The Warmup: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

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The wait is finally over! The NTT INDYCAR SERIES takes the green flag today in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park.

The capacity-reached crowd of 20,000 plus the 24 NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes set to compete in the race are up for an exciting day of racing. The weather forecast for Birmingham, Alabama, predicts a partly cloudy day with a high of 71 and winds below 10 mph – almost perfect conditions.

You can catch the action starting at 11:30 a.m. (ET) with the final warm-up live on Peacock. Then, tune in to the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at 3 p.m. (ET) live on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network. You can catch radio broadcasts live on network affiliates, Sirius 211, XM 205, INDYCAR.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile App powered by NTT DATA.

Here are a few things you need to know to get ready for today’s action:

Start Up Front, Stay Up Front

Only twice in the 10 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races at Barber Motorsports Park has the winner started outside the top five. That happened in 2012 when Will Power won from the ninth starting position and 2017 when Josef Newgarden won from the seventh starting spot. Three of the last four races, and five in total, have been won from the pole.

If you like odd stats, while the winner has always come from a top-10 starting spot, the race has never been won by someone starting in an even position. First place has five wins and third place has two wins, while the fifth, seventh and ninth place starting spots each have one win a piece.

That means pole sitter Pato O’Ward is the one to watch tomorrow. Tip your hat to third place starter Alex Palou with that starting position being the second most successful at the 17-turn, 2.38-mile road course as you put the final touches on your INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge presented by Firestone team.

It’s Anyone’s Race!

Since Chevrolet entered the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2012, the manufacturer has found a sweet spot at Barber Motorsports Park, scoring six wins at the track. However, Honda is close behind its competitor with four victories, including in the most recent race in 2019 with Takuma Sato.

It appears that whatever Honda found at the track two years ago still applies this year, as the engine supplier has four of the first six starting positions, including Alexander Rossi the top Honda in the second starting position. Additionally, Honda drivers were fastest in practice, with Alex Palou taking Practice 1 and Rossi taking Practice 2. But Chevrolet scored the pole with O’Ward Saturday.

Plus, the gap between the entire field is barely visible! In Saturday’s first practice session, the gap between first and fifth was less than two-tenths of a second, and first to 19th was separated by less than one second. In the second session, the top 10 drivers were separated by half a second, with the gap between first and 17th just three-quarters of a second.

In qualifying, the top five spots were separated by just half a second, and it’s just under two seconds between O’Ward and 23rd-place starter Dalton Kellett, who was the slowest driver to post a speed.

Only the Best Beat Barber

Barber Motorsports Park features 80 feet of elevation change that challenges NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes like no other circuit on the schedule. In the 10 races at the track nestled inside several naturally wooded and grass-covered banks, the winning roster of drivers is an exclusive club of former NTT INDYCAR SERIES champions or Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winners.

Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato have each visited Victory Circle at the track. All but Castroneves are competing in today’s race, which is comprised of six former INDYCAR SERIES champions (Power, Scott Dixon, Newgarden, Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais and Hunter-Reay) and six former Indy 500 winners (Alexander Rossi, Power, Dixon, Pagenaud, Hunter-Reay, Sato).

Don’t be surprised if today’s winner comes from this group of drivers.

Tire Tales

Firestone is supplying more than 1,400 race tires for this weekend’s race, featuring the same Firestone Firehawk construction used the last time the NTT INDYCAR SERIES visited Barber Motorsports Park in 2019.

But the primary tread compound is new this year and was developed to improve overall lap-to-lap consistency. Each entry receives six sets of primary “black” tires, four sets of alternate “red” tires and five sets of rain tires if needed.

From the fans