IndyCar – Grand Prix of Alabama – Preview

IndyCar is back this weekend, at one of the newer circuits on the calendar, Barber Motorsports Park located just outside of Birmingham, Alabama.  It is the first road coarse of the year and should provide a good change of pace from the two street courses we’ve seen thus far.  But who will triumph?

The Track

Barber is a 2.38 purpose built road course opened in 2003.  The track takes full advantage of the countryside’s natural elevation changes, featuring many ups and downs over the course of a lap.  It is a fast, flowing circuit that places a high priority on aerodynamic downforce.  The best overtaking opportunity is going into the turn 5 hairpin, although it is possible to get past going in to the turn 1 & 2 complex as well.  It’s a smooth track with a high grip level, so, provided temperatures do not get out of control, tire wear should be relatively low.

The Race

This is going to be the real test for Honda.  As I’ve previously said, they may have had the advantage on street circuits owing to their increased mechanical grip, but this is a track that favors aerodynamic grip, something, it would appear, Chevy has more of.  The increased time spent full throttle should favor Chevy as well if, as we are led to believe, they still have the more powerful engine.

Don’t believe me?  Chevy has won at Barber four of the past five years.  They have the advantage this weekend.  And, as no other Chevy team has stepped up to the plate, I see no reason why Penske doesn’t return to their normal place of dominance.  It very well could be an inter-team battle at the top with previous winners Pagneaud and Newgarden duking it out in the Alabama sun.  They will run away with the race, but as always seems to be the case, expect Bourdais to be in the mix as well, compensating outright power with an alternative strategy.  Andretti, after facing the utter humiliation of Long Beach, strike back to battle for points with Hinch and Dixon.  Dixon winds up best of the rest during quals due to sheer talent alone.

Quals: 1) Newgarden, 2) Pagneaud, 3) Dixon

Race: 1) Newgarden, 2) Pagneaud, 3) Bourdais

1st DNF of the Race: Kimball.  He takes out three people while attempting to give four wide into turn 2.

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