New bonus prize available for IndyCar doubleheaders

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A new partnership between IndyCar and Germany-based car care company SONAX has led to a special award that will be up for grabs during the doubleheader weekends at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit (pictured, June 1-2), Honda Indy Toronto (July 13-14), and Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston (Oct. 5-6).

The “SONAX Perfect Finish Award” will pay $50,000 to the driver that wins both feature races during any of those three weekends. But should no one be able to win both races in those weekends, the prize will carry over to the next doubleheader. If no one sweeps at Detroit, the bonus will jump to $100,000 at Toronto, and if no one sweeps there, the bonus goes to $150,000 at Houston.

Talk from drivers and team owners has been generally mixed regarding the doubleheader format — some of it optimistic about providing a better fan experience, some of it critical about the increased demands it will place on teams. But a chance at a substantial bit of cold, hard cash ought to help.

SONAX is also planning to utilize show car and driver appearances at select Sam’s Club outlets starting at the Indianapolis 500, and also work with venues on creating “car corrals” during event weekends to draw in automotive enthusiasts and collectors.

The company is already involved in motorsports as an official supplier for Formula One champs Red Bull Racing, and its brand can also be spotted on the No. 20 Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter. Carpenter’s step-father and series founder Tony George (now a co-owner at Ed Carpenter Racing) holds their American distribution rights.

In addition to backing the doubleheader award, SONAX will now become the series’ “Official Automotive Detail Partner.”

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.

Results are below. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama rolls off at 3:00 p.m. ET.