IndyCar Birmingham Preview

Barber Motorsports Park is the venue for the third round of the 2019 IndyCar season, with Josef Newgarden heading into the weekend at the top of the championship. The 2.38-mile road course is in Alabama and has been Penske territory for the past few years.

Newgarden’s lead in the championship at this stage is not an unexpected one, but the driver in second is not someone who anyone expected to be anything like a championship contender. After his remarkable first win last time out at the Circuit of the Americas, Colton Herta sits in second place in the championship, 18 points shy of Newgarden but with the same margin over third place Scott Dixon.

IndyCar’s first time out at COTA was certainly drama-filled, as was the last time IndyCar came to Barber, though for rather different reasons. Last year, the race at Barber ended up taking place primarily on the Monday, the day after the race was due to run. This was because of torrential rain that caused dangerous levels of aquaplaning, meaning the race had to be stopped after just over 20 laps and then continued as a timed race the following day.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

This didn’t stop Newgarden taking the victory, while his Penske teammates, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, had horrendous races, a trait that seems to have started to play into this season as well. This year, some showers are predicted throughout the weekend but, if the forecast is to be believed, there shouldn’t be anything like the downpours of 2018.

Barber is the third road course of the season, with the usual road qualifying and race formatting in place, as it has been for the last two races, meaning qualifying will again be the two groups of twelve halving until we reach the Fast Six.

Like COTA, there will be a 24-car grid for Barber, with only two changes since the last race. Kyle Kaiser and Juncos will not be present, and it is not known when either will be returning to the series. Ben Hanley and DragonSpeed are back on the grid after making their debut at St Petersburg, before they take a two-race break, returning for the Indy 500. Other than that, everyone else is where they were at COTA, with very few changes scheduled from now until the Indy 500.

As mentioned earlier, Penske has always been strong at Barber, winning every race here since 2016 and taking every pole since 2015. In that time, the pole-sitter has taken the win in two out of the four races, though last year was a bit of an anomaly. As for this year, one of the Penske drivers desperately needs a return to form; this is, as it has been for most of the last year, Pagenaud, who’s seat is looking more and more at risk with each disappointing race.

2018 Barber podium, L-R: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

Elsewhere, Dixon and Alexander Rossi could both do with wins, or at least podiums, to really state their respective intentions to challenge for this championship, or they will run the risk of Newgarden getting a more comfortable gap at the front. Herta will be looking to carry on his momentum from COTA however, he is not really expected to be in the fight for the win or even the podium, but, then again, he wasn’t expected to be at COTA either.

None of the Road to Indy programme will at racing at Barber, meaning it’s just IndyCar for this weekend. NBC and Sky Sports F1 will be showing qualifying and the race as usual in the US and UK respectively, and all the timings you need for the weekend are as follows…

April 5

Practice 1 – 12:15pm (EDT) / 5:15pm (BST)
Practice 2 – 3:50pm / 8:50pm

April 6

Practice 3 – 11:45am / 4:45pm
Qualifying – 4:00pm / 9:00pm

April 7

Final Warmup – 12:10pm / 5:10pm
Race – 4:15pm / 9:15pm

Entry List:

# Driver Team
2 Josef Newgarden Team Penske
4 Matheus Leist AJ Foyt Racing
5 James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
7 Marcus Ericsson (R) Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
9 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing
10 Felix Rosenqvist (R) Chip Ganassi Racing
12 Will Power Team Penske
14 Tony Kanaan AJ Foyt Racing
15 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan
18 Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne Racing
19 Santino Ferrucci (R) Dale Coyne Racing
20 Ed Jones Ed Carpenter Racing
21 Spencer Pigot Ed Carpenter Racing
22 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske
26 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport
27 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport
28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport
30 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan
31 Patricio O’Ward (R) Carlin
59 Max Chilton Carlin
60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
81 Ben Hanley DragonSpeed
88 Colton Herta (R) Harding Steinbrenner
98 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport

Featured Image Credit: Stephen King/IndyCar

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