Sunday, April 22, 2018

Morning Warm-Up: Barber 2018

Josef Newgarden looks to defend his Barber victory and retake championship lead
Josef Newgarden took his third career pole position and first of the 2018 season at Barber Motorsports Park. The American had the fastest lap in the final round of qualifying at 67.4413 seconds. This is Newgarden's second career pole position on a road course. He started on pole position at last year's season finale at Sonoma where he finished second. He has led the most laps in both races he has started from pole position. Newgarden has started in the top six in four of the last five Barber races and he has five consecutive top ten finishes at this track including three consecutive podium finishes. Every time Newgarden has led a lap at Barber he has gone on to win the race. He has completed 519 out of 519 laps in six Barber starts. Team Penske's shot at its 199th IndyCar victory will start on a good note as Will Power makes it an all-Penske front row. This is Power's eighth front row start in nine Barber appearances. He has led 208 laps at this track, 105 laps more than the next closest driver all-time.

Sébastien Bourdais starts third in not only his best starting position at this track but also the best starting position for Dale Coyne Racing at Barber Motorsports Park. The previous best for the team was eighth in 2013 with Justin Wilson. Bourdais has only led two laps in his career at Barber, both coming in 2015. Ryan Hunter-Reay has led 93 laps in his career at Barber, tied for second-most all-time with Hélio Castroneves and Hunter-Reay will start fourth. With rain inevitable for this race it is a good reminder that Hunter-Reay won a wet race at Barber in 2014. Only 69 laps were completed in that time-shortened race. James Hinchcliffe will start fifth. This is the first time Hinchcliffe has started a season with four consecutive top ten starting positions. He has five top ten finishes at Barber but his career-best finish at the track is sixth. Like Bourdais, he has only led a career total of two laps at Barber, one in 2012 and one in 2015. Scott Dixon rounds out the top six. This is Dixon's worst career starting position at Barber. Dixon has won three times in his career from sixth on the grid (Pikes Peak 2003, Mid-Ohio 2007 and Phoenix 2016).

Marco Andretti will start seventh at Barber. This is Andretti's best start on a road/street course since he started seventh for the second Belle Isle race in 2015. Andretti finished second from ninth on the grid in that wet Barber race in 2014. He also finished second in the wet in the first Belle Isle race in 2015. Andretti has been running at the finish of 16 consecutive races. Championship leader Alexander Rossi makes it an all-Andretti row four. Rossi bettered his career-best starting position at Barber by ten positions. With three podium finishes from the first three race Rossi has matched his best single-season total in that category. This will be the fifth time Rossi has started eighth in career, his most frequent starting position in his IndyCar career. Simon Pagenaud starts ninth, snapping a streak of three consecutive years making the Fast Six at Barber. Pagenaud's worst career finish at Barber was ninth in 2015. Robert Wickens matches his career worst starting position of tenth.

Zach Veach has a new career best starting position, as he will roll off from 11th on the grid. This was the first time Veach made the second round of road/street course qualifying. Veach is one of four drivers on the grid who could become the first driver to win at Barber in IndyCar and Indy Lights. One of those other three drivers starts next to Veach on row six and it is the man who finished a position ahead of Veach last week at Long Beach, Ed Jones. In six permanent road course races last year, Jones finished five of them with his lone retirement coming at Sonoma due to a suspension problem. Carlin made a massive breakthrough in qualifying, as both its drivers will start on row seven with Max Chilton a position ahead of Charlie Kimball. Chilton has been in the top fifteen in every session this weekend while Kimball has been in the top fifteen for all but second practice. Carlin won with Ed Jones in Indy Lights at Barber in 2016. Andretti Autosport is the only team to have won in both IndyCar and Indy Lights at this track.

Graham Rahal starts 15th in the #15 Honda. Last year, Rahal started 21st and finished 13th in this race. He started 15th in the first Barber race in 2010 driving for Sarah Fisher Racing and he finished 17th, one lap down. Rahal's former teammate Zachary Claman De Melo joins him on row eight. This is Claman De Melo's best career starting position. His previous best was 21st. He is still looking for his first career lead lap finish. Spencer Pigot will start 17th with Takuma Sato joining him on row nine. This is the 26th race in Pigot's career and he has yet to start in the top ten. Two of Pigot's five career top ten finishes have come from 17th on grid including his most recent top ten finish, which was tenth in the first Belle Isle race last year. This is the sixth time Sato has started 18th in his career but only once has Sato started 18th and finished in the top ten. That was an eighth place finish at Sonoma in 2015.

Jordan King will start a career worst 19th. For his third consecutive appearance King had an accident in the third practice session but unlike the prior two he was not able to breakthrough to the second round of qualifying. Gabby Chaves will start on row ten for the third consecutive week but this time he will start 20th. Chaves has started 20th three times in his career and two of those were a tenth place finish at Texas in 2015 and a fifth place finish at Texas last year. Chaves started 17th and finished 16th in his only Barber start in 2015. Matheus Leist will start 21st, his worst career starting position in his short career. René Binder returns for his second career start and he has improved his career best starting position by one position, as he will roll off from 22nd. Tony Kanaan rounds out the grid in 23rd position. He lost his fastest two laps after he caused a red flag during the second group's session in the first round of qualifying. Kanaan started 24th and finished sixth in the 2011 Barber race and he went from 23rd to ninth in the 2014 Barber race.

NBCSN's coverage of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama begins at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag moved up to 3:08 p.m. ET due to weather. The race is scheduled for 90 laps.