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Heavy rain suspends Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on 23rd lap

by Mike Haag | Posted on Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Heavy rain pounded Barber Motorsports Park throughout the day and forced suspension of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First on Lap 23. The race will be completed starting at noon ET Monday.

NBCSN will air the Verizon IndyCar Series race’s conclusion live starting at 11:30 a.m. ET. The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcast begins at noon.

The field streams into the Turn 5 hairpin during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama — Photo by: Joe Skibinski

HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA: Unofficial lap report when suspended

The ninth annual Indy car race on the 2.3-mile permanent road course began in rainy conditions that grew progressively worse and substantially limited driver visibility. A pair of full-course cautions – the first when Charlie Kimball’s car came to a stop on track on Lap 12, the second when Will Power spun and hit the Turn 1 barrier on Lap 17 – preceded the first of two red-flag stoppages for declining track conditions on Lap 19.

Following a 37-minute delay, engines were restarted and the field completed four laps under caution behind the pace car before they were ordered into the pit lane once more. After nearly 90 minutes waiting out the rain, INDYCAR deemed the track lost for the day and announced postponement of the completion until Monday.

The race is scheduled for 90 laps or two hours, whichever comes first. When lead-lap cars cross the start/finish line for Monday’s resumption, 23 laps will be complete and about 75 minutes will remain on the race clock.

Pole sitter Josef Newgarden, the defending race winner at Barber driving the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet this weekend, led every lap until the race was halted and will pick up in first place on Monday. Barber Motorsports Park announced that it will open its gates and allow fans to attend the conclusion without a ticket.

“It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us,” said Newgarden, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion. “We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show, so calling the race, it’s tough to do that.

“But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then it intensified right before that first caution. It got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water.

“Look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s this type of track with this water level was too much to race today.”

All cars will be permitted to continue in the race except Kimball’s No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet, which had been retired from the race following contact with the Turn 17 barrier that preceded him stopping on track. Power’s No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet may return to the race, but has been impounded overnight by INDYCAR so that no additional repairs may be made. Once the race clock resumes on Monday, Power’s crew may continue working on it.

Teams may choose to restart on either the Firestone primary or alternate dry-condition tire compound unless INDYCAR declares a wet-weather restart, in which case the rain tires must be used. Teams may also choose whatever quantity of ethanol fuel that want in the car for the restart.

The last time a Verizon IndyCar Series event started on one day and resumed on another came in 2016, when the Texas Motor Speedway race completed 72 laps in June before being halted by rain. It was resumed two months later.

In August 2016, the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway was rained out on its originally scheduled date and run in its entirety the following day.  

Mazda Road to Indy race recap

Andretti Autosport’s Patricio O’Ward led every lap in wet and tricky conditions to complete a weekend sweep of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader. O’Ward won by 5.8325 seconds over Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing).

In the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, Harrison Scott (RP Motorsports Racing) drove to his first series victory. Scott inherited the lead on Lap 21 when Andres Gutierrez (Team Pelfrey) went off course. A full-course caution was ordered shortly after and Scott won the race under yellow.

‘What They’re Saying’ from Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama postponement

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2018 pole winner): “It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us. We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns 1 and 2, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form. Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s that this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before, but it intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands. What happened with Will (Power), I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. A tough situation. Thanks for the fans that came out and supported us. Hopefully we’ll get some people back tomorrow and we’ll get the show in and put on a great event.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): 
“Tough day so far. We had some problems with our radio and fuel alarm, but otherwise the car was alright. It was just too dangerous out there, we couldn’t see anything, so I think they made the right call. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s just a real shame for everyone on the Verizon Chevy team. The car was good and we were doing our best out there, but it was really hard to see anything in front of me. The conditions were just so bad. As soon as I got to the frontstraight, the car just came around, and I tried to keep it off the wall, but it was hydroplaning and there was nothing I could do. I feel bad for the team and for the fans in this weather. Just too bad. Hopefully our luck can turn around when we get to Indianapolis.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Very difficult day for us. In the race we were 13th at the time and we had some electrical issues, so that caused us to pit and we lost a lap. Not the ideal situation, but we don’t give up. There’s still a race tomorrow and we’re going to go for the most points. Anything can happen.”    

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue today, no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in today, but that’s life. We will go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want, but safety is obviously a priority. I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “As you could see on TV, if you couldn’t see the car, it was probably three times worse in the cockpit on the main straight or any straight. You had to completely trust the guys that they were accelerating. Never the less, I made good progress on the short stint and I made up a few positions.  The car was working well, but also was aquaplaning a lot, too, so I have to respect INDYCAR’s decision for everyone’s safety. Now we really need to concentrate on having a good car for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the fans that sat in rain all day, but thank them for their support.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a short day. In the beginning the conditions were not that good, but afterwards the conditions started to improve. The race was stopped, then restarted, and I think the conditions were not too bad at that point. Unfortunately, it was red flagged again and then cancelled for the day. It would have been nice to get halfway, but we will come back and try again tomorrow.”

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.