Qualifying Report: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
BIRMINGHAM April 23, 2016—Some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you. After feeling pretty satisfied yesterday, the ABC Supply team felt equally disappointed after this afternoon’s qualifying session at Barber Motorsports Park.
Jack Hawksworth, who will start 14th in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda, posted a lap of 1 minute, 7.2360 seconds, which was .0117 of a second shy of transferring to the next segment.
“We just missed out—it’s pretty frustrating to miss by just a hundredth,” Hawksworth said. “I wish I could have extracted just a bit more from the lap when it’s that close. It was a tricky day overall because the track temperature seems to have such an effect on the performance of the car. We rolled out the cars this morning pretty similar to where we left last night and found the car to be too loose. To compensate for that, which wasn’t the right thing to do in hindsight because in the end with the reds and the track conditions in the afternoon, even though the temp went up, the balance seemed to go back to where it was last night. So we ended up with understeer. It’s frustrating because the basis of the car was pretty good. Very disappointed but we’ll go again tomorrow. It’s a long race, a lot can happen.”
Sato will start 16th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda after posting a lap just .0025 of a second slower than his teammate.
“Having had a successful day yesterday, we looked over the data and thought we made the car faster this morning but the different track conditions [hotter] made for a different balance,” Sato explained afterwards. “It seems to be very narrow and very delicate [the sweet spot in the car’s setup] so we lost the edge and didn’t like the balance. Going into qualifying, it was a little bit unknown. The car came back some but we needed a little bit more speed. We lost by such a little bit because it was so tight, two hundredths of a second. It’s a shame but we have another warmup in the morning to get it right for the race.”
Sato and Hawksworth were both in the second group of first round qualifiers. It is more desirable to have each car in a different group so they don’t have to compete against each other to transfer to the next segment. The groups were determined by this morning’s practice session: cars that finished in odd-numbered positions comprise one group and the cars that finished in even-numbered positions comprise the other group. Hawksworth and Sato were 11th and 13th respectively in practice 3.
The quickest driver in practice 3 determines if his group goes out first or second, and since the track is usually faster in the second group, the driver usually chooses that option which is what this morning’s pacesetter Scott Dixon did. Unfortunately, those who don’t transfer from group 2 make up the outside row which is why Hawksworth and Sato will start 14th and 16th.
Simon Pagenaud won the pole with his time of 1 minute, 6.72 seconds lap. He led a contingent of Chevy-powered drivers who locked in the top-five starting slots: Will Power, Joseph Newgarden, Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais. Graham Rahal rounded out the Firestone Fast Six in his Honda-powered car.
The race will be televised on the NBC Sports Network starting at 3 p.m. ET.