Even rear of Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama field is loaded with talent

Updated: 

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The action is always fast and furious at the front of a Verizon IndyCar Series race. This afternoon’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama could be just as frenetic at the rear.

Consider this: While Team Penske owns the front row for the 90-lap race at Barber Motorsports Park with Verizon P1 Award winner Simon Pagenaud and Will Power, it also has the slowest qualifier in the 21-car field in Juan Pablo Montoya.

CLICK HERE: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama qualifying highlights video; Warm-up practice results; Combined practice results

Also starting toward the back are Ryan Hunter-Reay (18th), the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and two-time winner at Barber, and his Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti (19th). Their charges toward the front on the 2.3-mile permanent road course could provide as much entertainment as the battle for the lead.

For Montoya, driver of the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, 21st is the worst qualifying performance of his Indy car career spanning 79 races. The 40-year-old Colombian said he had difficulty getting the most out of his Firestone alternate tires in Saturday’s first segment of qualifying and did not advance.

“Normally the reds (Firestone alternates) 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 (Saturday) morning (we were) where we needed to be for qualifying, but we put the reds on there and I was thinking, ‘What the hell happened?’”

Montoya said an alternate pit strategy today could provide the opportunity to make up ground, Most drivers said the ability to make their tires last a full stint will be key to success, as well as the ability to pass when competitors have lost the edge on their Firestones.

“You can go with different strategies to try and get something done,” said Montoya, the two-time and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner. “You can’t give up. It was a tough thing qualifying but we’ll move on.”

The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is the fourth of 16 races on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. It airs live beginning at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Live timing is available at RaceControl.IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile App.

Final practice shows similar results to qualifying

Five of the drivers who competed in the Firestone Fast Six segment of Saturday qualifying finished in the top five in this morning’s warm-up session, the final practice before this afternoon’s race.

Pole sitter Pagenaud was quickest in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet with a lap of 1 minute, 8.0215 seconds (121.726 mph), followed by Graham Rahal in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda (1:08.0859, 121.611 mph), Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Coca-Cola Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy (1:08.1824, 121.439 mph), Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy (1:08.4848, 120.903 mph) and Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 11 Team Europa – KVSH Racing Chevy (1:08.5135, 120.852 mph).

Mikhail Aleshin, who qualified 13th in the No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, was sixth fastest in today’s warm-up (1:08.5764, 120.741 mph).

Montoya was 17th in the final practice (1:08.9628, 120.065), Hunter-Reay 12th (1:08.8374, 120.283) and Andretti a hopeful seventh (1:08.5791, 120.736 mph).

"Hopefully we'll put our heads together, put a great race car under us and pick a great strategy," Hunter-Reay said. "We started from 18th last year and finished fifth. Hopefully we can do that again."

Final warm-up results: 

Rank

Car

Driver Name

C/A/E/T

Time

Speed

Session

1

22

Pagenaud, Simon

D/C/C/F

01:06.7262

124.089

Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six

2

12

Power, Will

D/C/C/F

01:06.9421

123.689

Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six

3

21

Newgarden, Josef

D/C/C/F

01:07.0283

123.530

Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six

4

9

Dixon, Scott

D/C/C/F

01:07.2083

123.199

Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six

5

11

Bourdais, Sebastien

D/C/C/F

01:07.2965

123.038

Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six

6

15

Rahal, Graham

D/H/H/F

01:07.6388

122.415

Round 3 / Firestone Fast Six

7

3

Castroneves, Helio

D/C/C/F

01:07.0129

123.558

Elimination Round 2 / Top 12

8

5

Hinchcliffe, James

D/H/H/F

01:07.0955

123.406

Elimination Round 2 / Top 12

9

10

Kanaan, Tony

D/C/C/F

01:07.1715

123.267

Elimination Round 2 / Top 12

10

83

Kimball, Charlie

D/C/C/F

01:07.3020

123.028

Elimination Round 2 / Top 12

11

8

Chilton, Max (R)

D/C/C/F

01:08.0728

121.634

Elimination Round 2 / Top 12

12

19

Filippi, Luca

D/H/H/F

01:08.3655

121.114

Elimination Round 2 / Top 12

13

7

Aleshin, Mikhail

D/H/H/F

01:07.2417

123.138

Elimination Round 1 / Group 1

14

41

Hawksworth, Jack

D/H/H/F

01:07.2360

123.148

Elimination Round 1 / Group 2

15

26

Munoz, Carlos

D/H/H/F

01:07.2435

123.135

Elimination Round 1 / Group 1

16

14

Sato, Takuma

D/H/H/F

01:07.2385

123.144

Elimination Round 1 / Group 2

17

18

Daly, Conor (R)

D/H/H/F

01:07.2974

123.036

Elimination Round 1 / Group 1

18

28

Hunter-Reay, Ryan

D/H/H/F

01:07.4449

122.767

Elimination Round 1 / Group 2

19

27

Andretti, Marco

D/H/H/F

01:07.6570

122.382

Elimination Round 1 / Group 1

20

98

Rossi, Alexander (R)

D/H/H/F

01:07.5612

122.556

Elimination Round 1 / Group 2

21

2

Montoya, Juan Pablo

D/C/C/F

01:07.5627

122.553

Elimination Round 1 / Group 2

(R) Rookie

(C)hassis: D=Dallara | (A)erokit: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (E)ngine: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (T)ire: F=Firestone

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