Power edges closer to track record in pre-qualifying pratice at Barber

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Will Power has put himself in prime position for another Barber Motorsports Park pole position and within reach of the track record.

With a fast lap of 1 minute, 6.9953 seconds (123.591 mph) in Verizon IndyCar Series practice today, Power led a Team Penske 1-2-3 sweep of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First session and closed within four-tenths of a second of the lap record set a year ago by Sebastien Bourdais.

HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA: Practice 3 results; Combined practice results; Qualifying groups

Trailing Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet were teammates Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet, 1:07.0993) and Helio Castroneves (No. 3 AAA Insurance Chevrolet, 1:07.1901).

Alexander Rossi“I think we’ve got a good setup for qualy,” said Power, a three-time pole sitter and two-time race winner at the 2.3-mile permanent road course. “You never know, but I think we’re right where we need to be. Qualifying’s always different – different tires, shorter sessions – just got to execute and get through those rounds to have a shot (at the pole).”

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama qualifying, featuring three knockout rounds concluding with the Firestone Fast Six to determine the Verizon P1 Award winner, begins at 4:15 p.m. ET. NBCSN joins with coverage starting at 4:30. Live timing and scoring of the entire session is available at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Newgarden, who scored his first Verizon IndyCar Series win at Barber in 2015, sang the same tune as Power looking forward to qualifying.

“We’re trying to get back to where we were in the first practice (on Friday),” Newgarden said. “It was a better practice for us than P2. Now for us, we’ve just got to try and qualify well. It’s always helpful here to be up front and try and make something (happen) in the race.”

Defending race and series champion Simon Pagenaud (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, 1:07.3459) ran fifth in the session, sandwiched between Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates Mikhail Aleshin (No. 7 SMP Racing Honda, 1:07.2603) and James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Honda, 1:07.3459). The top 19 cars were separated by less than a second on the time sheet.

“We struggled a bit in the afternoon session (Friday), for sure,” said Hinchcliffe, winner of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach two weeks ago. “We really put our heads together overnight to try and come up with a better package. It’s heading in the right direction, but, man, it’s so tough to get a lap here. You’ve got to really hang it out, the car’s got to really be on edge.”

Power’s fast time – the fastest lap of the weekend thus far – edged nearer the track record of 1:06.6001 (124.324 mph) set by Bourdais in Round 2 of 2016 qualifying. With the softer, faster Firestone alternate tires expected to be used in qualifying this afternoon, a new lap record is within sight.

Sunday’s 90-lap Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama – the eighth Verizon IndyCar Series event at the track – airs live on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network at 3 p.m. ET.

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