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2017 Grand Prix of Alabama Preview

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Momentum?  So far this season, it seems to be going in the direction of smaller Honda teams winning races.

Look Out For? We said it last time, Penske will eventually win this season. Will Power has two wins here, Josef Newgarden has one, Simon Pagenaud also one, and ditto Helio Castroneves. So, Penske’s drivers have won five of the seven IndyCar races held there up til now.

Sentimental Favorite? Barber is a newer event for the series, so we can go with the only two-time winners – Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Challenges? Barber Motorsport Park is a beautiful road course complete with elevation changes and long curves. The challenges will be two. First, rain is forecast for Sunday, and that may change the race dynamics. Second, it’s Alabama thus the food will be awesome and highly caloric.  I’m suggesting umbrellas and stretch pants.


SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2016 Barber Motorsports Park race winner): “Barber is very unique in many ways. The layout is beautiful with lots of elevation changes, it’s a very challenging track both physically and technically. The site is an actual racing park with the most incredible vintage museum of motorbike and racing cars. We tested there in March and we found answers to a lot of our technical questions. After the first two races, let’s say that the Menards Chevrolet team went through a lot and still managed to bring a lot of points to classify third in the championship. We will continue to keep our heads down and work toward our return to Victory Lane.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I think being in the championship lead is a great story more than anything else, but it doesn’t change anything in our preparation. We’re preparing like any other race, at a track that I very much enjoy driving at and where the gap between the cars is like at Long Beach – very, very, very close. Which is also the beauty of INDYCAR these days. We had a bit of a difficult test at Barber last month where we weren’t very happy with the car and what we tried didn’t quite work. However, we then had a great test at Sonoma that allowed us to try some items for Barber, and we can’t wait to finally try those and see how they work out. Barber is a very demanding track both technically and physically. There are very long corners that are physically demanding. It might not be the most difficult circuit technically, but what makes it difficult is trying to find the right setup on the car. That’s the true test of Barber Motorsports Park. The corners are so long it kind of resembles an oval, where the quality of the car is what makes the difference on the timing sheet. To be able to put in a good time at Barber, your car needs to do what you ask it to.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “I can’t wait to get to Barber Motorsports Park this weekend. It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks, the fast corners and steep elevation changes are pretty unique and a lot of fun to drive. Barber has been very good to me in the past so I hope that trend continues this weekend. We’ve had a pretty strong start to the season in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka car and we plan to carry that momentum into this race.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We have one goal this weekend and that is to get back to our winning ways at Barber. After logging race wins in 2013 and 2014, we’ve spent too much time away from the podium here. The team as a whole has done a great job through the first two rounds of the series when it comes to fielding fast, competitive race cars. Long Beach is yet another race that slipped form our grasp, so we’ll be looking to rebound strong this weekend.”

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Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.