LEEDS, Ala.—Third-place qualifier Scott Dixon in the #9 Target-Ganassi was fastest in Sunday morning practice for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama. Teammate Dario Franchittti in the #10 car was second. Pole-sitter Will Power’s #12 Penske was ninth.
Practice laps aren’t indicative of race pace—teams might be trying different fuel loads and tire pressures, preparing for different stages of the race. However, a car which can run fast in final practice has a good chance of running fast in the race.
A perfect example is KV Racing’s Takuma Sato, who qualified 11th but was third-fastest in practice. Apparently the #5’s crew figured something out overnight to give their driver the pace he lacked the day before.
Justin Wilson in the #22 Dreyer and Reinbold Racing entry was fourth fastest, while Penske driver Helio Castroneves was fifth fastest, reversing their qualifying orders.
The track at Barber Motorsports Park is noted for bring tough on tires, with the combination of the heat and the constant cornering and braking forces inflicted by the twisting, hilly course.
Also, the race can heavily influenced by fuel strategy. A driver who saves his or her fuel and tires might have the advantage at the end, while a faster driver might find the tires going off or might need a late-race splash, depending on when and if the caution periods come.
Passing is difficult at Barber; starting from the pole can be a sizeable advantage, one which Penske’s Will Power is determined to use to the maximum. Power had a fast car at last season’s Alabama Grand Prix, but lost the lead while pitting during an early yellow. Power said after qualifying that he was totally focused on making up for that lost opportunity.
Coverage of the IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama begins at 3:45 p.m. on Versus.