On the eve of the 2021 IndyCar season opener, the NTT IndyCar Series returned to Barber Motorsports Park for the first time since 2019. Last year, IndyCar was scheduled to compete at its annual event, but the race was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patricio O’Ward started his season off right in the Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. The Monterrey, Mexico native was a part of the Firestone Fast Six after advancing and qualified on the pole after setting a time of 1:05.8479 late Saturday afternoon to earn the second pole of his IndyCar career. The pole gave Arrow McLaren SP its ninth during their IndyCar tenure.
“It was a good day. Practice one and two were really messy. Got really dicey there with the traffic and people being on different laps into the sequence. We didn’t quite get an idea of what real pace we had. But I knew exactly what I needed to go faster. My engineer put his magic to work.
“We had a really, really quick car in reds. We maintained our very good pace in blacks that we had in practice two. It was good, man. It feels really good to be on pole for the first qualifying session of the NTT INDYCAR Series 2021. These Arrow McLaren SP people have been working really hard. They deserve this. We’ve got a job to finish off.”
Despite a miserable 2020 season with only five podiums, Alexander Rossi looks to rebound and start 2021 on the right foot. So far, the Andretti Autosport driver has done so by qualifying second.
“It was great to be back in competition settings here in Barber,” Rossi said. “This track is pretty wild now that they did the repave, a lot of grip. Yeah, it started out pretty strong this morning. We were happy with the starting balance of the car. Then practice two was messy, just a lot of red flags. We were able to get a lap in.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s tough to come up short, as short as we did in qualifying, because you can think about a couple of areas through the lap where you made mistakes, maybe could have made a difference. Ultimately it’s much better than we’ve ever had around Barber. I think our best starting spot in years past was eight. A big step up. We have a good shot at it tomorrow.”
Rossi’s previous best qualifying effort at Barber was eighth twice, in 2019 and 2018.
There were a few incidents that brought out the red flag during qualifying. In group two, James Hinchcliffe locked up his tires and hit the inside wall hard in Turn 5 with seven minutes remaining. After a brief red flag, cars rejoined the track, but another red flag eventually slowed the session as Felix Rosenqvist’s car went off track in Turn 17 in the final minutes of group two. While Rosenqvist was originally sixth, his fastest lap time in the session was deleted due to bringing out the red flag.
In the Firestone Fast Six, the finishing results were O’Ward, Rossi, Palou, Power, Dixon, and Ericsson.
An IndyCar warm-up session is scheduled for Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. CT live on Peacock with a subscription. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama green flag is slated for 2:42 p.m. local time, live on NBC and IndyCar radio.
Official Starting Line Up for the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama:
- Pato O’Ward
- Alexander Rossi
- Alex Palou
- Will Power
- Scott Dixon
- Marcus Ericsson
- Romain Grosjean
- Josef Newgarden
- Colton Herta
- Conor Daly
- Jack Harvey
- Scott McLaughlin
- Ed Jones
- Rinus VeeKay
- Simon Pagenaud
- Sebastien Bourdais
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Graham Rahal
- Takuma Sato
- Max Chilton
- Jimmie Johnson
- Felix Rosenqvist
- Dalton Kellett
- James Hinchcliffe