Sunday, April 24, 2016

Morning Warm-Up: Barber 2016

Simon Pagenaud leads the champions and will lead the field to green tomorrow
The IndyCar championship leader Simon Pagenaud will start the fourth round of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season at Barber Motorsports Park from pole position. It is Pagenaud's third career pole position and first on a natural-terrain road course. The Frenchman ran a lap of 66.7262 seconds. He won pole for Houston 1 in 2014 and at Fontana last year. Pagenaud could become the first driver since Sébastien Bourdais in 2006 to start the season with four consecutive podiums. Bourdais had five consecutive podiums to open that season. Since 1946, a driver has scored four podiums to start a season thirteen times. The driver who has scored four podiums to open a season has won the championship ten times. Will Power will start second after qualifying over two-tenths behind his teammate. This is Power's sixth front row start in seven Barber appearances. Power's worst finish at Barber is fifth.

Josef Newgarden qualified third, a career-best for him at Barber. He won last year's race from fifth and led 46 of 90 laps. He has three top tens in four Barber starts and all of those top tens have come in his last three Barber starts. Last year, Newgarden entered Barber after two consecutive top ten finishes. Another top ten at Barber would match Newgarden's longest streak of consecutive top ten finishes at three. Scott Dixon starts fourth for the second consecutive year at Barber. No Barber winner has ever started fourth. Six of Dixon's 39 IndyCar victories have come from fourth, most recently Mid-Ohio 2012. Sébastien Bourdais will start fifth, a career best for the Frenchman at Barber. Last year, Bourdais had a career-best finish at Barber when he came home in eighth. Graham Rahal is the top Honda on the grid, as he will roll off from sixth, a career-best for him at Barber. This will be Rahal's 15th start from sixth. He has finished outside the top ten in eight of his previous 14 starts from sixth.

Hélio Castroneves failed to make the final round of qualifying and will start seventh, a career-worst for him at Barber. Castroneves has failed to finish in the top ten in the last two Barber races after finishing on the podium in three of the first four Barber races. James Hinchcliffe qualified eighth, his fifth time qualifying in the top ten in six Barber appearances. He has finished seventh the last two years at Barber. Tony Kanaan will start ninth in his seventh start at Barber. Kanaan has never led a lap at Barber and has never finished better than sixth. Kanaan is attempting to get five consecutive top ten finishes for the first time since 2010-11 when he had five top tens to close out 2010 and three consecutive to open 2011. Charlie Kimball rounds out an all-Ganassi row five. This is Kimball's second career top ten start at Barber. He started fifth in 2013.

Max Chilton will start 11th after he advanced to the second round of qualifying for the first time in his short IndyCar career. Chilton finished fifth and third last year at Barber in the two Indy Lights races. For the second consecutive race, Luca Filippi will start 12th. The Italian has failed to finish in the top ten in the last five races. Only twice in his career has Filippi finished in the top ten after starting outside the top ten and both times he started 19th and finished ninth (St. Petersburg and Belle Isle 1 last year). He finished 11th last year at Barber. Mikhail Aleshin qualified 13th and matched his best starting position of 2016. He had an accident end his only Barber start in 2014. Jack Hawksworth will start 14th, a career-best for him at Barber. His best finish at the track is 12th. Hawksworth has never gone more than five races between top ten finishes. His last top ten was five races to go, an eighth at Mid-Ohio.

Carlos Muñoz is the top Andretti Autosport starter in 15th position. Muñoz finished sixth last year at Barber from 22nd on the grid. He won at Barber in Indy Lights in 2013. Takuma Sato rounds out row eight. He entered this weekend with an average starting position of 13.2 at Barber and average finish of 18.2. Sato's best finish at the track is 13th. Conor Daly starts 17th for his Barber debut. This is Daly's first IndyCar start on a natural-terrain road course. He has six starts on street circuits and two on ovals. Ryan Hunter-Reay starts 18th. Last year at Barber, Hunter-Reay started 18th and finished fifth. Only three times in IndyCar history has a winner started 18th. Those three winner were Keith Andrews at the 1954 Pikes Peak Hill Climb, Jim McElreath at the 1970 California 500 at Ontario and Bobby Unser at the 1979 Twin 125 from Michigan.

Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi will start on an all-American, all-Andretti Autosport row ten. This is Andretti's career-worst start at Barber. His worst Barber finish was 11th in 2012. This is the fifth time Andretti has started 19th in his career. He has three top ten finishes from his four starts from 19th position. Rossi is still looking for his first career top ten finish. He has regressed with each finish this year. Juan Pablo Montoya will round out the grid in 21st position. This is the second time in Montoya's IndyCar career he has started outside the top twenty. He started 22nd at Toronto 1 in 2014 and finished 18th in that race. His only victory when starting outside the top ten was last year's Indianapolis 500, where he won from 15th. Montoya's best finish at Barber is 14th. Three IndyCar races have been won from 21st position: The 1924 Indianapolis 500 (won by L.L. Corum and Joe Boyer), Las Vegas 2000 (won by Al Unser, Jr.) and Michigan 2001 (won by Patrick Carpentier).

The 2016 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama can be seen at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN with green flag scheduled for 3:38 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 90 laps.