Rookie Tristan Vautier, a last-minute addition to the “Fast Six” qualifying Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park, led the Honda-powered field in the final round of knockout qualifying and will start third in Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.
Driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Vautier led his group in the first round of qualifying, but finished seventh in the second round, just missing advancing to the final group of six. However, fellow Honda driver Takuma Sato, originally listed as sixth fastest in the second round, had his best lap removed as a penalty for blocking another competitor, dropping Sato’s A.J. Foyt Racing Honda to 12th on the starting grid and moving Vautier into the final round in his place.
Vautier’s best lap of 1:07.3616 edged the Honda-powered Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda of Scott Dixon for third, on a record-setting day when every driver in the 26-car field bettered the existing track record. Charlie Kimball joined Vautier and Dixon in the “Fast Six” and will start a career-best fifth in his Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Sunday’s 90-lap Honda Grand Prix of Alabama starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on the NBC Sports Network.
Tristan Vautier (Driver, #55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda Dallara) will start third in Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama: “It was cool. I was very upset with myself after [finishing seventh in] the second round of qualifying. I was upset and looking at the time board. Right before the ‘Fast Six’ started, I was looking at it and it changed! I said, ‘guys, I see my car is in the top six, maybe we should bring it back to pit lane!’ I have to give it to the guys. They brought the car back at the last minute and got it ready after the session started. I just tried to push very hard, so it was a lot of fun, honestly. It was so cool because the cars have so much grip. You can really push hard and give it all.”