Matt Fraver / IndyCar

Takuma Sato wins pole for Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

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It will be an all-Rahal Letterman Lanigan front row tomorrow when the green flag waves for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park (4 pm E.T. Sunday on NBCSN).

Takuma Sato won the pole for the race after posting a lap time of 1 minute, 8.5934 seconds in the closing moments of the Firestone Fast Six. Sato’s teammate, Graham Rahal, will start second thanks to his time of 1 minute, 8.6971 seconds.

“This is a dream result”, Sato told NBCSN after winning his first pole since Pocono in 2017. “Today we got everything together. This is absolutely a team effort, so I am really happy with the whole team.”

“Black [primary] tires and red [alternate] tires had similar performance yesterday, but today, clearly the red tire was faster. I did actually try the black tire during the Fast 6 to see if I could go faster, but the red tire was much faster. In the end, I’m happy with my lap”.

Though Rahal was more than happy to start on the front row with his teammate, the driver of the No. 15 Honda believed he could’ve claimed the pole had he not made an error near the end of the Fast 6.

“…Honestly, I threw it away in Turn 5. I went into 5 and accidentally knocked it down into first gear instead of second. It cost me a lot on the entry, it cost a lot on the power down – it won’t put power down in first gear. I hurt myself a little bit, but overall, I’m super excited for Takuma,” Rahal told NBCSN.

“I think this team has done a tremendous job in the offseason. We’ve worked extremely hard, and we’ve heard all about how we can’t do it and we’re not competitive, and all this stuff. And it adds fuel to the fire. I’m really proud of our organization. It’s not necessarily a reflection of Takuma and I, it’s everybody else here that puts a lot of effort in to make our [car] go fast.”

Watch the race on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN or at NBCSports.com or the NBC Sports app

Scott Dixon (1 minute, 8.8081 seconds) qualified in the third position, with James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais and Spencer Pigot rounding out the Fast 6.

Team Penske was uncharacteristically off-pace in qualifying, with no driver making the Fast Six. Will Power qualified seventh, his worst start at Barber since 2012. Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden fared even worse; Pagenaud  qualified 14th, and Newgarden, seeking his third consecutive win at Barber, qualified a disappointing 16th.

Click here for complete qualification results.

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.