Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Preview

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The Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. It’ll be the first of three races of the 2014 season on a natural terrain road course. The other two are the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Sonoma Raceway. Some of you are probably thinking “What about the Indy road course?” The road course at Indianapolis is really known  as a combined road course which is defined as a oval track that features a road course in the infield or outfield.

I have always known Barber Motorsports Park as the “GORGEOUS FACILITY” as described by former IndyCar Radio commentator Mike King. Television probably doesn’t do it justice. Out of the facilities on the IndyCar schedule, Barber Motorsports Park is the most picturesque. I have had a few friends that have been to Barber Motorsports Park for the race and have given the facility some rave reviews. Some have called Barber Motorsports Park “The Augusta National” of race tracks referring to the host site of the famous golf tournament “The Masters”.

A Little Brief History

Barber Motorsports Park was opened in 2003 and it was built by George Barber. IndyCar first came to Barber in 2007 for a test session and it was a possibility that they would stage a race in the future.  IndyCar returned for another test session in 2009 and with strong support from local and state governments in addition to the large crowd attending the test sessions, IndyCar added Barber to the schedule starting in 2010.

Track Description

Barber Motorsports Park is 17 turns and is 2.38 miles in length. It features a few elevation changes and its signature turn is turn 5 which is known as “Charlotte’s Web”. “Charlotte’s Web” is the primary area for passing and yes a sculpture of the spider Charlotte is featured in the turn five area which inspired the name for the turn.

Track layout of Barber Motorsports Park  (Photo courtesy of Barber Motorsports Park)
Track layout of Barber Motorsports Park
(Photo courtesy of Barber Motorsports Park)
Turn 5 at Barber, also known as “Charlottes Web” (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky).

 

My stories to watch for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama…..

Will Penske Continue its Dominance at Barber?

Team Penske has won three out of the four events run at Barber Motorsports Park. Helio Castroneves won the inaugural race in 2010 and Will Power won the 2011 and 2012 races. Both will be considered among the favorites for this Sunday. Juan Montoya seems to have nearly dusted off all the rust with his impressive fourth place finish at Long Beach. Will Barber be the venue that JPM gets his first IndyCar win since 2000? Given the success that Team Penske has had at Barber, I think Montoya will be in contention for at least a podium. Juan Montoya has one win in IndyCar’s on a natural road course and it was at Mid-Ohio in 1999.

No More Seconds

Each of the four events held at Barber Motorsports Park has something in common and that is the same driver has finished in second every year and that driver is Scott Dixon. Scott Dixon will try to end his bridesmaid status at Barber this Sunday. Eight of Dixon’s thirty three wins have come on natural road courses.

Scott Dixon has finished second at each event at Barber (photo by Chris Owens).

RHR Looks To Repeat

Ryan Hunter-Reay comes to Barber Motorsports Park as the defending champion of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winning the race from the pole a year ago. RHR had the car to beat at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach before getting involved in an accident that included his teammate James Hinchcliffe. Hunter-Reay will look to redeem himself by trying to join Will Power as the only repeat winner at Barber.

Back To Back for Conway?

Mike Conway is off to a fantastic start for Ed Carpenter Racing and continued it by winning his second Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. As Conway is only driving the road and street portion of the schedule and  will not be in contention for the drivers title, but will help ECR contend for the entrants title. Conway has scored a couple of top tens at Barber and was on the front row for the inaugural race in 2010.

Mike Conway looks to continue his impressive start with Ed Carpenter Racing (photo by Chris Jones).

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

(all times are Eastern)

IndyCar Practice: Friday April 25th 11-11:45am and 3-3:45pm.  Saturday April 26th 11-11:45am. Coverage of practice can be heard on indycarradio.com or you can listen via your IndyCar 14 app on your Verizon smartphone.

IndyCar Qualifying: Saturday April 26th 3-4:10pm. Television coverage of qualifying will be shown at 1am on NBCSN on April 27th. Live coverage on indycarradio.com and the IndyCar 14 app.

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama: Race coverage will begin at 2:30pm on NBCSN and on the IndyCar Radio Network. List of IndyCar Radio Network affiliates can be found here. You can also listen on indycarradio.com and the IndyCar 14 app.

You can follow the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Twitter @BarberMotorPark, @IndyCar, and #HIGPA

Fellow MTAF Wheels writer Shay will be present this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park covering the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. For updates from the track, you can follow Shay on Twitter @Shayzen. You can also follow MTAF Wheels on Twitter @MTAFWheels. You can also like Shays page on Facebook.

Tune into MTAF Wheels on Friday for another installment of “Sam’s Take”, the MTAF Wheels IndyCar Q & A.