A few news and notes after Saturday's qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama:
COSTLY SPIN - Ryan Hunter-Reay's spin during Q2 didn't just cost him a shot at the Firestone Fast Six for the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. It cost Will Power, too.
Hunter-Reay spun during the second qualifying session Saturday morning at Barber Motorsports Park. The ensuing red flag cost Hunter-Reay and the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Dallara-Chevrolet. The local yellow for the crash, displayed as Power was en route to a lap that would have put him comfortably in the top six, disqualified Power's lap.
Instead, he will start ninth Sunday in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet, while Hunter-Reay – whose two best laps were DQ'd because of the red flag – will start 11th.
"I got too greedy," Hunter-Reay said. “With the level of road racing talent we have in the IndyCar Series right now, you have to go for it and push to the limit of yourself and your car if you want to be in the front. ... Qualifying is all about being a hero or a zero, and we were going for it."
Power is likely to be strong in Sunday's race in spite of the fifth-row start. His fastest lap in the first qualifying session, 1:09.8529, broke the track record of 1:10.1356 he set in 2010. It was the first time in 20 consecutive IndyCar road and street races that Power didn't make the Fast Six.
“I know IndyCar threw the red flag there (in Q2), but I'm not sure why they didn't allow our fast lap,” Power said. “It's definitely going to be tough starting ninth tomorrow, but we know we've got a fast car. We have to have a good start and be strong on the restarts and hopefully work our way up front.”
MORE TROUBLE FOR DARIO - It hasn't been a start fit for a defending champion.
Dario Franchitti, who finished 13th in the season opener last weekend at St. Pete, will start an uncharacteristically low 18th Sunday in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Dallara.
"Lack of balance overall really is what we dealt with,” Franchitti said after Saturday's qualifying. “Lack of track time, too, and we haven't been great so far. It didn't help that the second qualifying group was stout and there was a lot of competition there. It's not where we want to be, but we'll go back and work on it.”
FAST FOYT, FAST PANTHER - The unusual circumstances in qualifying didn't end with Hunter-Reay, Power and Franchitti. The Firestone Fast Six also included the unlikely combination of two teams not known for road-racing prowess: A.J. Foyt Racing and Panther Racing.
Mike Conway will start fourth after being the first to put Foyt's No. 14 Dallara-Honda in the Fast Six since Darren Manning qualified fifth at St. Pete in 2007. JR Hildebrand, who made it into the Fast Six for the first time in his career, will start fifth Sunday in the No. 4 Panther Dallara-Chevrolet - the best non-oval start for the team since 2005.
“We're definitely moving in the right direction,” Conway said. “We made some good changes overnight and they certainly worked today. ... I just want to keep up all the good work and keep it up front.”
The goal is the same for Hildebrand. “We are trying to improve our road program,” he said. “Obviously this is going a long way to show that we are getting there. We kind of drew a good group and with the whole yellow thing with Hunter-Reay happening in the second group, you know, we ended up benefiting from that, for sure. We are glad to be able to put that on a piece of paper now.”
MAYOR ON THE MOVE - Fresh from his fourth-place effort at St, Pete, James Hinchcliffe nailed down the No. 2 starting position – the best start of his IndyCar career, now in its second season.
“We knew we had to take a little bit of a swing at it,” he said. “To miss it by half a tenth is just gutting, but it's a great start for us."