Rinus VeeKay takes IndyCar pole at Barber; Alexander Rossi rebounds from crash


LEEDS, Alabama — Rinus VeeKay earned his second career NTT IndyCar Series pole position Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park, and Alexander Rossi rebounded from a practice crash to qualify fifth.

VeeKay turned a lap of 1 minute, 6.2507 seconds in his No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing, topping qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

It was the first pole for VeeKay since Oct. 1 ,2020 when he qualified first for the Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

SATURDAY SPEEDS: Click here for qualifying results l Click here for Practice 2 l Click here for P3 l Combined

HOW TO WATCH BARBER: All the details for Sunday’s race at NBC

“I thought we had potential,” VeeKay said. “It was a chaotic session. We knew we were in a good position, but to actually put it on pole was an accomplishment. I think the whole team maximized everything. We made the right decisions with tires, setup, everything.

“Confidence is high. I think from here we can have a great race and fight for the win, definitely.”

Sunday’s race broadcast will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBC.

VeeKay became the fourth pole-sitter in four IndyCar races this season. Pato O’Ward (who won the 2021 pole at Barber) qualified a season-best second, followed by defending series champion Alex Palou, Scott McLaughlin, Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist.

Rossi made the Fast Six despite making only six laps after slamming the wall in a morning practice session. All four Andretti Autosport teams scrambled to replace the back half of his No. 27 Dallara-Honda in just under three hours.

“An unfortunate mistake on my part,” Rossi said as Andretti team members thrashed to make an engine change, too.

“There’s a huge amount of guys, a lot of different color shirts here, and they’ll get it done. They are very good in these type of fire-drill situations.”

Rossi crashed in the 17th and final turn with 31 minutes left in practice.

The 2016 Indy 500 winner has had a terrible start to the season. He was 20th in the season-opener at St. Petersburg, ran only 11 laps at Texas before a battery failure ended his race and was eighth at Long Beach. He’s a free agent but reportedly headed to Arrow McLaren SP next season in a third entry.

The morning practice was particularly sloppy as Romain Grosjean, Rossi’s teammate at Andretti, went off track, as did two-time Barber winner Will Power.

“It’s not good off track,” Grosjean said of his detour through the gravel trap, “but it’s good on the track.”

Points leader Josef Newgarden, who has won two consecutive races and is trying for a $1 million bonus with a win Sunday, will start seventh in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevy after falling less than two-hundredths of a second short of advancing to the final round.

Callum Ilott qualified a career-best 11th as the top rookie in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).