Team Penske drivers were likely scratching their heads following Saturday’s qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.
Slow in practice all weekend, not a single Penske driver made it to the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying – the first time since 2014 – with only Will Power qualifying in the top 10.
But the biggest surprise of the entire qualifying session was Josef Newgarden, who qualified a disappointing 16th after failing to advance to the second round.
Newgarden, who earned his first NTT IndyCar Series win at Barber in 2015, is looking to make it three wins in a row at the Alabama road course, having won back-to-back races in 2017 and 2018.
“We haven’t been quick right from the beginning, and [we’re] not 100% sure why” Newgarden told NBCSN. “We’re trying to figure it out and piece it together. It was closer than I thought it was, actually. I put a decent lap together on reds but it was all I had. I just can’t get a lot of speed out of the car for whatever reason”.
Still, Newgarden refused to let the situation completely dampen his mood.
“We got a group here. We’ll find a way [up front],”Newgarden said. “Just unfortunate when you need to do that.”
For Will Power, seventh is his worst qualifying result at Barber since 2012.
“I’m still not quite good enough,” Power told NBCSN. “I think it’s kinda tough this weekend with the sessions so short to make big changes, so we’ll see. We’ll have a good think about it before the race and see what we can come up with.”
For the third straight race, Simon Pagenaud qualified towards the back of the pack and will start 14th on Sunday. The 2016 IndyCar champ has yet to qualify higher than 13th so far this season.
Despite the poor qualifying results, don’t expect Team Penske drivers to remain where they qualified. All three drivers will attempt to do whatever it takes to navigate towards the front of the pack.