Grosjean pushes engine woe aside with Alabama pole

Romain Grosjean

Romain Grosjean set a blistering final effort in qualifying at the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park.

The Andretti Autosport driver became the first repeat pole-sitter of the IndyCar season with a 1:05.8396s enough to deny Alex Palou who had earlier topped practice two.

Grosjean had been forced to retire from Friday practice with an engine problem but with a fresh Honda powerplant in his car, there was no stopping him on Saturday.

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Pato O’Ward was third with Scott McLaughlin pushed down to fourth in a frantic final exchange.

Scott Dixon will start from fifth with Christian Lundgaard completing the Fast Six.

Qualifying Group 1 saw the first shock with early championship leader Marcus Ericsson missing out on a spot in the Firestone Fast 12 after Romain Grosjean registered a last-gasp improvement to position himself second to Josef Newgarden.

Santino Ferrucci endured a difficult session and dropped out of Group 2 in his A.J. Foyt Chevrolet with gearbox problems striking on his warm-up lap causing him to sit out the remainder of the session.

Colton Herta continued his miserable qualifying record at Barber Motorsports Park by narrowly missing out on progressing to the next phase while Marcus Armstrong saw his fastest two times deleted for impeding Christian Lundgaard.

The aggression levels ramped up significantly in the Firestone Fast 12 when Rinus VeeKay ignored the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ not to overtake on an out lap. Will Power acted quickly to regain his position with the pair coming close to contact more than once.

This caught the attention of the stewards.

Long Beach winner Kyle Kirkwood caused himself a headache at Turn 3 moments after fitting fresh alternate tyres when he completed a full 360-degree spin.

With their final efforts, Power and Veekay took trips through the gravel but McLaughlin was able to rescue his session and climb from P10 to P3 to secure his position in the Fast Six.

As the clouds moved in and cooled the track for the Firestone Fast Six, Lundgaard pressed on with an extra lap on used alternate tyres compared to his rivals before pitting while in P3 with two minutes remaining.

In the closing exchanges, the times tumbled with McLaughlin the first to register a competitive lap before O’Ward, Palou and Grosjean pushed the New Zealander down to fourth.

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