Leeds, Ala – Round three of the Verizon IndyCar Series season is set to take place this weekend at the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park. It’s been a wide open season so far with two smaller budget teams in Dale Coyne Racing and Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports reaching victory lane in the opening two races at St. Pete and Long Beach.
So far, Honda drivers have fared the best leading over 90-percent of the laps this season. Will that stay the same this weekend or will Chevrolet close the gap on the first true road course of the 2017 season?
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Fast Facts
Race weekend: Friday, April 21 – Sunday, April 23
Track: Barber Motorsports Park, a 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course (clockwise) in Birmingham, Alabama
Race distance: 90 laps / 207 miles
Entry List: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (PDF)
Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.
Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate
Event website: www.barbermotorsports.com
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com
2016 race winner: Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet)
2016 Verizon P1 Award winner: Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet), 1:06.7262, 124.089 mph
Qualifying lap record: Sebastien Bourdais, 1:06.6001, 124.324 mph, April 23, 2016 (Set in Round 2 of knockout qualifying)
NBCSN race broadcast: Sunday, April 23 (3 p.m. ET, live)
NBCSN qualifying broadcast: Saturday, April 22 (4:30 p.m. ET)
Leigh Diffey will be the play-by-play announcer for NBCSN’s telecast of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller are the pit reporters.
Radio broadcasts: The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network is led by chief announcer Mark Jaynes, with analyst Davey Hamilton. Turn reporters are Jake Query and Nick Yeoman, with Rob Howden and Michael Young reporting from the pits. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.
INDYCAR Mobile app: Verizon’s INDYCAR Mobile app is available across all carriers. Exclusive features of the app for Verizon Wireless customers will stream live through the app and include enhanced real-time leaderboard and car telemetry; live in-car camera video streaming for select drivers during Verizon IndyCar Series races; live driver and pit crew radio transmissions during races and live Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network audio streaming during all track activities.
At-track schedule (all times local):
Friday, April 21
10:45-11:30 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)
2:25-3:10 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)
Saturday, April 22
11-11:45 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #3, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)
3:15 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (three rounds of Verizon IndyCar Series knockout qualifications), NBCSN (telecast starts at 3:30 p.m.)
Sunday, April 23
9:45-10:15 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series warm-up, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)
2 p.m. – Driver Introductions
2 p.m. – NBCSN on air
2:35 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines” command
2:42 p.m. – Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (90 laps/207 miles), NBCSN (live)
* James Hinchcliffe completed the story of his comeback from serious injury claiming his first win of the season – and first since his 2015 injury – at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 9. The Canadian, who made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut at Barber in 2011, trails four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais by 19 points for the championship lead heading into this weekend’s race.
* The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be the eighth Verizon IndyCar Series event conducted at Barber Motorsports Park.
* Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud are the only drivers to have won at Barber Motorsports Park. Castroneves won the inaugural race in 2010, Power won the race in 2011 and 2012, Hunter-Reay in 2013 and 2014, Newgarden in 2015 and Pagenaud in 2016.
* Castroneves, Hunter-Reay, Power and Pagenaud are the only drivers to have won the pole position at Barber Motorsports Park. Pagenaud won the pole in 2016. Power claimed the pole position in 2010, 2011 and 2014; Castroneves won the pole in 2012 and 2015 and Hunter-Reay in 2013
* Three drivers have won the race from the pole – Power in 2011, Hunter-Reay in 2013 and Pagenaud in 2016.
* Scott Dixon has finished on the podium in six of his seven previous starts at Barber Motorsports Park – including four runner-up finishes – but he has yet to finish on the top step of the podium at the picturesque road circuit – one of the five tracks on the 2017 schedule where he has raced more than once and hasn’t won. Dixon is fourth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 40 wins.
* Eight drivers have competed in every Indy car race at Barber – Marco Andretti, Castroneves, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Power, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato. All are entered this year.
* Team Penske has four wins at Barber Motorsports Park (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016). Andretti Autosport and Ed Carpenter Racing are the only other teams to win at the track. Andretti Autosport won in 2013 and 2014 with Hunter-Reay. Ed Carpenter Racing won with Newgarden in 2015.
* Rookies Ed Jones and Zach Veach and second-year competitor Spencer Pigot will race Verizon IndyCar Series cars at Barber Motorsports Park for the first time this weekend. Jones and Pigot, the last two Indy Lights champions, have competed at the circuit in the Mazda Road to Indy, as did Veach, who will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut as a substitute for JR Hildebrand, who sustained a broken bone in his left hand in a last-lap crash April 9 at Long Beach.
* Kanaan seeks to start his 268th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Teammate Dixon has made 209 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the third-longest streak in Indy car racing.
* Castroneves will attempt to make his 330th career Indy car start, which ranks fourth on the all-time list. Kanaan will attempt to make his 329th Indy car start, which is fifth all-time. Both are competing in their 20th season of Indy car racing in 2017.
* Since 2012, the Verizon IndyCar Series has averaged 8.75 different race winners per season, including a record-tying 11 winners in 2014. There were eight different winners in the 16 races of 2016 with an equally tight competition projected for the 2017 season.
* Drivers may engage their “push-to-pass” for a total of 200 seconds during the race, with a maximum duration of 20 seconds for any one activation. The push-to-pass is not available on the initial race start or any restart unless it occurs in the final two laps or three minutes of a timed race. The feature increases the power of the engine by approximately 60 horsepower for 2017.
* The No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda crew of James Hinchcliffe won the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew will receive its $10,000 award during pre-race festivities at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA PRE-EVENT QUOTES:
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2016 Barber Motorsports Park race winner): “Barber is very unique in many ways. The layout is beautiful with lots of elevation changes, it’s a very challenging track both physically and technically. The site is an actual racing park with the most incredible vintage museum of motorbike and racing cars. We tested there in March and we found answers to a lot of our technical questions. After the first two races, let’s say that the Menards Chevrolet team went through a lot and still managed to bring a lot of points to classify third in the championship. We will continue to keep our heads down and work toward our return to Victory Lane.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m pumped to head back to Barber. It’s where I got my first win in the Verizon IndyCar Series (in 2015) and I’ve done well there. It’s one of the most beautiful and scenic tracks on the circuit, with a vibe all its own. It’s a wide but tricky track with a fun crowd, always ready for great racing. We’re ready to take the Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevy there and build on our performance at Long Beach with the goal of another top five in mind. Momentum and consistency is key in this sport and we want to really just follow that with our program.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): “Barber is so much fun. It’s a really unique place due to its elevation changes. We had a decent finish in Long Beach after some mechanical things with the car cost us a little, but we are hungry to turn that top 10 into a top-five finish at the next race. We finished seventh at Barber last year and, with the momentum the AAA Chevrolet team is slowly building this season, I know we feel great about heading into Barber with another chance to win.”
CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “After testing at Barber not too long ago, it’ll be nice to get back and continue the work we started. I was happy with our car at the end of the test, so I’m really hoping we can have a smooth weekend and get rid of some of the bad luck we’ve had so far. We always get a great crowd in Alabama so I look forward to seeing the turnout again this year.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I think the whole Arrow Electronics team is really looking forward to Barber this weekend. After two street courses, it’s going to be great to get back to a road course. The test there went pretty well for us; it’s always tough to know where everybody else is running. We’ve had good pace the first two races and we’re really hoping to carry that momentum, especially coming off the win at Long Beach, into this weekend and hopefully keep it rolling for the rest of the season.”
MIKHAEL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Barber is a very good example of great, classical racing. I like it a lot with all its elevation changes and very technical turns. It’s definitely a very difficult track but also interesting, and I think we are going to do well. I’m really excited to get back there.”
MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): “I am really excited to head back to Barber. We scored a podium there in Indy Lights before my rookie (Verizon IndyCar Series) season, and I gained some more experience there last year. It is an amazing track to drive and the grounds remind me of Augusta National Golf Club. I will be looking to grab as many points as I can with the Gallagher team.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): “Barber is demanding. It’s like a little bullring almost. It’s very fast and very high grip. There are both fast and blind corners and it can get narrow in some places as well. The facility itself is one to see. The track has done a great job with the park over the years and it attracts a lot of people, which is great for our sport.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): “We’ve had a rough start to our 2017 season, to say the least, so I’m looking forward to heading to Barber this weekend and putting those first two races behind us. The team had a good test day at Barber a few weeks ago and I think we left feeling good about what we needed to do to come back for the race as competitive as possible. We love coming to Barber every year – the place is so well-kept and the track is a lot of fun to drive. It doesn’t hurt that we always have a great fan turnout for that race, either.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “After having a rough go of it at Long Beach, I know the whole Verizon Chevy team is just itching to race at Barber. We’ve won there a couple times and have always finished within the top 10. Qualifying, as usual, is key here and we’ve got a plan in place to help with that. We’ve had good speed in the car in tests and races and now we need to turn that into results. We’re putting Long Beach in the rear-view mirror and head to Barber with a lot of excitement.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Barber is one of my favorite tracks on the INDYCAR calendar. It is a beautiful facility but it is tough both mentally and physically on the drivers. Our test there was productive, so with the changes we’ve made, we think our car will be better and more competitive than we were in the test. We need to continue the momentum from the good result we had in Long Beach.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “Last year was a great race. We got a good start but had a wing part that failed on the second stint that made life difficult when the right front flap fell. Otherwise, I think we would have been even more competitive in the long term. We were able to chase down the leaders, able to get by (Will) Power, Helio (Castroneves) and some of those guys and pull away and chase down (Simon) Pagenaud. Ultimately we had a little contact with him and got by and then just had issues with (Jack) Hawksworth, who was a lapped car. That contact kept us from coming to the stripe and getting a win. Overall, the car felt really good in race trim as it has the last couple of races there. My hope is that this year, we’ll be looking as good as that and have another shot at the win. If the wing part hadn’t failed and the flap hadn’t broken, I feel like we would have been very competitive over the entire course of the race. We would have been looking very good. I would have liked to have cleared Hawksworth quicker and easier. I didn’t force the issue. I didn’t realize Pagenaud was right behind me still and I didn’t force the issue and ultimately it came back to bite us. It was a great battle, a great challenge and right up there with some of my highlights from the 2016 season. Obviously, I was disappointed to not get the victory so perhaps from that standpoint, it wasn’t up there with Texas but it was definitely pretty good. In terms of overall competitiveness at Barber, the team does a pretty good job. We put a good car on the track and we seem to keep the tires underneath us pretty well. I think the tire degradation will be similar this year so we have to do the same thing and try to keep everything in one piece and wear everyone down. That should allow us to run right up front where we feel like we deserve to be.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I think being in the championship lead is a great story more than anything else, but it doesn’t change anything in our preparation. We’re preparing like any other race, at a track that I very much enjoy driving at and where the gap between the cars is like at Long Beach – very, very, very close. Which is also the beauty of INDYCAR these days. We had a bit of a difficult test at Barber last month where we weren’t very happy with the car and what we tried didn’t quite work. However, we then had a great test at Sonoma that allowed us to try some items for Barber, and we can’t wait to finally try those and see how they work out. Barber is a very demanding track both technically and physically. There are very long corners that are physically demanding. It might not be the most difficult circuit technically, but what makes it difficult is trying to find the right setup on the car. That’s the true test of Barber Motorsports Park. The corners are so long it kind of resembles an oval, where the quality of the car is what makes the difference on the timing sheet. To be able to put in a good time at Barber, your car needs to do what you ask it to.”
ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): “It’s a perfect start to the season with two top-10 finishes. It’s good to have a lot of momentum for the team and myself going forward. Barber will be the first track that we go to that we’ve actually tested at recently. Obviously, everyone else has also done that, but it gives us more knowledge going in. I think it’s going to be tough. The circuit is one of the hardest on the calendar both physically and technically. There’s a lot of long-duration corners and corners that require a lot of confidence. I qualified on pole for both (Indy Lights) races there last year and won race No. 1 in Indy Lights, so I’ve done well there in the past. I’m confident we can get the car sorted to work our way to the front again. I think my Indy Lights experience should help a lot, at least for track knowledge in certain places like Barber and just in general. The Indy Lights car is always on the edge, it’s a bit more loose and so it makes it, I find, a bit more challenging in the races to be fast throughout the whole race. Whereas in Indy car the cars are more settled. I feel like I have the confidence to push it further towards the limit consistently throughout the race in Indy car because of the experience I had in the Lights car.”
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “I can’t wait to get to Barber Motorsports Park this weekend. It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks, the fast corners and steep elevation changes are pretty unique and a lot of fun to drive. Barber has been very good to me in the past so I hope that trend continues this weekend. We’ve had a pretty strong start to the season in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka car and we plan to carry that momentum into this race.”
ZACH VEACH (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “First and foremost my thoughts are with JR (Hildebrand) and his recovery, that’s the most important part of this. My heart goes out to him as I suffered a broken hand a couple years ago and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. This isn’t how any driver wants to get his first race but with that said, I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to sub for JR. Ed (Carpenter) gave me my first chance to test an Indy car a few months ago. It’s going to be very special for me to be back in that same car representing Fuzzy’s Vodka at Barber. It’s going to be a lot to take in in a short amount of time, but I’m really excited to do the best I can for the team, as well as JR.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “Barber is a fun track. It has good elevations with beautiful greens and dense woods. Nicely flowing high-speed corners make it quite challenging, and I always enjoy driving there. We had a productive test at this track a few weeks ago, which was a warm day so much more representative of the race weekend than the usual cold spring test. Despite the track being very fast and a great corner combination, it is very difficult to make an overtake. So qualifying will be very important and the speed we showed at test was encouraging. We had a tough weekend at Long Beach so hope everything will go well this weekend.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda): “It’s really important that we look to this weekend to rebound from Long Beach. Somehow we are still top 10 in the point standings, and we don’t want to fall any lower. We had a good test at Barber a few weeks back, so we are looking to convert that into a podium or win for the (No.) 27 team.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We have one goal this weekend and that is to get back to our winning ways at Barber. After logging race wins in 2013 and 2014, we’ve spent too much time away from the podium here. The team as a whole has done a great job through the first two rounds of the series when it comes to fielding fast, competitive race cars. Long Beach is yet another race that slipped form our grasp, so we’ll be looking to rebound strong this weekend.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): “The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team has been strong at Barber Motorsports Park in the past, and it’s a race I look forward to every year. It’s just so unique. It’s always up and down, literally and figuratively, at Barber – the highs and lows of the elevation plus both high-speed and low-speed corners. Trying to master both is what makes it a challenge and can make or break your weekend. We had really good practice and qualifying sessions in Long Beach, making improvements every time we went out. Sooner or later, our luck will change and things will fall into place. More than anything, I’m ready to reward the (No.) 83 team for all of their hard work day in and day out. As always, we’ll keep our heads down and focused on our own goals.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda): “I’m very excited to get to Barber this weekend. We’ve dealt with our fair share of bad luck already this year, so hopefully we can translate the inherent pace we know we have in the car into a result.”