INDYCAR Pre-Race Media: Barber Track Trends with Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama race preview

TRACK: Barber Motorsports Park (2.38-mile, 16-turn road course), DISTANCE: 90 Laps (214.2 Miles)

TRACK HISTORY/TRENDS

This will be the 12th year that the NTT IndyCar Series has visited the scenic Alabama facility, with the only exception being in 2020 due to COVID. Last year’s race served as the season opener. This year’s moves back a bit to the opening weekend of May as the lead in to Indy.

  • Honda won the 1st couple of years at Barber, but they’ve won just three times over the last nine. That’s all due to Honda being the sole engine provider for the series in those opening two years of action on this track. Chevrolet is 6-for-9 on the track but it was a Honda who won the last two times out in return.
  • The pole winner has won this race in 3 of the last 5 years.
  • 9 of the 11 INDYCAR races at Barber has been won by a top five starter.
  • All 11 races have been won from a driver coming from a top 10 starting spot.
  • Penske has won 3 of the last 5 years and 6 of the 11 overall.
  • We’ve seen just 2 or fewer cautions in 6 straight years including 9 of the 11 overall.
  • Starting positions for natural road courses lately (since 2016) 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 7th, 1st, 5th, 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 20th, 1st, 4th, 1st, 8th, 2nd, 8th, 2nd, 1st, 7th, 9th, 7th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 7th, 5th, 1st, 2nd, 1st and 1st. That’s 37 of the last 39 coming from the top 10 including 21 from the pole and 30 of 39 (77%) from the Fast 6.


TRACK COMPARISONS/WHO’S BEEN GOOD ON THEM

While a road course is a road course, Barber is most comparable though to Mid-Ohio, Road America, Portland and Laguna Seca. Toronto, Long Beach and St. Pete are street circuits run on city streets. These other road courses are all natural free flowing terrain with some elevation changes. If you’re good at one, you’re more than likely good at the others.

In 2020, Penske and Ganassi each won three times on these types of circuits including all three at IMS and then swept the podium in one of the races on them last season at Barber. Ganassi then won in Road America and Portland while Penske won at Mid-Ohio and Indianapolis 2. For the other stop at Indy last year, Rinus VeeKay (ECR) won in May.

Andretti Autosport won the other race the last two years, both by Colton Herta.

Prime Sports INDYCAR Barber Preview Show Here

Scott Dixon and Will Power each won twice on them in 2020. Alex Palou started 2-for-3 last season with wins in Barber and Road America then won again in Portland. VeeKay, Power and Josef Newgarden won the other races.

If you go back to 2019, we’ve had 18 different races on natural road courses with 10 different winners. Herta has four wins while Power, Dixon and Palou each have three wins a piece. Newgarden (2) is the only other one who has more than one.

Penske and Ganassi each have seven wins on them. Andretti has scored five trips to victory lane on them too. RLL and ECR are the only other teams to have won a natural road course event since 2019 as it came at Barber (2019) and IMS (2021).


Alex Palou celebrates a win in last year’s race at Barber. It was the 1st of 3 wins for him in 2021 – all on natural road courses. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Favorites

Alex Palou

He won last year to kick start a championship season for him. Three of his wins in 2021 came on natural road courses like this one. He has 2 podiums in 3 races run this season.

Josef Newgarden

He’s won this race in two of the last four years including three wins in the last six overall at Barber. Newgarden, has a top four in five of his last six Barber starts and enters having won two straight races on the season.

Scott Dixon

He’s never won at Barber before, but Dixon does have six runner-up’s. Furthermore, he’s had a podium in 9 of 11 tries. He has 3 straight top 8 finishes on the season.

Pato O’Ward

He started on the pole and if not for having an early race puncture, he likely would have won. He enters with some much needed momentum.

Will Power

He was runner-up last year and has seven top fives in his last eight Barber starts. The only thing is, his second place run in 2021 was his first podium here since 2013 too. He also has 3 straight top 4’s to start the season off with.


Sleepers

Alexander Rossi

He’s eyeing a bounceback season that so far, has been anything but. While he’s never won at Barber before either, he does have two fifth place finishes in four years. Last year, he qualified on the front row before pitting at the wrong time for his first stop.

Romain Grosjean

His best races were on these types of tracks last season. He finished 10th here as a prime example. Now he’s in an Andretti car and coming off of a runner-up in Long Beach.

Rinus VeeKay

He won at Indy last year and sixth in this very race.

Graham Rahal

Worth a look. Rahal has four top seven’s in his last six Barber starts.


Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward battle on track last year at Barber. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Preview

The schedule is finally going to start really ramping up now. After just 3 races in the first 63 days of the season, we’ll now have action for the series in 6 of the next 7 weekend’s. While it’s coming to May and all the attention soon falls to Indianapolis, we first have to get through Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (1 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). You don’t really start discussing points standings and a championship yet and quite honestly that usually starts post Indy 500, it’s never to early to get a quick peek.

Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing combine to have the entire top 5 in points at the moment and have also combined to have taken 8 of the 9 podium spots available thus far. They also swept the entire top 7 in the final finishing order in Texas and then the next time up, took 3 of the top 4 in Long Beach including 4 of the top 6 overall.

On top of that, the icing on the cake is the fact that both Penske and Ganassi have also combined to win nine straight series titles including 13 of the last 14 in general.

Since the start of the 2019 season, Penske has won 22 times. Ganassi is behind them at 13. Andretti is third, but they have just six trips to victory lane in that span. Ganassi has more than doubled Andretti which is a large gap now between second and third.

Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing is fourth with three victories, so half of Andretti’s total which honestly may have Andretti in third all by themselves. But, if you go in the Aeroscreen era (2020-present) Andretti has four wins with Arrow McLaren SP with two. Penske has 13 and Ganassi 11.

They’ve combined to win 5 of the last 6 at Barber…

Alex Palou has 2 podiums in 3 starts this season and won this race last year. In fact, all 3 of his wins came on natural terrain tracks. He’ll have to hold off Josef Newgarden though who’s won in each of the last two races of the season on two different types of tracks. His next win will get him the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge.

The challenge offered by the industrial staffing giant is a bonus of $1 million to be awarded to the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver who can win on all three unique styles of tracks – street circuits, road courses and ovals – this season. The reward, if earned, will be divided, with $500,000 shared by the driver and his team and $500,000 presented to their chosen charity.

Newgarden already has won this season on an oval (Texas Motor Speedway) and a street circuit (Long Beach). His first opportunity for a road course victory comes at the next event, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst on May 1 at Barber Motorsports Park, where he has three career INDYCAR SERIES victories (2015, 2017, 2018).

He and Palou have won 3 of the last 4 in Barber.

Will Power has 3 straight top 4 finishes to start the season off with. Last time he did that, he won the championship in 2014. He has seven top fives in his last eight Barber starts.

Of Note

This is only the second time since 2013 that we’ve had a race away from Indy during the Month of May.


Key Stat

Starting position matters here. All 11 race winners have come from a top 10 starting spot with 9 of the 11 from the top five at that.

17 comments

  1. […] LEEDS, Ala — Heading into this weekend’s fourth NTT INDYCAR Series race of the 2022 season, most felt like if the pole was going to come from the Chevrolet camp that it would be via Team Penske or Arrow McLaren SP. Combined, the duo has won 6 of the last 7 poles are the Barber Motorsports Park. […]

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