Romain Grosjean Edges Alex Palou At Barber For Second IndyCar Pole Of 2023 Season
Story By: PAUL KELLY / INDYCAR – BIRMINGHAM, AL – Romain Grosjean earned his second NTT P1 Award of the season and the third of his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career Saturday, taking the top starting spot for the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park.
Grosjean, from France, turned the quickest lap of 1 minute, 5.8396 seconds during the Firestone Fast Six in the No. 28 Delaware Life/DHL Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport. 2021 Barber winner Alex Palou will share the front row with Grosjean after a best lap of 1:05.9130 in the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.
“I’ve got a hell of a team,” Grosjean said. “We’re doing such a great job this year. The car is awesome, and I have three teammates I can rely on. I went with the setup, the baseline we have, and from the moment we started quali, I knew we had it. I just didn’t want to mess it on the last lap.”
Grosjean will aim for his first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory in the 90-lap race Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock; 2:30 p.m., INDYCAR Radio Network). But it won’t be easy, especially since Palou has the 2021 victory and a runner-up finish to Pato O’Ward last year in two career starts on the 17-turn, 2.3-mile roller coaster of a road course.
“We’re starting in the best position, but now we’ve got 90 laps to lead,” said Grosjean, 37. “We’ll see tomorrow, but I’m really proud of my guys and really happy with what we’re doing. I was very stressed that session – I don’t know why. I’m too old for this, but I guess I’m not. So, it’s all good.”
Up first Sunday is a 30-minute warmup at noon ET (live on Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE, INDYCAR Radio Network).
Defending race winner Pato O’Ward will start third after his best qualifying lap of 1:05.9382 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Scott McLaughlin will join O’Ward on the second row after a top lap of 1:05.9515 in the No. 3 Good Ranchers Team Penske Chevrolet.
Six-time series champion Scott Dixon will aim for his first Barber victory from the fifth spot on the grid after his time of 1:06.0723 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Christian Lundgaard rounded out the Firestone Fast Six with a lap of 1:06.1601 in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda. It was Lundgaard’s best qualifying performance in four races this season for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, as his previous best start was 11th in the season opener last month at St. Petersburg.
Two-time series champion and three-time Barber winner Josef Newgarden was eliminated in the second round of qualifying and will start seventh in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. He missed a spot in the Firestone Fast Six by .0617 of a second.
“I’m frustrated and annoyed, mostly at myself,” Newgarden said. “The car was really phenomenal – there was nothing wrong with our PPG car. It’s disappointing to not transfer. I tried something different on my warmup and it probably wasn’t advised, and now looking back on it, I would do it differently, in hindsight. We’ve got a fast car.”
Newgarden’s teammate and two-time series champion Will Power and this year’s Long Beach race winner, Kyle Kirkwood, also were ousted in the second round. Power will start 11th in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, going off track while pushing late in the session. Kirkwood will start 12th in the No. 27 AutoNation Honda.
Championship leader Marcus Ericsson was eliminated in the first round of qualifying in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, falling .1399 of a second short of advancing to the second round. Ericsson will start 13th.