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INDYCAR race preview: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Sunday, April 7th, 2019

Colton Herta. Photo by Matt Fraver

 

Courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama fast facts

Race date: Sunday, April 7

Track: Barber Motorsports Park, a 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course (clockwise) in Birmingham, Alabama

Race distance: 90 laps / 207 miles

Entry List:  Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (PDF)

Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.

Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate

Twitter: @BarberMotorPark @IndyCar, #HIGPA, #IndyCar

Event website: www.barberracingevents.com  

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2018 race winner: Josef Newgarden (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet)

2018 NTT P1 Award winner: Josef Newgarden (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) 1:07.4413, 122.773 mph

Qualifying lap record: Sebastien Bourdais, 1:06.6001, 124.324 mph, April 23, 2016  

NBCSN telecasts: Qualifying, Saturday, April 6 (4 p.m. ET, live); Race, Sunday, April 7 (4 p.m. ET, live). Leigh Diffey will be the play-by-play announcer for NBCSN’s telecast of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Robin Miller are the pit reporters.

Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Anders Krohn. Jake Query and Nick Yeoman are the turn announcers with Dave Furst, Rob Howden and Ryan Myrehn reporting from the pits. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama race airs live on network affiliates, Sirius 113, XM 209, IndyCar.comindycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT IndyCar Series practices and qualifying are available on IndyCar.com,indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app, with qualifying also airing on Sirius 113 and XM 209.

NBC Sports Gold livestreaming: All NTT IndyCar Series practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports’ direct-to-consumer livestreaming product that will put more INDYCAR programming content at viewers’ fingertips than ever before. In addition, full-broadcast, same-day replays of NTT IndyCar Series races, live streams of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires races, edited cutdowns of NTT IndyCar Series and Indy Lights races and more will be available.

At-track schedule (all times local): 

Sunday, April 7
11:10-11:40 a.m. – NTT IndyCar Series warmup, NBC Sports Gold

2:30 p.m. – Driver Introductions

3 p.m. – NBCSN on air

3:08 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines” command

3:15 p.m. – Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (90 laps/207 miles), NBCSN (live)

Race Notes:

  • Colton Herta became the youngest winner in Indy car history when he won the INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of The Americas on March 24. The second-generation racer, at 18 years, 259 days old, became the first rookie to win a race since Alexander Rossi won the Indianapolis 500 in 2016.
  • Josef Newgarden firmly established himself as a championship contender following up his win at St. Petersburg on March 10 with a runner-up finish at COTA. The two-time defending Barber race winner Newgarden leads Colton Herta by 18 points heading into this weekend’s race.
  • The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be the 10th NTT IndyCar Series event conducted at Barber Motorsports Park. Helio Castroneves won the inaugural race in 2010.
  • Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud are the only entered drivers to have won at Barber Motorsports Park. Power won the race in 2011 and 2012, Hunter-Reay in 2013 and 2014, Newgarden in 2015, 2017 and 2018 and Pagenaud in 2016.
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden are the only entered drivers to have won the pole position at Barber Motorsports Park. Pagenaud won the pole in 2016. Power claimed the pole position in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017, Hunter-Reay won the pole in 2013 and Newgarden won the pole in 2018.
  • Four drivers have won the race from the pole – Will Power in 2011, Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2013, Simon Pagenaud in 2016 and Josef Newgarden in 2018.
  • Scott Dixon has finished on the podium in seven of his nine previous starts at Barber Motorsports Park – including five runner-up finishes – but he has yet to finish on the top step of the podium at the picturesque road circuit.
  • Seven drivers have competed in every Indy car race at Barber Motorsports Park – Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Will Power, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato.
  • Team Penske has six wins at Barber Motorsports Park (2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018). Andretti Autosport and Ed Carpenter Racing are the only other teams to win at the track. Andretti Autosport won in 2013 and 2014 with Ryan Hunter-Reay. Ed Carpenter Racing won with Josef Newgarden in 2015.
  • Six NTT IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year contenders – Marcus Ericsson, Santino Ferrucci, Ben Hanley, Colton Herta, Patricio O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist – are entered. Those six, plus veteran Jack Harvey, will race an Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park for the first time.
  • Seventeen of the 24 drivers entered in the event have competed in Indy car races at Barber Motorsports Park. Nine entered drivers have led laps: Will Power 208, Josef Newgarden 133, Ryan Hunter-Reay 93, Simon Pagenaud 87, Scott Dixon 44, Graham Rahal 24, Sebastien Bourdais 11, James Hinchcliffe 2 and Marco Andretti 1.
  • Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 303rd consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Kanaan will attempt to make his 362nd Indy car start, which ranks third on the all-time list.
  • Scott Dixon has made 243 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in Indy car racing. Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti has made 219 consecutive starts, which is the third-longest streak in Indy car racing.

HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA PRE-EVENT QUOTES:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Team Penske Chevrolet, two-time defending Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner): “Barber is an awesome track. There’s always a great crowd there and it’s one of my favorite tracks we travel to on the circuit. It also helps that we’ve had some success there in the No. 2 Fitzgerald Chevy with three wins in the last four races there. But we’re hungry for more. This season is off to a great start for our team and Barber is a track we know we can continue that momentum at. We want to win races, but if we can’t win races, we need to at least be on the podium to keep this championship run up.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Happy to be back at Barber this week. It’s one of my favorites tracks of the calendar. I had lots of fun last year with mixed conditions and hope to have lots of fun again this year. We’ve had some bad luck in the first two races this year and I’m looking forward to having a solid finish this weekend, the No. 4 ABC Supply crew deserves it. Let’s go!”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda):“Definitely excited to get to Barber Motorsports Park. Obviously for us, the finish at COTA wasn’t what we wanted, but we had a lot of potential on Sunday and were on track for a good result before our incident. Barber’s been good to us the last few years; we had a podium there last year, qualified in the Firestone Fast Six. So I’m really hoping to maximize the weekend and hopefully find ourselves in a good position on Saturday afternoon to capitalize and bring home a good result in the Arrow car on Sunday.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I’m really excited to go to Barber, and I’m very fired up to be honest, after the first two races, which didn’t really go to plan for us. We had a lot of pace and looked really good in both races, but an unfortunate retirement in St. Pete and that penalty in COTA… Very hungry to bounce back now and have a complete weekend in Barber to show our potential because we have a lot of that. Also, Barber will be a new track for me, like most of the tracks this year; it looks really fun. I’ve been watching races from last year and previous years, and I’ve been on the simulator, so I’m sure it’s going to be a good track to drive the Arrow car on. Really, really looking forward to it.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 2018 NTT IndyCar Series champion): “Barber is demanding. It’s like a little bullring almost. It’s very fast and very high grip. There are both fast and blind corners and it can get narrow in some places as well. The facility itself is one to see. The track has done a great job with the park over the years and it attracts a lot of people which is great for our sport. I think I’ve finished second there more than any other track we’ve raced at. Hopefully, this will be the year to get the top step on the podium for the No. 9 PNC Bank team.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Heading to Barber, we have a few things to validate following COTA, where we set the fastest lap of the event in qualifying but struggled a bit in race trim. We believe we have found the reason for this and it will be interesting to see how we fare in Alabama. The track will take its toll on the tires, especially the front left, so management and race execution will be key to a good result. I’m not quite sure how the layout will suit us, but I’m keen to get back behind the wheel of the NTT DATA Honda and find out.”  

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Man, we just had some really bad luck at COTA. Something broke in the rear driver line of our car, which led to a DNF in a race I think we had a great shot at winning. I’m still really disappointed, but the team has been hard at work since they got back from the race to give me a No. 12 Verizon Chevy that will be really strong at Barber. We’ve shown to be strong at two different types of tracks to start the year – a street course and a permanent road course. So we just want to keep that momentum going. And it would be really cool to go three-for-three in P1 awards for the year.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Next stop for us is Barber Motorsports Park, a very cool and technical place to race. Weather hasn’t been exactly nice to us in the area. Last year we had a downpour in the race and this year our team test got canceled because of inclement weather. But we’re keeping our hopes up that we’ll have a good race weekend for the No. 14 ABC Supply car and also for the fans that always pack the place.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 One Cure Honda): “I think we are off to a great start and Austin was huge for us. Not only the good result but all weekend we were competitive. As we look forward, we need to continue to push and improve, but all signs point to us heading in the right direction and closing the gap to the rest. I think we are well prepared to show up and have the One Cure Honda be a pretty competitive car. While we didn’t test at Barber like some teams did, I think we have a good baseline to work from. With Allen (McDonald), Eddie (Jones) and the gang, I really think we will be able to quickly adjust and get ourselves in a good position to challenge right up front in Barber. We have had a lot of success there before. There are super-fast sections and crazy-slow ones.  It has it all and will challenge us every lap we make. Last year we were just okay at Barber. This year I expect a lot more.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “It was great to get a top five at COTA. Great job by the whole No. 18 SealMaster Honda team. I am looking forward to racing at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend. I think we will come off the transporter with a good baseline setup and can make the right adjustments based on the weather and track conditions. I’ve had strong cars there before. We just haven’t achieved the results we wanted. The biggest thing we need to focus on this weekend is to qualify well. If we can do that, if we can start at the front this race, we can have a good result.” 

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 David Yurman Honda): “The Barber Motorsports Park track kind of reminds me of a European track called Zandvoort. It’s really exciting with a lot of elevation changes. We were able to test at Barber last month, and it was a very helpful test for us. I had never been there before, so it allowed me to learn the track and helped us figure out how to implement my setup, my driving style, to produce competitive lap times. I think we might have found something interesting for the race weekend. We’ll see how we match up with the other cars on track when official practice begins, but I’m very excited to get going there.”

ED JONES (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet ): “I’m really looking forward to driving at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend. It’s been a tough start to the season for us, but we have shown a lot of potential at certain points during the first two race weekends. We just have to optimize that and put everything together, then I’m very confident we can have a really strong result. Though Barber has been a difficult track for me the past two years in INDYCAR, I won there in Indy Lights. I’m just excited to get going and see what we can achieve.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet):  “I always enjoying going to Barber Motorsports Park, it’s been one of my favorite tracks since I first raced there. It has a unique challenge of high-speed sections that are very difficult to get right. I think the gains we’ve been making will be effective this weekend and allow us to fight at the front of the field.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “Barber is a beautiful track which I really enjoy. The racing is phenomenal and I have some really great memories there of great races. I recall my first INDYCAR race there and also had a great win with my PPG Chevy in 2016. The No. 22 Menards Chevy team has been tremendous since St Petersburg. Results didn’t show our potential and we aim to focus on ourselves and keep marching forward toward excellence. We are focused on execution and with the way the car has felt I cannot wait for the weekend to start!”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Barber (Motorsports Park) is always a place I look forward to going. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful tracks we get to race at and the fans in Birmingham are incredible. Our team is excited to start the weekend and get back on track with the Gainbridge car.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “Barber (Motorsports Park) has been a bit of an odd track for us in the past, but we have developed a new approach going into this weekend, so I am confident in our potential. We’ve had the pace to run in the Firestone Fast Six at both races so far this season, and it will be important to keep that going this weekend. Barber is notorious for being a track that is hard to pass on, so we will need to start up front in order to maximize the weekend from a points perspective.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “The whole team is optimistic heading to the next round at Barber (Motorsports Park). The DHL machine has had encouraging pace at our preseason tests and the first two race events, so hopefully, we can keep that going this weekend and bring home a third Barber victory for DHL, AutoNation and Honda. The fans are always great in Birmingham, so I am looking forward to seeing them and putting on a good show.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “We have had several unfortunate circumstances at the first two events but (finishing seventh at the INDYCAR Classic) was a decent result. I am pleased with the team’s progress over the winter which shows that we are more competitive this year. However we need to work really hard to catch the front. We will be more comfortable in Barber. We know the circuit better and I believe our setup will be more suited for that. I am expecting to be at a high competitiveness this coming weekend. We haven’t done any testing at Barber for the first time in a long time in the offseason. We thought our value to go testing at Sebring, particularly in winter time, and prepare for a fundamental understanding of this year’s development was best. Unlike recent years of the preseason open test, which had been held on ovals, this year it was at COTA’s road course so we had an opportunity to test on that particular configuration. I like Barber .This is the place my first official IndyCar Series test was done nine years ago! It’s a good racetrack and a beautiful place. The museum is very impressive and I am sure the race fans really enjoy the weekends. The track is very challenging as it has a good level of elevation change with unsighted bends and a lot of flowing high-speed corners. The field will be very competitive .I’m looking forward to having a strong weekend.”

PATRICIO O’WARD (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet): “I absolutely love going to Barber Motorsports Park – love the event, love the track, love the people. I think it’s just a phenomenal place for the NTT IndyCar Series to come back to every year because the fans are so enthusiastic and the energy is always awesome. I’m especially pumped to get back to Barber because I’ve had a lot of success there and I’m excited to see if I can do the same thing in the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet. Last year in Indy Lights I won both in the dry and in the rain, so it’s definitely a track I enjoy driving. I’m looking forward to building on what we did as a team at COTA last weekend and hopefully come away with an even better result this weekend at Barber.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I love coming to Barber Motorsports Park every year – it’s just such a beautiful track. The track itself really suits my driving style and we’re always able to put on such a good show for the fans. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house and the fans seem to genuinely enjoy the on-track action, which makes it even more fun to race here. We were on track last weekend at COTA for a top-10 finish for the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet, but fuel issues ruined our chances of a good result so we’re really hoping we can turn it around this weekend at Barber.”

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda): “The whole team is really excited to get to Barber. The thing that we did in the first two races, which is typically hard to do, is build momentum. Barber has been a good track to me in the past in Indy Lights with three podiums. It’s just a beautiful track and beautiful setting. Arrow Schmidt Peterson was strong there last year so hopefully, what we have learned as a team combined with them, we can hopefully have a strong result. I’m excited to get our No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM car to the front.” 

BEN HANLEY (No. 81 10 Star DragonSpeed Chevrolet): “I can’t wait to get back out on track at Barber for our second NTT IndyCar Series race. After running the Sebring 1000 Miles WEC round, everyone at DragonSpeed worked extra hard to make sure we got in a day’s testing at Barber. I have to say I really enjoyed the track, especially after the bumps of Sebring! We are starting to understand what the car needs, which should allow us to start at a higher level than was possible at St Pete. So it’s heads down, shoulders to the wheel, and see what we can do this weekend!” 

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda): “Super excited to get back to racing the No. 88 car this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. I love racing at this track. I’ve won twice there in Indy Lights, so I can’t wait to get back in an Indy car this time. After our win at COTA, I’m hoping this weekend we can get another result on the top spot of the INDYCAR podium.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “So far this season, qualifying is where we have had our worst luck. We’ve had two really good race cars, but haven’t been able to show their potential because we’ve started near the rear of the grid. So this weekend, we’ll look to change our luck and secure a good qualifying position and build on our pace from last year. We want to leave Barber with the U.S. Concrete machine in the top five in points.”

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