Barber Puts Tickets on Sale- Limited Capacity, Paddock Closed

Previous ticket holders for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama received an email this morning offering tickets for sale to the April 16-18 Indycar season opener. The sale ends March9 at 6 pm Eastern time. Remaining tickets go on sale after that. The email said capacity is limited, bu gave no specific number.

The email also indicated that the paddock would not be open to fans. Prices are about what I remember, $100 for the three days.

The promoters are emphasizing Jimmie Johnson’s participating in the race.

Indycar Announcement of Schedule Change for Barber

Indycar’s official announcement.

INDYCAR Announces Update
for 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Opener
Series to raise curtain on new season April 18 on NBCINDIANAPOLIS (Friday, Jan. 22, 2021) – INDYCAR officials have announced the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opener at Barber Motorsports Park has been rescheduled from Sunday, April 11 to Sunday, April 18. The move results in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst being featured on NBC network television. A record nine events will air on NBC this season. It’s the first time the 2.38-mile road course will host the opener for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. A return to the popular Birmingham, Alabama, racecourse leads an opening stretch of four races in 15 days with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (April 25) and a doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway (May 1-2) to follow. NBC will air the first two races of the new season and six of the first eight from April to June. “The schedule changes we’ve had, while partially prompted by ongoing pandemic conditions, give us a powerful start to the 2021 season,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “With six of our first eight races on network television and all in a more compact timeline, it’s an enormous opportunity to drive even more momentum as we deliver our exciting brand of racing to our fans.” Barber Motorsports Park became an instant hit among INDYCAR drivers when the series first tested on the fast and undulating circuit in 2007. A fan favorite, as well, this year marks the 11th time the series will race there, a tradition that started in 2010. Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden is the winningest driver at Barber, with three wins. Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato is the most recent winner. “Zoom Motorsports and Barber Motorsports Park jumped at the opportunity to have our event showcased on NBC network television” said Gene Hallman, CEO of Zoom Motorsports. “We are proud of the tremendous support that INDYCAR receives annually here in the heart of the deep south. The facility and museum are world class, and we look forward to highlighting George Barber’s vision in what has become a bucket list destination for all race fans.” An updated listing of green flag times for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule will be announced at a later date.
The updated schedule for those of you playing at home:

Season Opener Moving to April 18; Shown on NBC

The shift was bound to happen. As reported by other sources last night, The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park has been moved to April 18. The move allows the race to be on NBC rather than NBCSN. Barber is till the season opener and the Firestone Grand Prix of St, Petersburg follows a week later.

The NTT Indycar Series now begins its season with three consecutive weekends and four races. Following St. Pete, the series goes to Texas for a Saturday/Sunday doubleheader May 1 and 2.

Activity begins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 14 with GMR Grand Prix weekend.

End of Schedule Changes?

I wouldn’t count on it. With rumblings that the Olympics will be cancelled, NBC Sports networks will have a lot of time to fill. Like last year, Indycar now has some fallback dates. I doubt that any new races will be added, but Indycar has to do something to stay in public view between the Toronto race on July 11 and the Music City Grand Prix August 8.

Today’s move is the third schedule change and the season hasn’t started. Last year there were six schedule changes.

Race for Equality and Change Taking Proactive Approach

This week’s announcement of Paretta Autosport with technical assistance from Team Penske adds another dimension to the Race for Equality and Change. Paired with Force Indy, which intends to promote African Americans in the sport, the REC is attempting to expand the reach and appeal of Indycar.

Beth Paretta’s experience and her contacts in motorsports is a plus for the new team.

Beth Paretta

Bringing Simona De Silvestro back to the Indianapolis 500 is a great move. De Silvestro has endured all kinds of misfortune at IMS from fire to uncompetitive cars. This might be her best shot at success.

Simona De Silvestro

The next step for the Race fo Equality and Change is to bring other interested teams and individuals. I would love to see Jacki Henricher become involved with Indycar.

St. Pete Moves to April 25; Barber Inherits Season Opener

From Indycar this morning:

INDYCAR Announces Update
to 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Schedule
Series to return to popular Streets of St. Petersburg in April INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021) – INDYCAR officials have announced the 2021 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being rescheduled for Sunday, April 25 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The move creates a condensed, action-packed early-season schedule for 2021. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES returns to the Streets of St. Petersburg after Josef Newgarden’s thrilling win last October, which culminated with Scott Dixon’s sixth series title. NBC will remain as the television home of this year’s race on the tight, demanding street layout. “It’s not surprising that an event of this magnitude, scheduled for the first week of March, is still subject to the implications of the pandemic,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “We’re delighted we were able to work with Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration and Green Savoree Racing Promotions to find a more suitable date, which helps consolidate the beginning of our schedule and allows us to stay on NBC network television.” Due to the move, Barber Motorsports Park becomes the host of the season opener as the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will raise the curtain on the 2021 season. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will mark the 18th NTT INDYCAR SERIES event in the Sunshine City. The traditional season opener since 2011 and a fan favorite on the INDYCAR schedule, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg received a three-year title sponsorship extension from Bridgestone Americas, Inc. last October. “We appreciate the officials at INDYCAR for their support in setting a new date for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and also to Mayor Kriseman and his team at the City of St. Petersburg for identifying a time when it will be conducive for more fans to attend,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of GSSP, organizers of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “We are grateful to keep the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the springtime window and also maintain the live national broadcast coverage of the race on NBC.” An updated listing of green flag times for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule will be announced at a later date.

Quick Thoughts- Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

I love watching a track come alive on race morning. It’s fun seeing the energy build among the fans and teams.

Age and experience beat youth everytime.

Takuma Sato was unstoppable this weekend. He has won two of the last five races going back to Portland in 2018.

There were terrific battles throughout the day.

Josef Newgarden is doing the things needed to be champion. He fought hard from his 17th starting position to finish fourth. Herta’s issues allowed him to increase his point lead to 27 over Scott Dixon. I wouldn’t count Dixon out just yet.

Both Swedish rookies finished in the top 10.  Marcus Ericsson was 7th and Felix Rosenqvist was 10th. It was a good recovery for Rosenqvist who had some off track excurions earlier in the weekend.

Even though Power has won twice here, he seems to have some sort of problem during the race.  It’s odd to see a driver who has had a lot of success at a track run into so much difficulty the last few years.

Jack Harvey had another good run but it looked like pit strategy kept him from a third straight top 10, Still MSR is doing well this young season.

The crowd was still a good size, but seemed a little down from the last two years.

Baby Steps

Dragonspeed and  driver Ben Hanley have shown a gain in speed since St. Pete. After today they have just three races remaining in their short first season. It looks like they are on a good path to a decent pace.

They were not the last car running today.

Look for my full race report tomorrow on Wildfire Sports. Thanks for following along this weekend.

Photo: Sato’s crew celebrates after the checkered flag.

 

 

Race Day at Barber

Above: Takuma Sato begins celebrating the pole before he gets out of the car.

Good morning from Barber Motorsports Park The 10th Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama begins at 4pm Eastern today on NBCSN.

Indycar has a 30 minute warm-up session at 12:10 Eastern. It is available for viewing on NBC Gold.

This should be an interesting race.  No one has won here starting further back than 9th. The pole winner has won seven times.

Once the ( shameless blog plug) Pit Window opens we could see constant traffic down pit road.

In spite of all the off road excursions during practice, this could be a caution free race.

It should be cloudy and dry during the race, which eliminates one tire concern. There is still a question as to whether the reds or the blacks are quickest. Tire degradations will be a big factor today.

Back with updates as needed and Quick Thoughts after the race. Look for a full recap on Wildfire Sports later tonigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts on Barber Qualifying

That was a refreshing qualifying session on many levels. It was green all the way. No Penske cars in the Fast Six for the first time since 2014. Five teams represented in the Fast Six. One team locked out the front row, and it wasn’t one of the Big Three.

Chevys are scattered through the field in groups of twos and threes.

Tomorrow’s race became very interesting as soon as the checkered flag waved on qualifying.

The crowd today looked more like a typical Barber Saturday.  The lack of rain likely helped with that.

Does any driver exhibit the pure joy of success better than Takuma Sato? I mean besides Will Power at Indianapolis last May.

Graham Rahal had his best race in a long time at COTA two weeks ago. Can he improve on that tomorrow?

Conor Daly won the Lamborghini Super Trofeo race today

 

 

Hinchcliffe, Herta Top Practice 3

For the second straight session, James Hinchcliffe and Colton Herta finished 1-2 on the speed chart. Hinchcliffe improved his time from yesterday afternoon to 1:08.7351, about two tenths quicker than his Practice 2 time. Herta was 0.27 seconds behind him. Spencer Pigot was once again the fastest Chevrolet with the seventh fastest time.

The session was interrupted by three red flags.  The first was Zach Veach, who locked up the brakes and slid into the gravel trap in turn 5.  When action resumed, Jack Harvey put his right side wheels into the dirt in turn 2, throwing grass and dirt onto the track. Ryan Hinter-Reay was the next car through and went off track in turn 3 but continued. Marcus Ericsson followed but was not as fortunate. He slid into the ARMCO in turn 2. The car suffered front wing damage. Following a restart, Graham Rahal also locked up and slid into the turn 5 gravel trap.

The session timed out but Indycar allowed the field one flying lap.

 

Qualifying Day at Barber

Good morning. Indycar qualifying is later this afternoon. The morning practice should be dry, but Round 2 and the Fast Six qualifying could see some rain.  Tomorrow looks like a dry race day with just a slight chance of showers.

Tires were a big concern yesterday as the primary black tires seemed to be quicker than the reds. Rain could throw another variable into the equation.  I’m not sure this morning’s practice will answer any questions.

James Hinchcliffe said yesterday that the support series preceding an Indycar session affects tire wear. Porsche GT3 qualifying is right before this morning’s practice. A Lamborghini Super Trofeo race is just before qualifying.The Porsches run on Yokohama tires and the Lamborghini series uses Pirelli rubber. R C Enerson mentioned on the track walk that Pirelli has the most adverse affect on the Firestone tires. The order the support series run should probably be taken into consideration in the future.

Where’s the Green?

Barber Motorsports Park on race weekend is usually resplendent in green with spring flowers in bloom. This year it is very brown with not much blooming. The race is two weeks earlier than usual due to Easter.  A colder than usual winter has also contributed to the look. I hope the race will return to its normal spot on the calendar next year.

Today’s Schedule (Local Time)

Practice #3- 10:45-11:30

Qualifying  -3:00-4:15

Practice is on NBC Gold. Qualifying is live on NBCSN.

Back later with qualifying quick thoughts and a full day’s report on Wildfire Sports.