It has been an uncharacteristically miserable weekend so far for Will Power at Barber Motorsports Park.
The 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course has historically been one of Power’s stronger tracks, with two wins, three podiums and four poles in 11 starts. However, it’s been tough sledding after a 19th-place qualifying effort for Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama only validated the early struggles for Power and the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet.
The 41-year-old Aussie was 16th quickest in opening practice on Friday. He drew level with that rank on the timesheets in an eventful second practice on Saturday morning, which included a spin before ending up stranded in the gravel trap at Turn 8. Oddly, the theme of ending up 16th continued in a relatively straightforward final practice.
When asked by NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider during the Peacock stream if his qualifying pace was impacted by the off-track incident in second practice, Power felt it was unrelated.
“I don’t think so,” Power said. “It wasn’t bad. I don’t know, man. It actually wasn’t bad. So yeah, I think the second lap was going to be pretty good and whoever went off (track) brought some dust on (and) pushed me off. But, I don’t know, man.”
Earlier in the month, the Alabama-based circuit hosted 13 teams for a test but Team Penske wasn’t one of them. While that put them on the backfoot to gather data on Friday, it hasn’t plagued either of Power’s teammates, with Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden qualifying fourth and seventh, respectively. For his own situation, though, Power was left looking for answers.
“I thought we were kind of there going into qualifying,” Power said. “I mean, it does put you on in the first session. I thought we got to a point where we were kind of okay, but clearly not. Not even close.”
No one has ever come from further back than ninth to win at Barber, which Power accomplished in 2012, and it is all the more reason he’s left searching for a unique strategy play to gain track position rather than outright pace.
“Yeah, that’s a terrible place for this track. Terrible,” Power said. “Have to try something strategy-wise, hopefully get a lucky yellow or something.”