Photo: The field lines up in turn 15 for the start of Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
First, I want to thank Kyle McIness for the great photos he provided for The Pit Window this weekend.
A few final thoughts:
I watched the replay of the race last evening. I’m not sure what Grosjean was doing with Rahal, but the second seemed unnecessary. Grosjean’s move on Colton Herta was even more egregious, as he tried to pin him against the pit wall. The move was not something a driver should do to anyone, but especially not to a teammate.
While the race was processional at the front of the pack, there was a lot of good action at the back.
I like the happy Pato O’Ward better than the pouty Pato.
Alex Palou is the Iceman 2.0.
Inside the Stats
I broke down some performance indicators for the first four races. The results indicate a very competitive season so far. What many feared would a team Penske runaway may not be the case. Here are some random categories chosen by The Pit Window panel of experts. (Me):
Will Power 4
Alex Palou 3
Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, Scott Dixon, and Pato O’Ward 2 each
Newgarden, McLaughlin 2 each
Five drivers tied with 2:
Rinus VeeKay, Alexander Rossi, Felix Rosenqvist, Palou, McLaughlin
Rinus VeeKay 75
Josef Newgarden 37
Colton Herta 28
Christian Lundgaard 57
Kyle Kirkwood 46
David Malukas 44
Callum Ilott 37
Devlin DeFrancesco 33
Tatiana Calderon 25
Tomorrow, May coverage at IMS begins. This week I will talk about three former winners who don’t get a lot of mentions when 500 winners are discussed. I have a personal connection to each of these drivers.
Youth ruled the weekend. 21 year old Rinus VeeKay won the pole and dominated the first part of the race. 22 year old Pato O’Ward won the race, passing VeeKay in turn following the final pit stop. The average of the podium-22.7 years. The Fast Six yesterday had an average age of 26.6, thanks to old guys who are 30 years old.
Alex Palou earned his 12th podium and has taken the p[oints lead by three over Scott McLaughlin.
There was no better driver on track today than Will Power. He started 19th and finished fourth. Power has finished in the top four in all four races.
Andretti Autosport had another good day spoiled. Alexander Rossi had a solid fourth place pretty much locked up until a slow second pit stop. Colton Herta charged to the top ten but spun attempting to make a pass.
The drivers trying a three stop strategy were thwarted by Callum Ilott’s untimely spin and the caution it brought. Josef Newgarden was hurt the most by the yellow flag.
Will the Chevy dominance continue through the end of May? The engine has won every race in 2022. Honda is close, but just enough behind to not get a win.
Not only did Team Penske not win a race for the first time this season, but the team missed the podium for the first time.
The rookies suffered their worst race of the season. Christian Lundgaard was the highest first year finisher in 15th.
Is Rossi returning to his villain role? There was a minor incident with Graham Rahal late in the race.
While the front of the field was basically static, there were some good battles deeper in the field. Herta did not pass cars easily. It was fun watching Power move forward.
Scott Dixon missed the podium at Barber for the first time in 12 races.
Felix Rosenqvist once again didn’t take advantage of a good qualifying, finishing 16th.
I will have more on the Barber weekend tomorrow. Thanks for following along this weekend.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES Race 12:00 – 2:00PM NBC, Peacock
Indy Pro 2000 Race #2 2:30 – 3:20PM
Or is it rain day? Chances of rain have diminished some, but the radar shows Birmingham covered in green from noon to 3 pm. The showers may to be scattered. As long as there is no severe weather, the race will run.
If rain tires are needed after the race starts, I think that favors Josef Newgarden. He won the rain delayed race in 2018 when Tim Cindric called Newgarden in for rain tires before the rain began. If the start is declared a wet start, this race is up for grabs.
Pato O’Ward expressed concern yesterday in the press conference about the current stock of rain tires being two years old and never used. Rinus VeeKay said he has experience racing in the rain inkarts but not much in race cars.
Should conditions be normal, I get the sense most drivers want to be on blacks for most of the race. The reds did not get much time yesterday in practice because of the late red flag. I didn’t see much lap time difference between the two tires in qualifying yesterday.
Rain or shine, it is May 1 and Indycar has cars on track.
Will Power and Scott Dixon have their worst starting positions for a race at Barber. In the 11 previous races here, the two veterans were in the Fast Six a combine 20 times. A 10th Barber podium for Dixon will be difficult to get today.
There are subtle shifts in team leadership happening at Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing. Scott Mclaughlin has been Penske’s overall best qualifier this year, and he is not far behind Josef Newgarden for the points lead. Alex Palou is backing up last year’s championship with strong qualifying runs and good finishes.
I will have an eye on Alexander Rossi today. He put in a great qualifying effort after his team, with help from other Andretti crew and Honda, put his car back together in two hours after his practice crash yesterday morning. Look for him on the podium.
Romain Grosjean and Josef Newgarden, who had a great duel for the win at Long Beach, make up row four.
Enjoy the race. If you are coming to the track, stay dry.
Callum Ilott posted the fastest lap in the final warm up for Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. The session ran dry despite a slight chance of rain. just a few scattered drops fell.
Alex Palou had the second fastest time. Marcus Ericsson, Scott Dixon, and Alexander Rossi completed the top five.
Eight minutes into the 30 minute session Tatiana Calderon slid off the track in turn 2 and made contact with the barrier. Calderon was unhurt. The rest of the round was green.
Ilott will start 11th tomorrow.
Pole sitter Rinus VeeKay was 20th for this session.
All eyes turn to the skies now to see what kind of race we will have tomorrow. The rain looks to be scattered, which will make for interesting strategy. This race will be intriguing if it is run in completely dry conditions.
Rinus VeeKay tok the pole for tomorrow’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama with a lap of 1:06.25. Pato O’Ward, last year’s polke winner, will join VeeKay on the front row. O’Ward was 0.15 seconds slower than VeeKay.
Alex Palou, 2021 race winner and series champion, will start third, the same position he won the rac from last year. Scott McLaughlin, Alexander Rossi, and Felix Rosenqvist round out the first three rows.
As startling as the names in the Fast Six were, equally shocking was who was not in it. Scott Dixon missed the Fast Six at Barber for the first time. He will start 13th. Power had been in the Fast Six nine times in the 11 races here, will start 19th. Josef Newgarden will start seventh and Colton Herta 10th. Romain Grosjean will start eighth.
Colton Herta waited a bit too long to make his final run in the round of 12. That session ended early when Marcus Ericsson went off track and brought out the red flag with 25 seconds left.
The results set up a Fast Six with drivers who had 16 poles between them and an average age of 26 years.
In the Fast Six, VeeKay was the last car on track and nipped O’Ward at the line. The pole was VeeKay’s second career pole. The first came aqt the 2020 Harvest Classic Race 1 at IMS.
Veekay is the fourth different pole winner and ECR is the fourth different team to win a pole in 2022. Pole winners have won two of the three races this season.
Chevy has been quite strong this year. The manufacturer has three poles and has won the first three races of 2022.
How good are rookies Callum Ilott and Kyle Kirkwood? Ilott will nstart b11th and Kirkwood lines up 21st, but people were disappointed that neither advanced further today.
David Malukas continues to struggle. He has had wall contact every weekend this season.
Kudos to Alexander Rossi’s team and others from Andretti Autosport for getting the 27 car back together after after the big crash this morning. Rossi rewarded them as the onlky Andretti car to make the Fast Six.
Will rain affect the brace tomorrow? The latest radar looks as if there will be rain this afternoon, possibly during the final practice session later today.
Tomorrow’s forecast as of 2:50 pm Central calls for a 46-48 % chance of rain during race time tomorrow, with a better chance for in the hours leading up to the noon start.
Rinus VeeKay took second practice honors with a lap of 1:05.9284. The Ed Carpenter Racing driver was the only one with a lap under 1:06 in the final practice before qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Pato O’Ward was close with a quick circuit of 1:06.0136.
Twqo red flags interrupted the round and brought Indycar’s new time policy into play. Alexander Rossi spun as he entered the front strecth and and backed in to the guard rail, sustaining heavy damage to the rear of the car. the attenuator cut the right front tire of Helio Castroneves’ car. Rossi was running fifth at the time. With no chance to improve his time, he ended 20th. The red flag lasted 15 minutes, which used up the extra time allotted for completing a practice session.
The clock stopped at first, then began running again before the green flag waved again.
With about 12 minutes left Will Power hit a kerb, slid into the gravel and stalled in the turn 8-9 area. The green returned with seven minutes left.
Romain Grosjean and Josef Newgarden also had off track excursions and were able to continue.
Scott McLaughlin continues to be the fastest Team Penske driver. McLaughlin was fourth this morning. Josef Newgarden was 11th and Power 16th.
Callum Ilott was again the top rookie with another top ten run, in ninth
Seven teams had drivers in the top 10.
The teams that tested at barber three weeks ago have had the best results in the two sessions.
Qualifying begins at Noon Central time on Peacock.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES (Final Practice) 4:20 – 4:50 PM Peacock
Radical Cup Race #3 5:05 – 5:50PM
Indy Pro 2000 (Q2) 6:05 – 6:30PM
Today’s qualifying carries a lot of importance. Will Power won the race from ninth place in 2012. That is the lowest starting position of a race winner here.
The teams that tested here, mainly Ganassi and Andretti, were strongest in practice yesterday. The teams that didn’t test, namely Team Penske did not fare so well yesterday except for Scott McLaughlin, who was fifth in Friday’s practice. Will Power admitted to being nervous about the team’s chances for qualifying.
It is never wise to put too much stock in a weekend’s first practice. Cars have not had a chance to try out the alternate red tires yet. Some cars perform differently on reds. Certain drivers are becoming Friday stars who fade fast when the sun comes up again.
There is also a slight chance of rain today. Qualifying should be fine. The best chance for rain is between 2 pm and 6 pm. Rain could affect the final Indy Lights and Indycar practices. The rain chance at 2 pm is 50%. Qualifying should be fine, but we’ll probably see rain tires ready on pit road.
There is a 50% chance of rain Sunday. Scattered thunderstorms are predicted, which would make the race a lot more interesting.
Here is the full practice sheet from yesterday:
I was sad to see that some land on the approach road to the track is for sale and that cutting of trees has already begun. Barber has one of the prettiest approaches to the main gate of any track.
Scott McLaughlin has the weekend’s best livery.
Scott Dixon will make his 292nd consecutive Indycar start Sunday, the second longest streak in Indycar history.
Tatiana Calderon seems to have found some pace at Long Beach. She attributes the improvement to her training regimen and adjustments to the car. She hopes returning to natural road courses will give her confidence a boost.
“I trained quite hard physically for Long Beach, changed my routine even changed a few things in the car that I was not that comfortable with. Finding some setup stuff that I feel more confident now and I’m happy to be bac on a permanent track that I’m more used to and exploring the limit of the car. “
Calderon, a rookie with A. J. Foyt Racing, said her first Indycar race was a shock because it was the first time she had spent more than 20 laps in a row in the car.
She is most familiar with natural, permanent road course and is looking forward to this afternoon’s practice.
“First practice, the goal is to be as prepared as possible for qualifying. And I think step by step getting confidence. This is a completely different setup. type of track to the ones previously so it’s going to be very different. And I hope that I can just maybe be quicker, straight away so that I have this new work for tomorrow’s practicing.”
“Certainly, I think, you know, knowing in your mind that you will be go leaping into a corner you’re not facing the worst. You’re you’ve got your back on I think that that gives you an extra feel of confidence to explore the limit a little bit more I think I’m more comfortable with that. So hopefully that’s a good sign.”
For the rest of the season, Calderon is looking forward to several tracks.
“Obviously Indianapolis has that history that it has. I’ve never been around it in any type of car so that’s very interesting. And Road America seems like very big elevation changes. A certain flow that we like and Mid Ohio because that’s the only track I’ve been through in an IndyCar where I just did my test for the first time.”
It’s great to be back at Barber Motorsports Park. I don’t know why, but I consider this race the true start of the summer racing season. I assume it is because the race is so close to opening day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Today’s action focuses mainly on the Road to Indy, including USF Juniors, the first step on the ladder. Indycar takes the track at 3 pm Central Time.
Indycar and IMS announced a multi -year sponsorship with Gallagher, a global insurance company. Gallagher was the sponsor for Carlin Racing and Max Chilton.The agreement includes title sponsorship of the second Indycar road race at IMS. The link to the announcement: