Leeds, Ala – We’re only two races into the Verizon IndyCar Series season, and with all the expectations that Team Penske will run away with this year’s championships, they surprisingly only have two drivers in the top five of the standings right now. They’ve also yet to reach victory lane too, which in my mind, despite their slow start, could change as quickly as this weekend.
The series visits the Barber Motorsports Park for the eighth annual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. The scenic Alabama road course has been very kind to the Penske drivers over the years, as they’ve won four of the seven trips to the 2.3-mile facility including the first three years of going there. But, if you factor Josef Newgarden into the equation now, with the American winning the 2015 race for CFH Racing, Penske has drivers in their organization that has won five of the seven races.
The only other driver entering this weekend’s race to have won at Barber not currently in the Penske organization is Ryan Hunter-Reay who won in back-to-back years in 2013 and again in 2014. Other than that, the winners at Barber are all on the Penske roster.
Will Power has done the best among the Penske drivers with seven top fives in as many tries. He’s won twice (2011, 2012) there with his other finishes being fourth, fifth, fifth, fourth and fourth respectively.
Simon Pagenaud too has had a ton of success at Barber with finishes of eighth, fifth, sixth, fourth, ninth and first respectively himself.
Helio Castroneves won the inaugural event in 2010, and had finishes of seventh, third and third respectively in the three years after his win in 2010. But, he has since struggled a bit, with finishes of 19th, 15th and seventh the last three years.
Newgarden, has gotten better each year with finishes of 17th, ninth, eighth, first and third in his five tries. He, Power and Pagenaud will certainly be the favorites this weekend.
That’s why it should be no surprise that Penske was strong in the test here on March 21 and backed that up with even more speed in practice on Friday.
In that test, Penske cars has three of the top four overall laps with Power being third and first respectively in the two sessions a month ago. Pagenaud was seventh and 10th, while Newgarden was eighth and third respectively. Castroneves was 10th and 11th himself.
In Friday’s two practice sessions, Penske flexed their muscle even more. In session No. 1, they swept the top four spots on the speed chart. Pagenaud (1:08.1104-seconds) was fastest, Newgarden (1:08.1822-seconds) was second, Power (1:08.2186-seconds) was third and Castroneves (1:08.4112-seconds) was fourth.
In session No. 2, they had three cars in the top four and all in the top eight. Power was second, Pagenaud third, Castroneves fourth and Newgarden eighth.
Then, in this morning’s session, Penske had the top three speeds and four in the top five.
In qualifying, they had the top three speeds and will see all four start in the top seven.
To me, Penske is the team to watch this weekend.