The Calm Before the Storm

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*Please note this article was supposed to post on 04/27/14 at 12 noon, but due to loss of internet services in the Media Center at Barber Motorsports Park starting at 11am (CST), some information regarding times, etc. are incorrect in this article. The green flag start was at 4:40pm (CST) for the 2014 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. 

SAM_3364There is nothing quite like the calm before the storm on a Verizon IndyCar Series Raceday morning. Walking through the pits as teams prepare their boxes for “the big show”… strolling through the paddocks as crew members piece the DW12’s together and drivers filter in on their motor scooters is one of my favorite things to do. I can feel that electricity in the air, the undeniable energy that is circulating within everyone and between all of us. The anticipation of another race, another chance to shine and be our absolute best, another opportunity to learn from failures and another checkered flag to watch wave through the racetrack air like pure poetry.

As you all know by now, racing is more than a hobby or interest for me. It’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember and in the past few years it’s become a defining part of my personality and now, as a media member, a part of my life and my world on so many different levels. There is not a day that goes by… maybe not even a single hour… that I don’t think about racing, dream about being at the track, or soak in and appreciate that I’m actually on site, experiencing another race weekend. So as we kick off this final countdown to another green flag, I thank you for being a part of this journey with me and allowing me to do what I love so very much. There are not enough words to express my gratitude for your support of my work.

SAM_3351Let’s get down to business…

Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves are the only drivers to ever earn the IndyCar pole position at The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama – and on this, the 5th Annual running of it, that tradition remains the same. Team Penske driver Will Power, in the #12 Verizon Chevy, made his way thru three rounds of qualifying sessions yesterday to gain P1 for today’s starting grid at Barber Motorsports Park.

James Hinchcliffe, driving the #27 UFD Honda for Andretti Autosport, will file in alongside Power on the front row from P2, missing the pole position by less than .03 of a second. Hinchcliffe, who topped the fastest laps count during Saturday morning’s practice session, is still looking for his first career pole position – he will have to keep searching beyond Barber though. Perhaps he will find it next month during his two opportunities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

SAM_3329Hinchcliffe’s Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, in the #28 DHL Honda, dominatied Friday’s practice sessions and starts today from P3, on the inside of the Row 2. In the press conference yesterday afternoon he explained,

“I think it should be a pretty interesting race… I think it’s anybody’s race. Trust me, I’ll be pushing 110% if I am up at the front challenging for that win toward the end.”

SAM_3418Josef Newgarden had fun at the press conference, joking about the visit that he, Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe made to Honda that day after the Long Beach debacle, calling it “entertaining.” That seems to be a theme lately for the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver, as he spent a portion of race morning giving a cooking demonstration with football legend, Joe Namath! Newgarden donned a chef’s hat and IndyCar-emblazoned apron to kabob some veggies & meat, filling the paddock with an intoxicating & mouth-watering scent at lunchtime as he grilled up a storm with Namath. Newgarden is starting next to Hunter-Reay in Row 2 from P4. He & Hunter-Reay have seemed to make amends since their tangle up at Long Beach 2 weeks ago. “It happened. It’s a racing deal. I understand Ryan’s position. To me it looked more like a racing incident than anything that just shouldn’t have happened.” His comments obviously differing from how he felt right out of the car in Long Beach – glad to hear things are better and there won’t be any issue with them starting next to each other today. Newgarden was leading the pack with speed during this morning’s shortened warm-up session so he’s one to watch today.

SAM_3286Scott Dixon, with Chip Ganassi Racing, will be starting from P5 after a Friday that didn’t go his way and a Saturday thought found him 3rd fastest in practice. The magic number for him today is 1, however. He has finished in P2 at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama every year that the Verizon IndyCar Series has raced here. Will today be the day he finally reaches the TOP of the podium? Watch and find out.

SAM_3284Helio Castroneves, who won this race in it’s inaugural season and landed on the podium the past two years, is ready to be back on top of it. “Everybody has a good chance,” he stated, “It’s going to be a tough race. This place is typically not very easy to pass because of the high-speed corners. The tire consumption also is something that could be playing a factor in the race. That’s why it’s going to be exciting.” Helio is right, however the tire degradation may not be as quick as anticipated, given today’s changing weather conditions. Back on Friday, we had predictions of sunny and extreme heat for raceday, today however we are currently dealing with rain and a very ominous sky. Thankfully the storm cell seems to be moving through faster than anticipated and with any luck, it will be nothing but a memory by race time.

The race time has been moved to 3pm (CST) and we hope to go green at that time with no further delays. The severe weather advisory should be lifted by 2:30pm (CST). Keep refreshing my Twitter, Facebook & MTAF author page for updates as they happen today in Birmingham!