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Hunter-Reay grabs 1st pole of season at Barber

- Associated Press - Saturday, April 6, 2013

BIRMINGHAM, ALA. (AP) - Defending IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay won the pole Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park, ending Penske Racing's three year qualifying run.

Hunter-Reay grabbed the top starting spot for Sunday's race with a lap of 1:07.0871 around the 17-turn, 2.38-mile permanent road course. He beat two-time defending race winner Will Power and put Andretti Autosport on the pole for the first time in race history.

Hunter-Reay ended the Penske Racing pole streak at Barber with his run. Penske drivers Power and Helio Castroneves had won all three poles and all three races at Barber.

Power qualified second and was followed by rookie Tristan Vautier, Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball and Castroneves. Vautier made it into the Fast Six after IndyCar disqualified Takuma Sato minutes before the session began.

AJ Allmendinger will start 10th in his IndyCar debut Sunday. Allmendinger advanced to the second qualifying segment by moving on from a stacked first group, sneaking in via the sixth and final position. He bettered four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and former Champ Car rival Sebastien Bourdais in advancing into Segment 2.

That's as far as he made it, though, as the competition turned it up another notch in the next 10-minute session. Allmendinger made one final attempt to squeeze into the Fast Six round as the clock wound down, but sensing he wasn't going to make it, he moved out of the way for Vautier, who was also making a furious push to advance.

Allmendinger wound up 11th overall in qualifying. But his time of 1:07.6962 showed he's up to speed _ teammate Castroneves claimed the sixth and final spot at 1:07.2794.

Vautier, meanwhile, didn't get enough on that final lap to make it into the Fast Six _ at least not immediately. He wound up in seventh place, one spot shy of advancing, and was out of his car when he got a reprieve. IndyCar ruled that Sato, who did advance, had interfered with Justin Wilson's qualifying lap and disqualified Sato from participating in the final session.

The ruling was made as part of a new addition to the 2013 rule book that allows IndyCar to disqualify a driver from the Fast Six for interference in an effort to "further emphasize on track sportsmanship."

Sato's disqualification opened a spot for Vautier in the Fast Six.

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