Unfinished business for Newgarden at Barber

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Josef Newgarden and the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team have fought through inconsistency throughout most of their two-plus year stint together.

Although they have rarely strung together excellent race weekends back-to-back., they have a good chance to do so this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, for Round 3 of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series.

Like most in the field, how well Newgarden does depends on how well his No. 67 SFHR Honda gels with the track’s high grip level since it was resurfaced.

“Barber is a difficult place now because there’s such high grip,” the Tennessee native said in the team’s pre-race release. “With the new Firestone tires and the track surfacing with the grinding that they’ve done, it’s added a lot of grip to the racetrack, and IndyCars are crazy fast around there – which make is tough to figure out a setup.”

He qualified fourth and was in both podium and win contention at Long Beach before getting taken out. At Barber last year, Newgarden climbed from 22nd on the grid to ninth for his first career top-10 finish. That start-to-finish is the same as what he did at St. Petersburg to open the year.

But still, Newgarden feels there’s some unfinished business at this circuit.

“We still have some work to do around Barber,” he explained. “We had good testing time there over the last couple months, but the open test was cut short because of weather so we weren’t able to get through everything on our list. We have a good baseline frame for our setup. Now it’s about getting all the details around that starting point right. If we get the details right, we should be quick.”

We’ll see whether the team – now led by engineer Jeremy Milless – will be able to pull it off. See if they can Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

Off-track, Newgarden’s run of enjoyable events (drifting in Long Beach; simulator work with HPD motocross rider Trey Canard) continues with a trip to NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. today and a cooking demonstration with Joe Namath on Sunday.

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.