Rossi saves roller coaster day for Andretti

Rossi saves roller coaster day for Andretti

NTT P1 Award qualification can be wildly unpredictable in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Take, for example, Saturday’s session at Barber Motorsports Park.

Andretti Autosport brought three leading hot rods to the Honda Indy Alabama Grand Prix presented by AmFirst, and one of them crashed hard in pre-qualifying practice. The damaged car of Alexander Rossi (No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda) appeared uncertain to participate in the qualifying session.

So which driver advanced to the Firestone Fast Six? Yes, the car that took nearly three hours for repairs was completed just minutes before qualifying.

In Rossi’s car, the engine, gearbox and rear suspension were impressively repaired or replaced by crew members from all four of Michael Andretti’s teams, with help from employees from Honda Performance Development, which powers the organization.

“Plus (team) management,” Rossi said with a smile.

Rossi was strapped into the car while still on the team’s setup pad, and the car was rolled into the pit lane as final qualifying preparations were made. Rossi did the rest and earned a spot in the Firestone Fast Six. He will start fifth in the pursuit of his first series win since the 2019 Road America race.

“It was unbelievable,” Rossi said of the quick repairs. “It was quite a job to (replace) an engine and a gearbox. I have put (the crews) in a very difficult situation. It was great to just be in first place and have the chance to compete and qualify.

“Of course we knew the car had been strong all weekend. We didn’t get a chance on the (Firestone alternative) red tires so the first run was a bit of guesswork.”

Rossi said members of the organization were “relieved and happy” that they made it through the adventure. Why? Because starting in the back row of a field of 26 cars on a tricky track with limited overtaking opportunities would have effectively ruined the 27-car weekend.

“If we didn’t make it to qualifying,” said Rossi, “you’re super screwed. This gives us a good chance to have a good day tomorrow.”

Rossi thinks teammates are running after him. Romain Grosjean (No.28 Enevate DHL Honda) and Colton Herta (No.26 Gainbridge Honda) were expecting Fast Six qualifiers, but their second rounds were ruined by a late session break for Chip Ganassi’s Marcus Ericsson slide-off Racing (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda).

After being the fastest car in Friday’s practice, Herta’s team had waited for the rest of the cars to complete a lap, and they didn’t have enough time to complete a first-class lap.

“It’s the reason we took pole in Long Beach because we did one lap less than everyone else, so we had one lap less on the tires,” said Herta. “It seems like a lot, but you feel a difference in tire (relegation). It does make a big difference.”

Grosjean settled for eighth on the grid, Herta tenth.

Since no Barber winner has started further back than ninth, Herta has his work cut out for him on Sunday.

“Tithing is not terrible; from there you can win,” he said. “Who knows what the weather will bring tomorrow, so we’ll see.”

Rookie Devlin DeFrancesco (No. 29 PowerTap Honda) is the team’s fourth driver. He starts in 20th place.

Grosjean: ‘Ready to win anywhere’

Grosjean had clearly heard the rumors that Barber was the ideal track for him to take his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES win – the natural terrain course is similar to what he’s experienced in Europe – but he rejected that theory when NBC’s Marty Snider asked him about it. after Saturday’s practice.

“We were super fast in Long Beach,” Grosjean said of the street course where he finished second in the Long Beach Acura Grand Prix on April 10. “I know (Barber) looks more European than anything, but I’ve been riding for 20 years so I know the tracks.

“I understand the idea behind it, but I feel ready to win anywhere.”

The 10-year Formula 1 veteran has an NTT P1 Award and four top three finishes in his 16 races in this series.

Ilott earns career best starting position

Series rookie Callum Ilott (No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet) continued to impress with his best qualifying effort of his fledgling NTT INDYCAR SERIES career.

The Englishman will start 11th in the 90-lap race on Sunday, and he thought he could have been even higher. He, like others, was on his fastest lap when Ericsson spun off the track.

“The (lap) before it was a really good one – I just kind of screwed up where Marcus lost it,” he said. “Maybe it was slippery there.

“But yeah, it’s annoying because I was looking for a nice one. It’s a great result for the team… the car is great this weekend. We liked a bit (of speed). But it would have been nice to give them a little more. Sixth, seventh was on the table.

“It’s an element of progress. I am an optimistic guy – sometimes pessimistic – but this has been a good weekend so far.”

Ilott showed that his qualifying pace was no fluke as he led the final 30 minute practice this afternoon with a top lap of 1 minute, 7.0906 seconds.

Juncos Hollinger’s strong day continued with Indy Pro 2000 drivers Reece Gold and Enaam Ahmed finishing first and third respectively in the first race of the weekend in that series.

Different stars can’t shine

The past was not a predictor of the present in Saturday’s qualifying session. Three drivers with exceptional Barber resumes didn’t make it out of round 1.

Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) had an average starting position of 2.9 with four poles and eight front row seats, but he will start a low career on Sunday 19th.

Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) had reached the Firestone Fast Six in all 11 events held at this track, and he came in this weekend with an average starting position of 4.2. He starts 13th.

Helio Castroneves (#06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing) has not raced with Barber since 2017 and his average starting position was 3.75. He starts 16th.

Opportunities and goals

  • With post-qualifying practice being held late Saturday afternoon, the INDYCAR SERIES cars will head straight to the starting grid for Sunday’s race. NBC’s broadcast will begin at 1 p.m. (ET) and the green flag is expected at approximately 1:15 p.m. The INDYCAR Radio Network also provides live coverage.
  • Team Penske is aiming to win the first four races of the season for the first time since 2012, when Helio Castroneves’ victory in St. Petersburg was followed by Will Power’s victories in Barber, Long Beach and Sao Paulo, Brazil. This year’s wins are due to Scott McLaughlin (St. Petersburg) and Josef Newgarden (Texas Motor Speedway and Long Beach). McLaughlin’s No. 3 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet is the team’s only car in the Firestone Fast Six. He starts fourth.
  • The same team that won the first four races of the season has only appeared three other times since 1956. Chip Ganassi Racing did it in 2020 with Scott Dixon winning the first three and Felix Rosenqvist the fourth, and otherwise the same driver won all four: Sebastien Bourdais (four in a row in 2006) and AJ Foyt (seven in a row in 1964 ).
  • HMD Motorsports drivers Linus Lundqvist and Benjamin Pedersen secured the front row starting position on Saturday for the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race, set to take place at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sunday.
  • Myles Rowe won his second USF2000 race in a row, this one from pole. The Pabst Racing driver has three wins in his career series and will start second in Sunday’s race at 10:00 AM (ET).

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