AJ Foyt Racing ended Friday at Barber Motorsports Park with a 1-2 finish at the conclusion of both practice sessions. Takuma Sato (No. 14 Honda) and Jack Hawksworth (No. 41 Honda) ran fastest laps with nearly identical times, separated by only four-thousandths of a second. Sato even put his hands up at the post-practice presser, holding them about 6 inches apart and said, “Yes, I believe it was about this much!”
Hawksworth showed consistency with a P2 finish in both Friday practices and Sato is one of eight drivers that has competed in all Indy car events at Barber. This weekend could be the one that Foyt Racing has been waiting for – the last team victory was for Takuma Sato in 2013 on the Streets of Long Beach. Team Honda had a solid day – in addition to the Foyt drivers pulling the two fastest times, James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Arrow Global SPM car came in just behind with a P3 overall and RLL Racing driver Graham Rahal in his No. 15 Penn Grade Oil car ran sixth quickest on Friday.
Could Barber Motorsports Park be the great equalizer, as far as manufacturer competition, for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar season? This is where we saw Rahal make a jump in the field last year, battling with champions like Will Power of Team Penske and Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, all the way up to P2 with his RLL Honda. He secured his first of six podiums last season, right here at Barber. Two of those podiums were victories, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA and at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, OH. Could history repeat itself this weekend? Rahal is having another rough start to his season, just like in 2015. Over the past 7 weeks he has finishes of P16, P5 and P15 at St. Pete, Phoenix and Long Beach respectively.
We dealt with a bit of rain yesterday but those issues look to be behind us with sunny skies forecasted for today and tomorrow. I get all my information from Racecast Weather and I suggest you follow them to always stay up to date on weather for race weekends.
While rain should not be a factor going forward, I did want to make you aware of some information from the Drivers Meeting. Friday was considered a promoter test day so the cars were limited to 3 sets of Firestone primaries (black) for the practice sessions. The teams were required to return at least two of those sets by this morning. If they opted to keep the last set, they have to have them returned immediaitely after today’s morning session. The teams have seven sets of blacks and three sets of reds (alternates) for the weekend. Originally, they were not permitted to use the reds until Saturday and Sunday but due to the wet track for the second practice session on Friday, IndyCar permitted teams to use them if needed. Teams also had the opportunity to earn an eighth set of blacks if they ran at least 5 laps in the first 20 minutes of Friday morning practice. The previous time limit was 15 minutes.
On-track action for IndyCar today includes a 45 minute practice session at 11:00 a.m. CT/12:00 p.m. ET and Qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at 3:00 p.m. CT/4:00 p.m. ET. Practice will be livestreamed and Qualifying will be broadcast live on NBCSN.
Lastly, a few notes for the changes in Qualifying format that go into effect starting this weekend and going forward per IndyCar are as follows:
- Segment 3 of road/street course qualifying (the Firestone Fast Six) shall consist of six minutes of guaranteed green-flag time (Rule 22.214.171.124 of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series Rule Book). The timing clock stops during any red-flag situation. If a red flag occurs near the end of the session and the remaining time is not enough for entrants to complete a timed lap, all entrants will be given an opportunity to complete one timed lap when green-flag conditions return. In order to receive the one guaranteed lap, cars must leave pit lane within 30 seconds of the green being called. Previously, the rule called for Segment 3 to run for 10 minutes, with five minutes of guaranteed green-flag time.
- Rule 126.96.36.199 has been added to the Verizon IndyCar Series Rule Book, which states that a car involved in a red-flag condition in Segment 3 will not be permitted to continue in the session. Rule 8.3.5 remains in effect, stating that a car causing a red flag in any qualifying segment shall have its two best timed laps disallowed and it shall not advance to the next segment.