Pagenaud flies to Barber pole


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – There was a little bit of diversity in INDYCAR’s new-look Firestone Fast 6 qualifying format but a familiar team on top at the end of qualifying.

Team Penske scored its fourth straight pole to open the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, this time courtesy of Simon Pagenaud at 1:06.7262 in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinishes Team Penske Chevrolet, as Pagenaud continues his momentum surge to kick off the Barber weekend.

Pagenaud edged Power on his final lap, with Power’s lap of 1:06.9421 good enough for second in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Power improved from an earlier 1:06.9977, but his last lap wasn’t good enough to beat Pagenaud.

“It was awesome. The car is just incredible – the PPG car – especially on the red Firestone tires,” Pagenaud said. “I really had a good time and was having fun driving it. We put the least amount to fuel in it and tried to save the tires by doing one lap each segment. The car was so good that we went through every segment. On the last lap, I just dug deep. It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had driving. That lap was really good.”

Power was first to supplant Scott Dixon’s previous track record when he posted a 1:06.7274 in Q1.

Of course, that mark barely stood before first Dixon, then Sebastien Bourdais beat it in Q2 with a new track record mark of 1:06.6001 in the No. 11 Europa Chevrolet for KVSH Racing.

In the Fast 6, which was changed this week to just a six-minute guaranteed green-flag format, Power was looking the only driver to get back into the 1:06 bracket on the reds.

But that’s before Pagenaud’s lap beat him, and he secured his first Verizon P1 Award since Auto Club Speedway last June.

Pagenaud won the series’ most recent race at Long Beach; defending Barber winner Josef Newgarden starts a season-best third in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet ahead of Dixon, Bourdais and Graham Rahal, who upheld Honda’s honor as the only Honda in the Fast 6. Newgarden, Rahal and Bourdais all made their first Fast 6 appearance of the season.

The surprise of qualifying came during Q1 when Juan Pablo Montoya failed to advance out of his group, likely having missed the setup once on Firestone’s red alternate tires, and was slowest in his group. He’ll start 21st and last on Sunday.

Times are below.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Qualifying Saturday for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Verizon IndyCar Series race on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:06.7262 (124.089)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:06.9421 (123.689)
3. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:07.0283 (123.530)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 01:07.2083 (123.199)
5. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 01:07.2965 (123.038)
6. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:07.6388 (122.415)
7. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:07.0129 (123.558)
8. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:07.0955 (123.406)
9. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:07.1715 (123.267)
10. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:07.3020 (123.028)
11. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:08.0728 (121.634)
12. (19) Luca Filippi, Honda, 01:08.3655 (121.114)
13. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:07.2417 (123.138)
14. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:07.2360 (123.148)
15. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:07.2435 (123.135)
16. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:07.2385 (123.144)
17. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 01:07.2974 (123.036)
18. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:07.4449 (122.767)
19. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:07.6570 (122.382)
20. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:07.5612 (122.556)
21. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 01:07.5627 (122.553)

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.