Leeds, Ala – It would be easy to pick one of the four Team Penske drivers to win Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (3 pm ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network). They have been strong since the get go with three of their four drivers starting in the top three spots. Also, in two of the three practice sessions this weekend, they had all four cars in the top five of them.
That’s why it would be easy for one of their four to win this weekend. But, these five drivers may have other thoughts in mind.
These are five sleepers to watch on Sunday.
Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports has been extremely strong this weekend with James Hinchcliffe being in the top 10 in two of the three practice sessions and starting sixth. His teammate Mikhail Aleshin has been strong too.
The Russian driver was 11th, seventh and fourth respectively in the three sessions and that’s after being sixth and seventh respectively in the test session here last month.
Aleshin, qualified his No. 7 Honda eighth too, so he will have a good starting position to succeed on Sunday.
In his two starts on the 2.3-mile track, his best finish is 17th. I think that improves dramatically Sunday.
It’s been 95 races since Andretti last went to victory lane, but if the right strategy comes around on Sunday, he can end that drought.
For some reason, Andretti’s speed from Friday hasn’t translated over to a good qualifying run this year. Marco has been in the top five on the opening day of practice in all three races now, but in two of those races, he didn’t make it out of the opening round of qualifying.
Andretti, starts 13th tomorrow, but he has more speed than that. He was 12th, first and eighth respectively in the three practices this weekend.
Also, Marco has done well in his career at Barber. He had three top fives in his first four Barber starts, including a runner-up effort. He has five top 10’s in his seven Barber starts and I sense another top 10 is coming his way Sunday.
Jones has been stellar so far this season as the rookie sits seventh in the Verizon IndyCar Series points standings. He has two top 10’s in two tries, with finishes of 10th and sixth in his first two IndyCar starts.
Now, he heads to a track where he can succeed at. Jones, made four Barber starts in the Indy Lights Series, finishing fourth and 11th in 2015 and first and second a year ago.
He will roll off 11th tomorrow, one spot better than his Dale Coyne Racing teammate of Sebastien Bourdais.
Barber is a race was that can go with few cautions, that means DCR will go off sequence and if the strategy comes to their favor, Jones can get a top five tomorrow.
Tracks like Barber suit Chilton’s style. This is a European type circuit that Chilton grew up racing on. He had bad luck and finished 21st in his lone start a year ago, but he can make up for that this year.
So far, this hasn’t been a start to the season that he had hoped for with finishes of 16th and 14th respectively, but Barber has gone much better this weekend.
Chilton, has improved in every session so far with going from 20th to 17th to 10th in practice and qualified his No. 8 Honda ninth.
If he can stay up front on Sunday, he will be a top five contender.
Daly has finished 15th and 16th respectively this year and came home 20th in his lone Barber start a year ago. Safe to say, he definitely qualifies as a sleeper. But, all of that has been bad luck.
Daly, nearly missed practice this morning with an electrical issue, and that’s after having an issue like that yesterday. He was 17th and 21st in those two sessions. But, in the one where they had time to hit the track, he was 13th.
In qualifying, if not for being held up a bit by Helio Castroneves, he would have had a flier. Prior to that lap, he was in the top six of his group. Everyone else got a flier on their alternate tires.
So, his 20th starting spot isn’t indicative on how fast his car is. If strategy goes his way, and luck comes around, Daly will be in the top 10 on Sunday.