By: Spencer Neff
Romain Grosjean became the first repeat pole winner of the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.
On Saturday afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park, the driver of the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Dallara-Honda posted a best lap of 1m05.8396 (125.760 mph) to earn the top spot for Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix. Grosjean earned the NTT P1 Award for the third time in his career.
In two previous starts on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course in Alabama, Grosjean has a best start of seventh (2021-Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing) in his series debut.
Last year, he earned a seventh-place in his first permanent road course race with Andretti.
The St. Petersburg pole winner is joined on the front row by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou in Honda’s third front row sweep in as many road and street course events to start 2023.
Palou, who has finishes of first and second in his previous starts at Barber, led Saturday’s pre-qualifying practice session.
Round 3-Fast Six:
Right behind Grosjean and Palou will be last year’s race winner Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren and Friday practice leader Scott McLaughlin from Team Penske, the only Chevrolet-powered entries to make the Fast Six. On Row 3 are Palou’s CGR teammate Scott Dixon and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard.
O’Ward and Grosjean are the only drivers to make the Fast Six in each of the first three events. Lundgaard was the only driver to make his first 2023 Fast Six appearance. Before today, his best start was 11th at St. Petersburg, where he recorded his best finish of ninth.Including the No.45, nine drivers have made a Fast Six appearance to date in 2023.
Round 2-Fast 12:
Grosjean would top the board in Round 2 with a best lap of 1m05.6829 (126.060 mph), leading O”Ward, McLaughlin, Palou, Lundgaard and Dixon into the final round.
Missing out on the Fast Six would be Josef Newgarden, Felix Rosenqvist,Rinus VeeKay, Alexander Rossi, Will Power and Kyle Kirkwood. They will start seventh through 12th.
Although there were no stoppages, a handful of cars had noteworthy incidents. Kirkwood spun in Turn 3 but continued on. At the beginning of the session, Power and VeeKay were involved in a disagreement after the latter passed on his out lap. VeeKay went off-track late in the session but continued on unharmed.
Round 1-Group 1:
Newgarden (1m05.5883-128.242 mph) would pace the opening group in Round 1, advancing with Grosjean, Rossi, Kirkwood, Dixon and VeeKay.
The group of drivers unable to advance would include points leader Marcus Ericsson, Callum Ilott, David Malukas, Graham Rahal Helio Castroneves, Sting Ray Robb and Benjamin Pedersen. Those seven drivers will start on the inside of Rows 7-13.
Row 1-Group 2:
Leading the way in Group 2 would be Palou (1m05.5871-126.244 mph), advancing to Round 2 with O’Ward, McLaughlin, Lundgaard, Rosenqvsist and Power.
After a clean Group 1, Group 2 saw multiple issues during the 10 minutes on track. A.J. Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci had clutch pedal issues carry over and was unable to complete a lap at speed.
Later on in the session, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Armstrong was assessed a penalty for impeding Christian Lundgaard.
Armstrong was penalized under Rule 8.3.7 and 220.127.116.11, which states:
“If a Car interferes with the Qualifications attempt of another Car other than through a Red Condition:
If the violation occurs during Segment One (1) or Segment Two (2), the Car’s best two (2) timed laps during that segment shall be disallowed and the Car shall not advance to the next segment.”
Armstrong and Ferrucci were relegated to the bottom of the order.
Failing to advance would be Colton Herta, Simon Pagenaud, Devlin DeFrancesco, Conor Daly, Agustin Canapino (best among the rookie class), Jack Harvey along with Armstrong and Ferrucci. They start on the outside of Rows 7-14.
Here is the remaining on track schedule for tomorrow. Stay with IndyCar1909 for the latest on the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix.
At-track schedule (All Times Local/Central Time):
Sunday, April 30
11-11:30 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock
11:55 a.m. – INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of Alabama “Drivers, start your engines”
Noon – INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of Alabama (35 laps/55 minutes), Peacock.
2 p.m. – NBC on air
2:23 p.m. – Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix “Drivers, start your engines”
2:30 p.m. – Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix (90 laps / 207 miles), NBC (Live)
Header Image By Chris Owens/INDYCAR