BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – It’s not often we write that Juan Pablo Montoya has missed the Firestone Fast 6, let alone fail to get out of his first group, since the introduction of manufacturer aero kits prior to the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Since 2015, prior to today, Montoya has only started outside the top 10 three different times: Barber (qualified 15th), the Indianapolis 500 (15th) and Pocono (19th).
Of course that worked well at the latter two events – he won Indy and finished third at Pocono.
But at Barber, he only ended 14th.
He’ll have an even higher mountain to climb on Sunday for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) starting from 21st and last in the 21-car field after his No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet didn’t click with Firestone’s red alternate tires in qualifying.
Still, Montoya was diplomatic more than short when it came to describing his tough day at the office.
“It was OK but normally the reds come in really good and they go away really fast,” Montoya said. “For me they came in OK but they just stayed there. I could run the same lap times over and over again. It is not normal. I had too much understeer in the car and we’ve been fighting it all weekend.
“I felt like this morning where we needed to be for qualifying but we put the reds on there and I was thinking, ‘What the hell happened?’”
Additionally, Montoya didn’t rule out strategy helping bring him to the front on Sunday.
“Yeah but you can go with different strategies to try and get something done. You can’t give up. It was a tough thing qualifying today but we’ll move on.”
Montoya’s 21st place qualifying is the first time in four races this season that a single Team Penske driver has qualified outside the top 10.
Oriol Servia started 22nd and last in St. Petersburg after deputizing for Power, who qualified on pole but was ruled out on medical grounds.