Confident Simona de Silvestro leads final practice before Grand Prix of Alabama qualifying

Jonathan Ferrey

LEEDS, Ala. -- Simona de Silvestro competed for a podium finish at St. Petersburg before fading late in the race to finish sixth. It was a statement that she was ready to contend for victories after a frustrating 2012 season in which she was saddled by the underwhelming Lotus engine package.

She was at the top of the charts in final practice before qualifying on Saturday morning at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala. While the Swiss KV Racing Technologies driver believes the track conditions will change prior to qualifying, the fastest time in P3 does give her a boost of confidence heading into time trials.

"I think the car was good this morning," de Silvestro said. "We have to see how the track is going to change for later in the day but the car has been pretty quick has been working really hard since our test here. We were pretty good then too and the track was a little different from the test so I think we adjusted to it and made improvements every session."

The personable 24-year-old has to be considered a threat for the pole, even with Team Penske's stretch of dominance at the 2.5-mile Alabama road course. Defending and two-time race-winner Will Power has struggled to get the handle of his car throughout the weekend and Helio Castroneves was off his Friday pace on Saturday morning.

Of note, former Champ Car World Series race-winner AJ Allmendinger was seventh in final practice, continually improving each time he's on the track. He was 15th during the open test, ninth in Friday's first session, eighth in the second session and seventh on Saturday. This is the first race of a limited schedule for the part-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.

Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dario Franchitti completed the top-five on Saturday morning. IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying is set to kick-off at 11:25 ET.

Complete practice times can be found below:

  1. Simona de Silvestro (1:07:4073)
  2. Simon Pagenaud
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  5. Dario Franchitt
  6. JR Hildebrand
  7. AJ Allmendinger
  8. Tristan Vautier
  9. Justin Wilson
  10. Will Power
  11. James Hinchcliffe
  12. Helio Castroneves
  13. Alex Tagliani
  14. EJ Viso
  15. Sebastien Bourdais
  16. James Jakes
  17. Tony Kanaan
  18. Graham Rahal
  19. Charlie Kimball
  20. Oriol Servia
  21. Josef Newgarden
  22. Sebastian Saavedra
  23. Marco Andretti
  24. Takuma Sato
  25. Ed Carpenter
  26. Ana Beatriz

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