Photo: Alex Palou on his way to winning the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
Greetings from Birmingham. It was a long drive down with awful traffic and lots of road work, but I made it. It’s hard to believe that this weekend’s race is just the 12th Hoinda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.It seems as if this race has been on the schedule a long time. The track announced this afternoon that Saturday is now sold out. Previously Barber ahd declared Sunday a sellout as well. There are still tickets available for today.
Friday, April 29– All times Central
- Gates open 7:30AM
- Radical Cup (P2) 8:00 – 8:30AM
- Indy Pro 2000 (P1) 8:45 – 9:15AM
- USF Juniors Race #2 9:30 – 10:15AM
- Radical Cup (Q) 10:30 – 11:00AM
- Indy Pro 2000 (Q1) 11:15 – 11:45AM
- USF 2000 (P1) 12:00 – 12:30PM
- Radical Cup Race #1 12:45 – 1:30PM
- INDY LIGHTS (P1) 1:45 – 2:30PM
- NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 1 3:00 – 4:00 PM Peacock
- USF 2000 (Q1) 4:15 – 4:45PM
- INDY5K Presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama 5:30 PM
- Racing For Children’s Dinner at Barber Museum 6:00 PM
Barber returns to a spot on the calendar closer to its regular slot. The past two years the race was in early April and the normally beautiful landscaping still wore much of its brown winter coat. Everything should be blooming quite nicely this weekend.
There are three milestones on the line this weekend.
Scott Dixon is still seeking his first win at Barber. Dixon has finished on the podium here more than any other driver- nine times, including second place six times. A win will also tie him with Mario Andretti with 52 career races won. Chip Ganassi Racing was strong at Barber in 2021. Dixon will have to battle teammate Alex Palou, last year’s winner.
Josef Newgarden has won the last two races. A third straight win would give Team Penske four straight wins for the year. A $1 million bonus is Newgarden’s if he takes the checkered flag Sunday. The PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge goes to the first driver to win on each of the three types of tracks Indycar races on. Barber is the first natural road course of the year. Newgarden has an oval and a street course victory to date. Newgarden has won at Barber three times, twice for Penske. Team Penske has won six of the 11 races at Barber.
Will Power will seek his fifth pole at Barber, which will extend his record here. No other driver has more than two poles on this track. Power has not won the pole at Barber since 2017. He remains four poles behind Mario Andretti, the career leader with 67. Power has just one pole in his last 19 races.
Rookies on the Road
Indycar needs to get a natural road course on the schedule earlier than race number 4. The road courses are where the five rookies spent the majority of their time in junior series. Many of the freshman class should do well throughout the weekend.
Three rookies, Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas, and Devlin DeFrancesco, drove at Barber in Indy Lights in 2021. How well will that experience help them this weekend? I think Kirkwood will adapt the best of this trio. Kirkwood will have his best result of the year Sunday. Malukas and DeFrancesco have struggled in their first three races. I think they will have another tough weekend.
Tatiana Calderon showed improved pace at Long Beach. I am looking forward to seeing if her progress continues on a natural road course. I think this track will suit her style better than the street courses did.
The rookie to watch is Callum Ilott. He has really taken to Indycar. I am impressed with his calm demeanor. Ilott could have a very good race Sunday.
One Strong Favorite, Many Contenders
Newgarden has to be the early pick to win. He has won here three times with two different teams. He has won the previous two races this season. His team has half a dozen wins at this track.
We do have to look at Alex Palou, last year’s winner. Palou has finished every race this year in the top 5. He had a chance to win at Long Beach. The defending series champion will be in contention Sunday.
Is this Scott Dixon’s year? A virtual perennial podium finisher in Alabama, Dixon seeks not only his first Honda Indy 200 win, but his first win of the year. Dixon has won just once in his past 19 races.
Pato O’Ward, the 2021 pole winner, can think of no better way to celebrate his new AMSP contract than by sweeping the pole and the victory. His fifth place finish at Long Beach was the his best result of the season, and the new contract signing might give him and the team more momentum.
Will Power seems more relaxed and is racing better than he has the past two seasons. Power could win the pole and get his third Barber victory.
Andretti Autosport’s struggles this season got a boost at Long Beach with Colton Herta’s pole and Alexander Rossi’s top ten finish. The team has won twice at Barber with Ryan Hunter-Reay. They need a good weekend before heading to Indianapolis for the next two races.
Romain Grosjean is on the verge of his first Indycar win. I think it will come in one of the next two races.
My pick- Will Power. He is motivated and riving very well. Power seems more focused on race results than poles lately, and I think it has helped his driving.
I will be on site with several reports all three days.