Helio Castroneves picked up where he left off after last week's season-opening win in St. Pete. The Brazilian will start on the pole for tomorrow's Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 117.485 mph in the Firestone Fast Six.
Castroneves will certainly be the favorite in the No. 3 AAA Chevrolet as he not only won the first race of the season, but was also the inaugural race winner at Barber two years ago.
The biggest surprise of the day, however, is that Castroneves' teammate Will Power set a track record, but isn't even on the pole.
Power, set the record in round one of qualifications today with a new track record of 1 minute, 9.8529 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Chevrolet. In the second session though, Power didn't get a good lap in, and will start ninth on 17-turn 2.38-mile road course.
Joining Castroneves on the front row is second-year driver James Hinchcliffe. Hinchcliffe is replacing Danica Patrick in the GoDaddy Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport, and he's off to a great start to the season after a great weekend last week in St. Pete. Hinchcliffe turned the second fastest lap in the Firestone Fast Six with a speed of 117.410 in the No. 27 Go Daddy Chevrolet, and on Sunday will join Castroneves on the front row to lead the 26 car field to the 90-lap race tomorrow afternoon. The second-place start is the best career start in the young career of Hinchcliffe in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
In row two tomorrow will be two Hondas. Scott Dixon will start third with a lap of 117.398 mph in the No. 9 Target Honda, and Mike Conway will start along side in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda for Foyt Enterprises with a lap of 116.819 mph. The fourth place start for Conway is the best start since St. Pete in 2007 for his team Foyt Enterprises.
Rounding out the top five is American J.R. Hildebrand in the No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet. Last year's Indianapolis 500 runner-up put down a lap of 116.495 mph in the Firestone Fast Six, and will try to improve on his 13th place finish in last year's race. Today marks the first time that Hildebrand has reached the Firestone Fast Six.
Starting next to Hildebrand and rounding out the Firestone Fast Six is KV Racing's Tony Kanaan. Kanaan qualified with a speed of 116.009 in the No. 11 Geico Chevrolet.
Three-time defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti once again struggled in qualifying for the second straight week, and will start a disappointing 18th in the No. 10 Clorox Honda. Other big names joining Franchitti in starting outside the top 10 are Ryan Hunter-Reay (11th), Ryan Briscoe (12th), and Marco Andretti (13th).
Tomorrow's race will be the third running of the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. I expect to see a lot more passing than last week as there's more room to pass, and no real danger to hit a wall with Barber being a true road course.
The Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will start at 2:00 PM EDT and can be seen on NBC Sports Network.
1. 3 Helio Castroneves-AAA Chevrolet (Penske)
2. 27 James Hinchcliffe-Go Daddy Chevrolet (Andretti)
3. 9 Scott Dixon- Target Honda (Ganassi)
4. 14 Mike Conway- ABC Supply Co. Honda (Foyt)
5. 4 J.R.Hildebrand- National Guard Chevrolet (Panther)
6. 11 Tony Kanaan- Geico Chevrolet (KV)
7. 5 E.J. Viso- Citgo Chevrolet (KV)
8. 38 Graham Rahal- NTB Honda (Ganassi)
9. 12 Will Power- Verizon Wireless Chevrolet (Penske)
10. 77 Simon Pagenaud R- HP Honda (Schmidt)
11. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay- DHL Chevrolet (Andretti)
12. 2 Ryan Briscoe- Hitachi Chevrolet (Penske)
13. 26 Marco Andretti- RC Cola Chevrolet (Andretti)
14. 8 Rubens Barrichello R- BMC Chevrolet (KV)
15. 67 Josef Newgarden R- Sarah Fisher Racing Honda (Fisher)
16. 15 Takuma Sato- Panasonic/Mi-Jack Honda (Rahal)
17. 7 Sebastien Bourdais- McAfee Lotus (Dragon)
18. 10 Dario Franchitti- Clorox Honda (Ganassi)
19. 18 Justin Wilson- Sonny's BBQ Honda (Coyne)
20. 19 James Jakes- Boy Scouts of America Honda (Coyne)
21. 78 Simona de Silvestro- Nuclear Lotus (HVM)
22. 83 Charlie Kimball- Novo Nordisk Honda (Ganassi)
23. 98 Alex Tagliani- Barracuda Lotus (Herta)
24. 20 Ed Carpenter- Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet (Carpenter)
25. 6 Katherine Legge R- TrueCar Lotus (Dragon)
26. 22 Oriol Servia- Charter Lotus (Dreyer)
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