Good morning to all INDYCAR fans across the country as we get set for our third consecutive race weekend and fourth round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship this Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park.
In a compelling start to the year, three different drivers have taken victory in the first three races of the season with drama at each stop along the way. At the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, rookie Robert Wickens dominated for much of the day before a late run-in with Alexander Rossi placed the ever-ready Sebastien Bourdais at the top step of the podium.
After three weeks off, the teams started their two-round west coast swing by stopping for 200 laps in the Arizona desert. Again, Wickens was strong while he fought challengers such as his teammate James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden.
Rossi would contend late after making a furious charge through the field, though the race would be decided when Newgarden devoured Wickens on fresh tires after a multi-lap fight.
Last weekend in the streets of Long Beach, it was Rossi who finally took to the spotlight for the right reasons in 2018 as he dominated the entire weekend with an impressive display of driving. While securing the home state victory, Rossi assumes the points lead heading into this weekend’s round at Barber Motorsports Park following two third place finishes and a win to start 2018.
With Rossi, Newgarden, Bourdais, Dixon, Hunter-Reay and the rest of the INDYCAR show on location in Alabama, Open-Wheels is happy to present our Race Set-Up for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Check out our headlines to follow for the race below as well as the Fast Facts provided by INDYCAR Media to keep you in-tune with the weekend’s proceedings.
We mentioned it earlier but we will say it again – Alexander Rossi is as hot as a pistol right now. He kicked off the first two races of the season with third place finishes while each event concluded with a different feel. After he received a rash of criticism for a late-race collision with Wickens in St. Pete, the third place finish achieved in Phoenix garnered rave reviews as Rossi un-lapped himself under green flag conditions and tore through the field.
Entering this weekend’s festivities he leads defending series champion Josef Newgarden by 22 points in the latest standings.
Despite picking up seven podium finishes in his previous eight starts at the Alabama road course, veteran Scott Dixon has yet to capture victory at Barber Motorsports Park. Five times he has finished second, so the Chip Ganassi Racing driver (currently 6th in the championship) will be looking to capitalize on the demanding and flowing circuit ahead of him this weekend.
“We’ve been coming to Barber since 2010,” Dixon recalled in an INDYCAR release. “it’s been a really good track for us, but we’ve yet to win it. I think we’ve been on the podium nearly every race, with five or so of those being second-place finishes. It’s such a great event and you can really see what a great job the track does with the crowds growing year over year.
“Hopefully, this will be our year with the PNC Bank car.”
Another man to watch will be Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay. The American driver was off to a fine start in 2018 with back-to-back top-five finishes at St. Petersburg and Phoenix before enduring a “complete nightmare” at Long Beach which left him finishing 20th.
Hunter-Reay is one of three drivers in the field who have won at Barber Motorsports Park twice; the other two are Team Penske’s Will Power and Josef Newgarden.
To use a golf term, Hunter-Reay will be pin-seeking this weekend as he sets his sights on one finishing position in particular.
“There’s only one goal for the (No.) 28 team at Barber this weekend, and that’s to grab our third victory at this track,” Hunter-Reay said. “The season started off OK with two top-fives, but then we took a hit with luck in Long Beach. We had a productive test at Barber a few weeks ago, but we were unable to run through our full test list due to weather. We have quite a lot of work to get done in the practice sessions in order to get the car into our ideal setup window before the race. I have no doubt the DHL team will work hard at it.”
Finally, what will Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Robert Wickens do? This seems to be a course that he could adapt well to in an Indy car due to his DTM experience, but after strong runs at St. Petersburg and Phoenix, the results have been a bit up-and-down as he sits 12th in the championship.
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will go green on Sunday, April 22 at 3:00 PM Eastern time. The race can be viewed on NBCSN. Check out some fast facts below to help guide you through race weekend in Alabama.
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Fast Facts
Race weekend: Friday, April 20 – Sunday, April 22
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
Twitter: @BarberMotorPark @IndyCar, #HIGPA, #IndyCar
Event website: www.barberracingevents.com
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com
2017 race winner: Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet)
2017 Verizon P1 Award winner: Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet),1:06.9614, 123.653 mph
Qualifying lap record: Sebastien Bourdais, 1:06.6001, 124.324 mph, April 23, 2016 (Round 2 of knockout qualifying)
NBCSN qualifying telecast: Saturday, April 21 (4 p.m. ET, live)
NBCSN race telecast: Sunday, April 22 (3 p.m. ET, live)
Leigh Diffey will be the play-by-play announcer for NBCSN’s telecast of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First 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 Anders Krohn. Turn reporters are Jake Query and Nick Yeoman, with Dave Furst, 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 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying is broadcast on Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app and Verizon IndyCar Series practices are broadcast on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
At-track schedule (all times local):
Friday, April 20
11:15 a.m.-Noon – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)
2:50-3:50 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)
3:55-4:10 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series pit stop practice, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)
Saturday, April 21
10:50-11:35 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #3, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)
3:00 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (three rounds of Verizon IndyCar Series knockout qualifications), NBCSN (live)
Sunday, April 22
2:00 p.m. – Driver introductions
2:00 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)