It’s time for the permanent first road course race of the season as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES takes the green flag today in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park.
A sold-out crowd will pack the 17-turn, 2.3-mile racetrack nestled in naturally wooded hills of Birmingham, Alabama. It’s the second consecutive year Barber has featured a race day sellout, as Southeastern race fans show their passion for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
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The action at Barber starts at 10:55 a.m. (ET) with the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Alabama, live on Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network. Then, the 26-car NTT INDYCAR SERIES field will roar into action for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at 1 p.m. (ET), live on NBC and INDYCAR Radio Network. You can catch radio broadcasts live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 160, INDYCAR.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.
Firestone is supplying more than 1,500 race tires for this weekend’s race. Both the primary and alternate tires feature the same construction as last year paired with a new compound designed to improve durability for more consistency lap-to-lap. Firestone will allocate six sets of primary (black) tires, four sets of alternate (red) tires and five sets of rain (gray) tires
Here’s what you need to know to get ready for today’s action:
Who Can Weather the Storm?
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES field is in for a very interesting race today as it appears weather could play a significant factor in the race.
The weather forecast predicts around a 50 percent chance of rain for Birmingham around the time the green flag waves at 1:15 p.m. (ET). The chances for rain decrease as the afternoon progresses. The temperature is expected to be in the high 70s.
That throws several wrenches into the Race Day plan.
First and foremost, a full-wet race opens the door for strategy to play a big factor. How and when teams elect to use rain tires or primary/alternate tires can alter pit sequences. There also are the risk takers who will try to compete on a damp track with slick tires to find more speed. Moral of the story: It’s a cat-and-mouse game you cannot miss.
Not to mention, should it rain during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst, it will be the first full-wet NTT INDYCAR SERIES in nearly three years. The last full-wet race was Race 1 of the Detroit doubleheader in 2019, won by Josef Newgarden. It was also the second consecutive full-wet road/street course race, as the GMR Grand Prix the month before was run in the rain. Simon Pagenaud won that race.
Plus, there has never been a full-wet NTT INDYCAR SERIES race since the aeroscreen debuted on race cars, making for a new experience for the entire field.
With so many challenges potentially being thrown at the 26-car field, today’s race could simply be one of attrition. The driver and team that can weather the storm, literally and figuratively, will be the ones standing in Victory Circle later this afternoon.
Start Up Front, Stay Up Front
Only twice in the 11 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 Newgarden won from the seventh starting spot. Three of the last five races, and five in total, have been won from the pole.
If you like even weirder 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 three wins, while the fifth, seventh and ninth place starting spots each have one win.
That means pole sitter Rinus VeeKay is the one to watch. Tip your hat to third-place starter Alex Palou with that starting position being the second-most successful at the 17-turn, 2.3-mile road course as you put the final touches on your INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge presented by Firestone team. That’s exactly where Palou started last year at Barber when he drove to his first career win.
Only the Best Beat Barber
Barber Motorsports Park features 80 feet of elevation change that challenges NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes like no other course on the circuit. In the 11 races at the track nestled inside several naturally wooded and grass-covered banks, the winning roster of drivers is an exclusive club of NTT INDYCAR SERIES champions or Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winners.
Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato and Alex Palou have each visited Victory Circle at the track. All but Hunter-Reay are competing in today’s race, which features five former INDYCAR SERIES champions (Power, Scott Dixon, Newgarden, Pagenaud and Palou) and six former Indy 500 winners (Alexander Rossi, Power, Dixon, Pagenaud, Castroneves, Sato).
Don’t be surprised if today’s winner comes from this group of drivers.