Qualifying and Restart Rules Power Saturday Discussion at Barber Motorsports Park

BIRMINGHAM, AL - APRIL 09: Will Power of Australia, driver of the #12 Team Penske Dallara Honda, poses with the pole award after winning the pole position during qualifying for the IndyCar Series Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on April 9, 2011 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

LEEDS, Ala. -- For the second-straight season, Will Power sits on pole for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

For his part, the Team Penske driver is hoping for a better result than last year.

Power led throughout the early stages of that race before pit strategy shuffled him out of the lead. Caution laps and pit cycles never went the Aussie's way and Power finished fourth behind teammate Helio Castroneves.

"We had a very fast car here (last year)," Power said. "We just picked the wrong strategy. I'm determined to get it right this year.  So, very focused on winning. I just want to make this work - I really want to win it."

Power has been unhappy with his car since they unloaded here on Friday but still managed to take the pole position with a time of 1:11.4546. This after a final practice time of 1:12.5438, good for fifth behind Target Ganassi's Scott Dixon.


"The car was tight," Power said. "I saved it for the end. Pushed it."

Power's Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe made it an all-Penske front row for today's race, just missing out on the pole by .281 of a second. Penske took three of the top four spots with Castroneves taking fourth. Saturday marked the 26th 1-2 start for Penske since joining the series in 2002 and their 72nd in open wheel history

Only Dixon separated the Penske trio from a qualifying podium sweep.

"We had the quickest overall time in qualifying, but really struggled to put power down out of corners in that final [round]," Dixon said. "We missed the balance a little bit and it was extremely loose on the reds.

"Hopefully we'll pick the right strategy [in the race] and go to the front tomorrow."

 

The new double-file restart rule continued to dominate garage talk on Saturday after IndyCar compromised a new acceleration spot approaching the green flag on starts and restarts.

During practice, cones were placed 200 feet, 300 feet and 400 feet from the start-finish line and drivers will have the opportunity to give input to officials about which distance is best for a start and restarts.

A final decision for Sunday's race will be made on Sunday morning during the pre-race drivers' meeting.

"I think they're going to go with an earlier [starting spot] which will spread us out a bit and hopefully stop the mayhem," Power said. "I'm not sure what they'll ultimately decide.

"There were several factors that decided what happened at St. Pete. "I don't think we should do double-file restarts on street courses. On road courses, maybe. But with the bumps and the crowns in the road, there are just too many variances on grip on the streets. I think we'll be okay here.

Dixon concurred saying that he was more concerned with restarts next week at Long Beach.

Points leader Dario Franchitti struggled toward a P6 during the Firestone Fast 12, and was bumped out on the last lap by Oriol Servia.

"It's very disappointing," Franchitti said. "Sometimes you try to gain a tenth and you lose three. I tried to gain time in Turn 5 and locked up. Frustrating. Just didn't do a good job there. I think we had a good chance to get on the front row."

The Honda Grand Prix of Alabama airs at 3 p.m. EST from Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham Ala. Versus will televise the event alongside the Indy Lights race at 1 p.m. EST.

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