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Qualifying Report: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM—Off-course excursions followed by red flags were commonplace in all three practice sessions at Barber Motorsports Park as the NTT IndyCar Series returned to the picturesque track for their 10th anniversary event. In qualifying, however, all rounds went off caution–free!

Matheus Leist, who had his own off-track incident in the first practice session which resulted in losing valuable track time yesterday, will start 15th after missing out on advancing to the next round by a mere nine-hundredths of a second.

Leist posted a time of 1 minute, 8.9477 seconds (120.091mph) in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet after running two sets of the red alternate (softer) compound Firestone tires in the 10 minute session. Leist was the fourth quickest Chevy-powered car (out of 10) in the 24-car grid.

Matheus Leist chats with his race engineer Daniele Cucchiaroni as Craig Baranouski (center) and Dwight Brown (far right) look on.

“We finished eighth in our group so we’re probably going to be starting around 15th tomorrow so I’m looking forward to it," Leist said. "I think from where we started the weekend on Friday, we definitely already made some progress, so we still have a warm-up tomorrow before the race and looking forward to doing a great job here again.”

Tony Kanaan, who was in the same group as Leist in qualifying, was a bit frustrated after the session. He will start 19th after posting a time of 1 minute, 9.0327 seconds (119.943mph).

“The struggles continue,” Kanaan said. “We are trying to improve. It was a very difficult race for us here last year. The field is much closer today and we feel like we’re closer but it doesn’t translate to the position on track so we still have a lot of work to do for tomorrow.”

Tony Kanaan and his race engineer Eric Cowdin are deep in thought as crew chief Mark Sampson (left) and support engineer Tim Trowbridge start shutting down the equipment.

Takuma Sato won the pole position after pipping his teammate Graham Rahal from the top spot in the final seconds of qualifying. Sato posted a time of 1 minute, 8.5934 seconds (120.711mph) to earn his eighth pole position. Completing the Firestone Fast Six were: Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais and Spencer Pigot.

Teams will have a 30-minute warm-up tomorrow morning. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network starting at 4 p.m. ET.

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