By: Tanner Watkins
April 1, 2019 | 1:00 PM
It may be April Fools Day, but this weekend’s NTT IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park will be nothing to joke about given the event’s recent history.
Serving as one of the most picturesque circuits on the IndyCar calendar, Barber is a lot more enjoyable to look at than it is to master. Drivers enjoy traversing the 17-turn, 2.3-mile track due to its challenges, and to succeed at the Alabama-based track is an accomplishment in American open-wheel racing.
In recent years, those challenges have come in different forms. Last spring,
While Barber has a couple of moderate straightaways leading into braking zones that open up passing opportunities, track position is still a hot commodity at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Two drivers that will be placing an emphasis on a strong qualifying performance this weekend are teammates Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi.
In 12 combined starts between the two of them – nine for Andretti and three for Rossi – neither driver has found their way into the Fast Six for qualifications.
If you look at Andretti’s best start at the track – seventh, in 2013 and 2018 – and couple it with two dreadful qualifying spots of 17th and 20th to start this year, it is easy to understand why the No. 98 Honda driver is looking for a better view when the green flag drops on Sunday.
“So far this season qualifying is where we have had our worst luck,” Andretti relays. “We’ve had two really good race cars, but haven’t been able to show their potential because we’ve started near the rear of the grid. So this weekend, we’ll look to change our luck and secure a good qualifying position and build on our pace from last year.
“We want to leave Barber with the U.S. Concrete machine in the top five in points.”
For Rossi, the outlook is similar despite much more desirable results to start 2019. The California native has made the Fast Six in each of the first two races this season, and qualified on the outside of the front row for the inaugural Circuit of the Americas race. Currently fourth in the IndyCar championship hunt, Rossi wants to qualify up front and dictate the race from the pointy end of the grid.
“Barber has been a bit of an odd track for us in the past, but we have developed a new approach going into this weekend, so I am confident in our potential,” explains Rossi. “We’ve had the pace to run in the Firestone Fast Six at both races so far this season, and it will be important to keep that going this weekend.
“Barber is notorious for being a track that is hard to pass on, so we will need to start up front in order to maximize the weekend from a points perspective.”
In three races at Barber Motorsports Park, Rossi has completed each lap despite two finishes outside the top ten. His career-best result came in 2017 when he piloted the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts machine to a top-five finish. Out of Andretti’s nine starts, his 2014 runner-up result to teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay serves as a high water mark.
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will open practice on Friday, April 5 at 12:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold and the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network. Sunday’s race will go green at 4:00 p.m. Eastern and be shown live on NBCSN.
Header image by Matt Fraver/INDYCAR.