Grosjean keeps Andretti team rolling with Barber IndyCar pole

·4 min read

Romain Grosjean has a 50-percent pole record so far this year after securing P1 to open the season at St. Petersburg and P1 at Barber Motorsports Park, where the driver of the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda will lead the field to green on Sunday for the 90-lap contest.

Factoring in teammate Kyle Kirkwood’s pole and eventual win at Long Beach, the Andretti squad has claimed 75 percent of the NTT IndyCar Series poles in 2023, and after losing an engine early in Friday’s lone practice session, the progress made by Grosjean and race engineer Olivier Boisson — despite being behind on time compared to the rest of their rivals — was nothing short of impressive.

“I’ve got a hell of a team,” said Grosjean, who is expected to re-sign with Andretti. “We’re doing such a great job this year, the car awesome. And I’ve got three teammates that I can rely on, so I went [with a baseline setup from them] and from the moment we started quali, I knew I had it.”

Grosjean’s pole lap of 1m05.8396s was challenged on the last lap by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, who helped Honda to sweep the front row with a 1m05.9130s tour in the No. 10 entry. Team Chevy claimed the second row with Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward in the No. 5 with his 1m05.9382s lap and Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, who posted a 1m05.9515s in the No. 3 car as the top four were separated by a scant 0.1119s.

Ganassi’s Scott Dixon captured fifth in the No. 9 Honda with a 1m06.0723s run, and in a welcome turn of fortunes for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Christian Lundgaard took the final spot in the Fast Six with a 1m06.1601s in the No. 45 Honda.

“I told them just before we went out for the Fast Six the worst that can happen [is] we’re going to be sixth,” Lundgaard said. “We finished on the podium at the GP last year starting from sixth, so it’s not too bad of a place today.”

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Beyond the top performers, Barber qualifying was notable for the unexpected misses by some of the series’ top drivers led by a cluster of Will Power, Kyle Kirkwood, Marcus Ericsson and Colton Herta from P11-14.

The opening segment of qualifying featured 13 of the 27 drivers where the six fastest would transfer into the Firestone Fast 12. Those to make it through were led by Josef Newgarden, Grosjean, Alexander Rossi, Kirkwood, Dixon and Rinus VeeKay.

The seven who failed to transfer were led by a disappointed Ericsson (who starts P13), Callum Ilott (P15), David Malukas (P17), Graham Rahal (P19), Helio Castroneves (P21), Sting Ray Robb (P23) and Benjamin Pedersen (P25).

The other half of the opening knockout round pitted 14 drivers against each other, and in the group, the fastest six headed to the Fast 12 were led by Palou, O’Ward, McLaughlin, Lundgaard, Felix Rosenqvist, and Power.

The eight who failed to transfer were led by a frustrated Herta (P14), Simon Pagenaud (P16), Devlin DeFrancesco (P18), Conor Daly (P20), Agustin Canapino (P22), Jack Harvey (P24), Marcus Armstrong (P26) — who lost his two fastest laps for blocking Lundgaard — and Santino Ferrucci (P27), who was unable to turn a competitive lap after struggling with a transmission problem.

The Fast 12 was its usual wild affair as the players in the Firestone Fast Six were led by Grosjean, O’Ward, McLaughlin (who knocked Newgarden out), Palou, Lundgaard and Dixon.

Starting positions seven through 12 were led by Newgarden, Rosenqvist, Rinus VeeKay, Rossi, Power and Kirkwood. VeeKay ran off the track, as did Power, and Kirkwood spun on new tires.

The Fast Six didn’t fail to entertain as Grosjean put up the best lap that stood during the opening shots at pole, and as the sextet went for their final blast around the Barber road course, the order shuffled as O’Ward went to P1 followed by McLaughlin. But Grosjean had more to give and shot to P1, followed by Palou, O’Ward, McLaughlin, Dixon, and Lundgaard.

UP NEXT: Warmup, Sunday, 12pm ET


Story originally appeared on Racer