Takuma Sato bested his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Graham Rahal in the final moment to take the pole for Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the Barber Motorsports Park.

The 42-year-old Japanese driver began the session on the primary black tires while Rahal turned his laps on the option reds. Rahal set a benchmark lap of 1:08.6971 seconds that safe as Q1 pacer Scott Dixon and practice leader James Hinchcliffe came up nearly two tenths short a piece.

HIs lap looked safe until Sato dropped a flyer lap of 1:08.5934s when the clock hit zero, a clear tenth ahead of his teammate.

The pole is Sato’s first since August of 2017 when he claimed pole position at the Pocono Raceway oval. It also marks the first Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in since 2005 when Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice started 1-2 at Chicago.

“This is a dream result,” said the driver of the No 30. Mi-Jack . “Today we got everything together. This is absolutely a team effort, so I am really happy with the whole team.”

The primary black tyres proved to be the optimal choice yesterday but the option red tyres showed to be the better choice today. Sato noted that making the quick change back to the reds made all the difference in taking the pole.

“Black tires and red tires had similar performance yesterday, but today, clearly the red tire was faster,” he continued. “I did actually try the black tire during the Fast 6 to see if I could go faster, but the red tire was much faster. In the end, I’m happy with my lap”.

Scott Dixon made his ninth-straight Fast Six at Barber and will chase his elusive first Barber win from third place. Starting on his outside is James Hinchcliffe, who made his first Fast Six in nearly a year and rounding out the top five is the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan machine driven by Sebastien Bourdais.

Spencer Pigot advanced to the Fast Six for the first time in his career and ended up sixth after opting to use only the primary black tyres.

Will Power was the sole Team Penske driver represented in the fast twelve which ended a streak dating back to Long Beach in 2014 of Penske cars making the fast six. The two-time winner at Barber ended up seventh, just missing the Fast Six by .0388s after aborting his first attempt due to a mistake.

Alexander Rossi was the quickest Andretti Autosport driver and missed the Fast Six for the first time since the IndyCar Grand Prix last May.

COTA winner Colton Herta led an all-rookie row five flanked by former Formula 2 driver Santino Ferrucci claiming his first career top ten start.

A handful of former Barber winners ended outside the top ten led by Ryan Hunter-Reay in eleventh.

Simon Pagenaud failed to advance out of Group one for the third straight race and ended up 14th while three-time Barber winner Josef Newgarden will start right behind him in 16th place.

 

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