By Steve Wittich

It will be rookie Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire driver, Parker Thompson, and team Exclusive Autosport, that leads Saturday’s Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Cooper Tires to the green flag.

Parker Thompson gets a thumbs up from an Exclusive Autosport teammate before Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire qualifying at Barber Motorsports Park (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography)

The pole is the Canadian driver’s first Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire and seventh career Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires pole.

Fellow Pro Mazda rookies Harrison Scott and RP Motorsport will start outside of the front row after the 2017 Euroformula Open champion used a last-lap flyer to move with three-tenths of Thompson.

A third pair of rookies, BN Racing and David Malukas, will begin behind Thompson on the second row and will be joined on the second row by Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing)

The 16 entries for the doubleheader took to the 2.3-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park natural terrain road course.

All 16 Mazda powered Tatuss PM-18’s immediately took to the beautiful undulating race track when the green flag came out. Most drivers ran three or four reconnaissance laps on scuffed Cooper Tire slicks to determine the what changes need to made to their race cars in the warmer conditions.

At the half-way point of the 20-minute session, Parker Thompson, who led the Thursday test session, and Friday morning practice session, held the provisional pole with a lap of 77.1571. He was followed by David Malukas, Rafa Martins, Rinus VeeKay and Harrison Scott.

At this point of the session, pit road was busy with teams and making adjustments and bolting on sticker Cooper Tires.

With six-and-a-half minutes remaining in the session, the red flag came out for the No. 83 Fat Boy! Racing of Charles Finelli, who got stuck in the gravel trap on the outside of the right-hand Turn 9.

The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team was able to get him extracted, and the green flag came out with just over three minutes left in the qualifying session.

The majority of the drivers were able to get two flying laps in, and all but David Malukas and Rafa Martins were able to go quicker.

Championship leader VeeKay, who had too much understeer in his No. 2 Juncos Racing machine during the morning session when he finished a disappointing eighth, did not find a cure for that problem, qualifying on the inside of the fourth row for Saturday’s first Pro Mazda race.

Kory Enders, a USF2000 regular, is making his Pro Mazda debut with DEForce Racing. Enders missed the first practice session after having an issue with the driveshaft on the No. 11, qualified 12th.

The top nine drivers were separated by one second, with the positions three through nine separated by only three-tenths of a second.

Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Cooper Tires Qualifying #1

1 90 Parker Thompson Exclusive Autosport 1:16.895 –.—-
2 10 Harrison Scott RP Motorsport Racing 1:17.159 0.2639
3 79 David Malukas BN Racing 1:17.318 0.4233
4 1 Carlos Cunha Juncos Racing 1:17.485 0.5901
5 9 Robert Megennis Juncos Racing 1:17.542 0.6478
6 81 Andres Gutierrez Team Pelfrey 1:17.566 0.6714
7 2 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 1:17.597 0.7028
8 80 Rafael Martins Team Pelfrey 1:17.616 0.7211
9 3 Oliver Askew Cape Motorsports 1:17.636 0.7414
10 8 Nikita Lastochkin Cape Motorsports 1:18.034 1.1399
11 82 Sting Ray Robb Team Pelfrey 1:18.132 1.2374
12 11 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 1:18.214 1.3193
13 27 Lodovico Laurini RP Motorsport Racing 1:18.329 1.4343
14 78 Kris Wright BN Racing 1:18.543 1.6487
15 91 Antonio Serravalle Exclusive Autosport 1:18.909 2.0144
16 83 Charles Finelli BN Racing/Fatboy Racing 1:23.311 6.4167

the Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire drivers will be back on track Saturday at 8:30 am for their second qualifying session, and 12:50 pm for the first half of their weekend double-header.