenchman. “I’m very proud of the boys getting me to P7. I was just thinking Josef Newgarden is one of the stars of the series and knows Barber very well. So, I think we can be super happy with that. I think we’ve shown the work we’ve done in testing worked well.”

Fellow rookie Scott McLaughlin advanced to Q2 but ended up at a shortcoming by using two of his sets of reds in the first group and ended up 12th overall.

A handful of former Barber race winners ended up buried in the pack. Simon Pagenaud (winner 2016) was the lone Team Penske driver outside the top ten and ended up 15th while Ryan Hunter-Reay (winner 2013-14) closed the day in 17th.

Defending Barber winner Takuma Sato struggled along with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Graham Rahal and ended up 19th.

Felix Rosenqvist set the fifth quickest time in Group 2 but had his fastest lap nixed out and was relegated to starting 22nd when he brought out the yellow flag with 30 seconds left in the session. James Hinchcliffe also had troubles as he crashed in Group 2 and could not return to the track and will line up 24th.

Jimmie Johnson managed a slight gain on his practice progress but still found himself in 21st for his IndyCar debut.

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