By Steve Wittich
Christian Rasmussen found just enough space on the busy 2.3-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park natural terrain road course to grab his second INDY NXT by Firestone pole.
Rasmussen’s pole-winning lap of 70.7371 seconds broke the previous track record of 71.5149 seconds set by Linus Lundqvist in 2021. The Danish veteran was one of 13 drivers under the former track record.
“It was really just about getting a free lap,” Rasmussen said. “There was so much traffic out there. Very happy and got it strung together at the end, and I got a free lap. It was enough. That’s part one done. We have part two tomorrow, and hopefully, we can stay in front.”
The 22-year-old, who was also a USF Pro 2000 pole winner at Barber Motorsports Park, will start from the pole for the 14th time in his journey to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES (two F4 United States Championship, nine USF2000, one USF Pro 2000 and two INDY NXT).
HMD Motorsports and Global Racing Group have won four straight poles at Barber Motorsports Park.
Rasmussen’s rookie teammate Nolan Siegel, who led practice earlier on Saturday morning, will start from the outside of the front row.
After turning the 13th and sixth-best laps in the two practice sessions, reigning USF Pro 2000 champion Louis Foster was happy with the changes the team made to the No. 26. The 19-year-old pole winner at the season opener will start from the inside of the second row.
“Obviously it was a good qualifying session,” explained Foster. “I think we made quite a big step from both practices to qualifying. We worked quite hard after the Practice 2 to try and figure out where we were losing time to the other teams and the other drivers. I think three and four for Andretti is obviously a pretty decent qualifying. We would’ve loved to be higher, but I think this is the best we could do today. We’re just going to work hard tonight and try to find something for tomorrow’s race.”
Foster’s veteran teammate Hunter McElrea will start beside him.
Qualifying for Sunday’s INDY NXT by Firestone Grand Prix of Alabama began at 1:25 pm. Clouds were building as the rain that is expected overnight started to build from the southwest. The ambient temperature was 72F, and the track temperature was 95F
With only eight minutes available to set a time, all 18 cars hit the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course when the green flag fell.
After three laps, McElrea held the provisional pole at 71.7532 seconds, with his Andretti Autosport teammate Louis Foster right behind him.
Over the final five minutes, the provisional pole changed hands five times between four drivers. McElrea, Rasmussen, Simpson, Siegel, and finally, Rasmussen all held the coveted spot.
With two minutes remaining, the quickest driver in morning practice was 18th, but that quickly changed as the black and neon green No. 39 jumped to fourth on the timing screens; on his next lap, he was the first driver to go under 71 seconds going to provisional pole before being vested by his veteran teammate.
Rasmussen was one of 11 drivers to improve on their final lap during the session that saw most drivers struggling to find a gap and only getting one or two clean push laps.
INDY NXT by Firestone GP Of Alabama Unofficial Qualifying Results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||BEST LAP||DIFF.|
|1||6||Christian Rasmussen||HMD Motorsports||1:10.7371||——|
|2||39||Nolan Siegel||HMD Motorsports||1:10.8682||-0.1311|
|3||26||Louis Foster||Andretti Autosport||1:10.9247||-0.1876|
|4||27||Hunter McElrea||Andretti Autosport||1:11.0690||-0.3319|
|5||14||Toby Sowery||HMD Motorsports||1:11.0836||-0.3465|
|6||21||Kyffin Simpson||HMD Motorsports||1:11.1578||-0.4207|
|7||76||Reece Gold||Juncos Hollinger Racing||1:11.2148||-0.4777|
|8||68||Danial Frost||HMD Motorsports||1:11.2155||-0.4784|
|9||47||Enaam Ahmed||Cape Motorsports||1:11.2944||-0.5573|
|10||29||James Roe||Andretti Autosport||1:11.3740||-0.6369|
|11||3||Josh Green||HMD Motorsports||1:11.4137||-0.6766|
|12||75||Matteo Nannini||Juncos Hollinger Racing||1:11.4623||-0.7252|
|13||98||Jagger Jones||Cape Motorsports||1:11.5003||-0.7632|
|14||57||Colin Kaminsky||Abel Motorsports||1:11.5430||-0.8059|
|15||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||1:11.5850||-0.8479|
|16||7||Christian Bogle||HMD Motorsports||1:11.8030||-1.0659|
|17||28||Jamie Chadwick||Andretti Autosport||1:11.9208||-1.1837|
|18||99||Ernie Francis Jr.||HMD Motorsports||1:12.0393||-1.3022|
The 35-lap race is scheduled to get the green flag at noon on Sunday.