Rinus VeeKay Delivers On Prediction With IndyCar P1 Award At Barber Motorsports Park
Story By: PAUL KELLY / INDYCAR – BIRMINGHAM, AL – Rinus VeeKay entered Barber Motorsports Park this weekend with a hunch he would be fast.
Turns out he was right.
VeeKay earned his second career NTT P1 Award, winning the top spot Saturday for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst with a top lap of 1 minute, 6.2507 seconds in the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing. His previous pole came in October 2020 for Race 1 of the Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
“I thought we had potential,” VeeKay said. “It was a chaotic session. We knew we were in a good position, but to actually put it on pole was an accomplishment. I think the whole team maximized everything. We made the right decisions with tires, setup, everything.
“Confidence is high. I think from here we can have a great race and fight for the win, definitely.”
The 90-lap race starts at 1:15 p.m. (ET) Sunday, with live coverage from NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network. Team Penske drivers have won the first three races of the season, with Scott McLaughlin capturing the season opener at St. Petersburg and Josef Newgarden winning at Texas and Long Beach.
VeeKay became the fourth different NTT P1 Award winner in as many races this season. Pato O’Ward will join him on the front row after a best lap of 1:06.4003 during the Firestone Fast Six in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. O’Ward’s previous best starting spot this season was 10th on the oval at Texas.
Reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2021 Barber winner Alex Palou will start third after a quick lap of 1:06.4415 in the No. 10 The American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. McLaughlin will join him in the second row after a best lap of 1:06.4967 in the No. 3 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet.
Alexander Rossi qualified fifth, tying a season best, with a lap of 1:06.5549 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. But this effort probably was far more satisfying for Andretti Autosport and Rossi than his fifth-place starting spot earlier this month at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, as crews from all four Andretti teams hustled to repair or replace the entire back half of Rossi’s car in two hours, 45 minutes after he crashed during morning practice.
Felix Rosenqvist will start sixth after his best lap of 1:06.6410 in the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. Arrow McLaren SP was the only team with more than one car in the Firestone Fast Six.
Series points leader Newgarden will start seventh in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet after falling less than two-hundredths of a second short of earning a spot in the Firestone Fast Six.
Callum Ilott was the top rookie qualifier, grabbing a career-best 11th spot in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet. Ilott and a handful of other drivers were on quicker final laps at the end of the second round of qualifying when Marcus Ericsson drove into the gravel in his No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, triggering a red flag and ending the session.
Three former series champions will need to work overtime to get to the front Sunday on the tight, 17-turn, 2.3-mile circuit after disappointing qualifying results.
Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon qualified 13th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, while 2014 series champ Will Power will start 19th in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. 2016 title winner Simon Pagenaud endured a tough Saturday, qualifying 24th in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda.