Honda’s domination of this year’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama weekend continued through qualifying during which five drivers representing the Japanese brand competed in the Firestone Fast Six and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing locked out the front row.
Takuma Sato popped to the top of the six-car group on his final lap after advancing to the Fast Six in a competitive second round of qualifying. His 1:08.5934 put him 0.1037 seconds clear of Rahal who was the provisional pole sitter while the six drivers executed their final laps.
The achievement marked Sato’s eighth career pole and first since the NTT IndyCar Series’ 2017 visit to Pocono Raceway, at which time he was a member of Andretti Autosport.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon ended the third round of knockout qualifying with the third-fastest lap, securing him a starting position on the inside of Row 2 at a track where the reigning champion has landed on the podium in seven of IndyCar’s nine visits.
James Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was quick throughout qualifying — even tripping the timing line with a quicker lap than Sato’s pole speed in Round 2 — but wound up fourth in the Fast Six.
Dale Coyne Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais qualified to Row 3 next to the lone Chevrolet in the top six. Spencer Pigot, whose Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet topped Group 1 with a 1:08.3548, was unable to crack 69 seconds when it came time to decide the pole. Regardless, the effort marked Pigot’s first top-six qualifying run.
Will Power, winner of the first two poles of 2019 at St. Petersburg and Circuit of The Americas, was noticeably absent from the Firestone Fast 6. Unable to advance out of Round 2, Power will start seventh.
Power’s Team Penske teammates Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden fared worse, both unable to make it out of Group 2. Pagenaud will start on the outside of Row 7 while Newgarden will take the green flag one row behind him in the first IndyCar race without a Penske entry in the three frontmost rows in half a decade.
Alexander Rossi and and COTA race winner Colton Herta failed to advance out of the second round along with Santino Ferrucci, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jack Harvey and will start in the eighth through 12th positions.
Unlike much of the on-track action leading up to qualifying, all three rounds ran free of red flags and penalties.
Next up for the series is morning warm-up Sunday at 11:10 a.m. CDT. The 90-lap race will follow with the green flag expected at 3:15 p.m. NBCSN’s live telecast will open 15 minutes earlier.