This article was originally published on MTAF Wheels, which is now dark. Thank you for enjoying it here, through the Live Full Throttle Archives.
Chevrolet-powered Verizon IndyCar teams conquered the field in the second practice session this afternoon at a Barber Motorsports Park.
The Top 10 fastest laps were all run by drivers piloting the Chevy twin-turbo engine except for a P7 time by James Hinchcliffe in the Arrow-sponsored Schmidt Peterson Motorsports No. 5 Honda. The Mayor of Hinchtown has had a love-hate relationship with the road course in Birmingham over the years. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Be careful, some parts are kind of bumpy.
He loved this course when he started P2 in both 2012 & 2014. He achieved his best finish at the track in 2012 as well, with a P6 result. But he kind of hated it when he found himself stuck on an un-rescue-able spot of the course in 2013. He was stranded for the majority of the race… surely taking naps, pondering the feasibility of having a pizza delivered, and likely sad that he had no way to tweet about his non-adventure. One can only imagine the gems he would have come up with in that amount of time with nothing to do but think. Hmm, on second thought, perhaps it was better that way… maybe the world just wasn’t ready for all that awesome.
What the world is ready for, and his fans more specifically, is a pole position from the Mayor of Hinchtown. After 4 full seasons in IndyCar, Hinchcliffe has just as many wins under his belt, with the most recent one occurring at the inaugural Grand Prix of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsports Park earlier this month. He hasn’t had an issue finishing in P1, but he’s been unable to start a race from that spot. In 2015 alone, he started from P2 five separate times: Long Beach, Barber (as previously stated), the Indianapolis 500 and both races in the double-header weekend on Belle Isle. That has to be frustrating and you can bet he has his sights set on clean but aggressive qualifying this afternoon, in hopes of taking home that Verizon P1 Award.
The Mayor isn’t the only Honda driver that made an impression during the practice sessions today. Graham Rahal, piloting the Steak ‘n Shake-sponsored RLL Racing No. 15, clocked the quickest lap for a Honda in the first practice session, even out-running the defending Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama race winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport, who finished P9. Rahal has been consistent in practices this season, seeming to have an impressively solid handle on the Honda aero kit. Rahal’s best finish at Barber was in 2012, when he crossed the finish line in P4, just missing the podium.
It’s hard to say how qualifying will treat everyone this afternoon, given the unpredictability of the weather. If we get storms or rain, the track could end up damp or worse yet, with puddles and rivers popping up in inopportune places. We will wait optimistically for 3:50pm CT to roll around, and with any luck the blue skies will make an appearance for the Firestone Fast 6 and all segments of Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama this afternoon! If you want to see how it all plays out with your own eyes, either make your way to Barber Motorsports Park, or tune in to NBC Sports. They will have qualifications coverage starting at 3:50pm CT, which is 4:50pm ET for those of you local to my timezone this weekend.