Rinus VeeKay takes IndyCar pole at Barber; Alexander Rossi rebounds from crash
LEEDS, Alabama -- Rinus VeeKay earned his second career NTT IndyCar Series pole position Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park, and Alexander Rossi rebounded from a practice crash to qualify fifth.
VeeKay turned a lap of 1 minute, 6.2507 seconds in his No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing, topping qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
It was the first pole for VeeKay since Oct. 1 ,2020 when he qualified first for the Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
HOW TO WATCH BARBER: All the details for Sunday’s race at NBC
“I thought we had potential,” VeeKay said. “It was a chaotic session. We knew we were in a good position, but to actually put it on pole was an accomplishment. I think the whole team maximized everything. We made the right decisions with tires, setup, everything.
“Confidence is high. I think from here we can have a great race and fight for the win, definitely.”
Sunday’s race broadcast will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBC.
VeeKay became the fourth pole-sitter in four IndyCar races this season. Pato O’Ward (who won the 2021 pole at Barber) qualified a season-best second, followed by defending series champion Alex Palou, Scott McLaughlin, Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist.
Rossi made the Fast Six despite making only six laps after slamming the wall in a morning practice session. All four Andretti Autosport teams scrambled to replace the back half of his No. 27 Dallara-Honda in just under three hours.
“An unfortunate mistake on my part,” Rossi said as Andretti team members thrashed to make an engine change, too.
“There’s a huge amount of guys, a lot of different color shirts here, and they’ll get it done. They are very good in these type of fire-drill situations.”
Rossi crashed in the 17th and final turn with 31 minutes left in practice.
The 2016 Indy 500 winner has had a terrible start to the season. He was 20th in the season-opener at St. Petersburg, ran only 11 laps at Texas before a battery failure ended his race and was eighth at Long Beach. He’s a free agent but reportedly headed to Arrow McLaren SP next season in a third entry.
The morning practice was particularly sloppy as Romain Grosjean, Rossi’s teammate at Andretti, went off track, as did two-time Barber winner Will Power.
“It’s not good off track,” Grosjean said of his detour through the gravel trap, “but it’s good on the track.”
Points leader Josef Newgarden, who has won two consecutive races and is trying for a $1 million bonus with a win Sunday, will start seventh in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevy after falling less than two-hundredths of a second short of advancing to the final round.
Callum Ilott qualified a career-best 11th as the top rookie in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet.