O’Ward has final say in Barber and wins the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Pato O’Ward on his out lap from his final pit stop, lap 62 of 90, sent it down the outside of leader Rinus VeeKay going into the turn four hairpin, who had led the entire race so far, and drove around the outside of him coming out of the hairpin to go on to win the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

O’Ward sending it down the outside to take lead away from VeeKay (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

VeeKay had led the first two thirds of the race, with O’Ward following closely behind the entire way and closed up to VeeKay on their final in-lap on lap 61, to bring the gap down to under a second entering the pits. O’Ward had the final say of the weekend, as while VeeKay had took the pole away from O’Ward in qualifying on Saturday, a fast final pit stop allowed O’Ward to close up to VeeKay on track and use push to pass on him going into turn five and get past on the inside. O’Ward would lead the rest of the race.

Álex Palou sneaked into second place via the final pit stop cycle and would hang onto O’Ward for the remainder of the race, only being less than two seconds behind, but would never close up to O’Ward. VeeKay would fall off the leaders pace falling back to 11 seconds but would hold off Will Power to claim the final podium stop.

Pato O’Ward running 1st, Álex Palou running 2nd, Rinus VeeKay running 3rd (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

O’Ward talking in victory lane about his move on Palou said: “I knew if I had the opportunity, it would have been right then and there. Once we did that, it was cruise to Victory Lane.” O’Ward is also trying to negotiate a better contract deal with Arrow McLaren SP. The race victory is sure to help O’Ward in doing so.

The 5 team celebrating in victory lane (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Will Power had a remarkable recovery of a race after qualifying 19th to bring the Verizon Chevy home in fourth place. Power had been playing the long game and had taken good care of his tyres, allowing him to methodically work his way through the field. Scott Dixon as expected, quietly worked his from 13th all the way to fifth place by the end of the race.

Will Power racing in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

The race like previous editions, was a battle between the two stop and the three stop strategies. Josef Newgarden, Colton Herta, Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson were the front runners trying to make the three stop strategy work, pitting as early as lap 11 compared to the race leaders on the two stop strategy pitting around lap 30.

The viability of the three stop strategy would end on lap 33 however when Callum Ilott, battling with Helio Castroneves for 13th place, on the outside overshot turn seven and went for a spin, ending up stuck in the gravel trap, bringing out the full course yellow.

Callum Ilott racing in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

The three stoppers were forced to pit under the caution to stay competitive with the two stoppers and would have to come from the back to try to gain as many positions as possible by the end. Herta and Newgarden were the fast chargers for the first few laps until Herta would leave Newgarden behind who was getting stuck in traffic while Herta would work his way inside the top 10. The final pit stop cycle saw Herta find a new gear. While Newgarden stagnated in the midfield in 14th place, Herta made a hard charge all the way up to 7th, often by divebombing down the inside of cars in turn 16.

Josef Newgarden and Colton Herta on a charge both getting past Tatiana Calderón (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Being overly ambitious, Herta on lap 74, came from far back and sent it down the inside of McLaughlin in the turn four hairpin only to run out of space due to a turning McLaughlin, and ended up spinning out off McLaughlin’s left rear tyre and went for a full 360 degree spin before getting it going again. Herta would fall back to 10th place as a result.

On lap 40, Helio Castroneves took out Jimmie Johnson in turn nine, after getting way too hot into the sequence of corners and collected and spun out an unsuspecting Johnson. Castroneves was only told to give the place back by race control.

Romain Grosjean would get into a scrap with Graham Rahal in the closing laps. After reporting that Rahal was cutting him off in the turn four and five hairpin, he went down the inside of Rahal again, and side swiped Rahal aggressively twice coming out of turn five while failing to take the position.

Rahal immediately came on the radio and said “This guy is a punk. He hit me on purpose”. On the final lap, Rahal would begin running out of fuel, allowing Grosjean to slip past him for 7th place in turn five after all. Rahal would finish 8th.

Heading into turn four hairpin. Left hand side front Jimmie Johnson, behind Colton Herta, behind Simon Pagenaud, right hand side front Graham Rahal, behind Alexander Rossi (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

The race results see O’Ward move from ninth to fifth in the championship standings while Palou takes over the championship lead from Newgarden who dropped to third in the standings, with his Penske teammate McLaughlin holding down second.

The upcoming races sees the Month of May really get under way for the NTT IndyCar Series with the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the 14th May and the double-points paying 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 on the 29th May.

Full race results: (1st) Pato O’Ward, (2nd) Álex Palou, (3rd) Rinus VeeKay, (4th) Will Power, (5th) Scott Dixon, (6th) Scott McLaughlin, (7th) Romain Grosjean, (8th) Graham Rahal, (9th) Alexander Rossi, (10th) Colton Herta, (11th) Simon Pagenaud, (12th) Marcus Ericsson, (13th) Takuma Sato, (14th) Josef Newgarden, (15th) Christian Lundgaard, (16th) Felix Rosenqvist, (17th) Devlin DeFrancesco, (18th) Jack Harvey, (19th) Conor Daly, (20th) David Malukas, (21st) Hélio Castroneves, (22nd) Kyle Kirkwood, (23rd) Dalton Kellett, (24th) Jimmie Johnson, (25th) Callum Ilott, (26th) Tatiana Calderón.

Top 10 in points standings: 1st Álex Palou (144), 2nd Scott McLaughlin (141), 3rd Josef Newgarden (135), 4th Will Power (134), 5th Pato O’Ward (114), 6th Scott Dixon (113), 7th Rinus VeeKay (106), 8th Romain Grosjean (101), 9th Marcus Ericsson (84), 10th Graham Rahal (84).

Featured Image: Pato O’Ward celebrating his first Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama win (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

VeeKay outperforms O’Ward to score second career pole at Barber Motorsports Park

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus Veekay followed up topping practice two by bagging his second career pole at Barber Motorsports Park out doing Arrow McLaren SP, Ganassi, Penske and Andretti. VeeKay’s blistering final lap of a 1:06.2507 prevented Pato O’Ward from going back to back for pole position. O’Ward qualified second with a 1:06.4003 but said to NBC that a mistake in one corner cost him pole.

Pato O’Ward out on track (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

VeeKay speaking to NBC about his feelings towards tomorrow’s race said his “confidence is high”. The last time VeeKay put his ECR Chevrolet on pole, was at the Indianapolis Road Course in 2020, a race track he won at in 2021 after managing to pass Romain Grosjean, scoring his first IndyCar Series win.

Rinus VeeKay heading into turn nine (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Álex Palou and Scott McLaughlin qualified third and fourth respectively, both of whom were consistently the fastest drivers out of their respective team camps heading into qualifying after two practice sessions.

From a smashed up Andretti Honda in practice only three hours before after overcorrecting and colliding with the turn 17 guard rail, Alexander Rossi made the Firestone fast six and qualified an impressive fifth place. Rossi’s car had been pushed hurriedly out of the paddock with him already in the car to even make qualifying. Felix Rosenqvist qualified sixth making McLaren SP the only team to have more than one car in the fast six on a day where Andretti and Ganassi were expected to make up the majority of the field in the session.

Alexander Rossi out on track (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

What contributed to the shuffling up of drivers who made up the fast 12 and the fast six, was a series of red flags that ended the earlier qualifying sessions with time to spare, cancelling out any hot laps drivers were currently on. In round one, group two rookie David Malukas brought out the red flag with less than a minute to go after getting loose coming over the hill into turn 15 and instead went off the track and collided with the outside guard rail.

Even more unfortunate was when Marcus Ericsson got beached in the turn nine gravel trap at the very end of the fast 12 session, ending many driver’s flying laps. Colton Herta who had been at the top of the board for much of the session until late on, instead had to settle for 10th place after having gone out for his final hot lap later than he expected it. Talking to NBC, Herta said “Ericsson ruined it for us”. Ericsson was 9th before being relegated to 12th in the session for bringing out the red flag.

Colton Herta standing by his pit box (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Newgarden and Grosjean faced the same fate, instead qualifying seventh and eighth. Grosjean was expected to be making a run for pole for tomorrow’s race and had been hitting the top of the board throughout qualifying, while it was anticipated that Newgarden, the three-time Barber winner, would make the top five.

British rookie Callum Ilott and Juncos Hollinger Racing would have a breakout day qualifying 11th. Ilott had also been on a quicker lap when the red flag came out but said to NBC that he was very happy to have qualified as well as they had.

Callum Ilott out on track (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

A major upset in round one, group one saw Scott Dixon only manage seventh in the session and Will Power, the four-time Barber pole sitter who was fighting understeer in the car, only manage an 11th place. Dixon and Power will start 13th and 19th for tomorrow’s race.

Meyer Shank Racing had a challenging qualifying session. Hélio Castroneves while not making it out of round one, group two, finishing in eighth place, would also go for a spin coming out of turn nine after lighting up the rears on a flying lap at the end of the session, and ended up facing backwards on the inside grass patch. Teammate Simon Pagenaud only managed 12th in the session. Castroneves and Pagenaud will start 16th and 24th respectively.

The full qualifying order: Rinus VeeKay (1st), Pato O’Ward (2nd), Álex Palou (3rd), Scott McLaughlin (4th), Alexander Rossi (5th), Felix Rosenqvist (6th), Josef Newgarden (7th), Romain Grosjean (8th), Graham Rahal (9th), Colton Herta (10th), Callum Ilott (11th), Marcus Ericsson (12th), Scott Dixon (13th), Christian Lundgaard (14th), Jack Harvey (15th), Hélio Castroneves (16th), Takuma Sato (17th), David Malukas (18th), Will Power (19th), Devlin DeFrancesco (20th), Kyle Kirkwood (21st), Conor Daly (22nd), Dalton Kellett (23rd), Simon Pagenaud (24th), Tatiana Calderón (25th), and Jimmie Johnson (26th).

ECR’s Rinus Veekay and McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward will lead the field to green at 12:15 Central Time tomorrow for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. 

Featured Image: Rinus VeeKay celebrating with the NTT P1 Award (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media) 

IndyCar Race Weekend Preview: Barber Motorsports Park

After a three week break, the IndyCar series are back for the fourth round of the NTT IndyCar Series Championship, at the fast-flowing and twisty Barber Motorsports Park, the racing circuit located in Birmingham, Alabama.

The IndyCar series will race around the 2.3-mile, 17-turn circuit for 90 laps, a total of 207 miles. This will be the 12th edition of the event, with Chip Ganassi’s Álex Palou winning the 2021 race, his first career win on his debut for Chip Ganassi Racing which made it the perfect start to his 2021 championship-winning campaign.

Álex Palou racing in the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

This the final race before the month of May and the Indy Grand Prix (14th May) and the double points paying Indy 500 (29th May), but technically the Alabama race is being held on Sunday 1st May this time around.

The race weekend schedule is as follows. The first practice session of the weekend took place on Friday, which saw Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, top the charts with a lap time of 1:06.5149. Meanwhile, it appeared Josef Newgarden, a three-time winner of the race, had issues, managing only 18th in practice one.

Colton Herta in Friday’s practice session (Photo by Chris Jones/IndyCar Media)

Saturday sees a 45-minute practice session at 9am Central Time (CT), followed by the traditional knockout qualifying session at 12pm CT. There will be a final 30-minute practice session at 4:20pm CT.

While IndyCar have provided the teams and drivers with a healthy amount of practice for the race, it may not be as useful as first thought, as the state of Alabama are due scattered rain showers and storms on Sunday which may reach the track during the race. This has the making for it to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable races of the season yet.

Sunday sees the 12th edition of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama go green at 12:15pm CT.

Going into the race weekend, Josef Newgarden leads the championship by five points, after winning his first Long Beach Grand Prix, over Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin. Despite winning three times at Barber, Josef Newgarden had a nightmarish 2021 race when he got loose coming over the hill after turn four, before getting onto the grass and spinning wildly across the track, ending his day and taking out Colton Herta and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the process.

First lap crash triggered by Newgarden in the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

If Josef Newgarden does win the race this weekend, he will claim the PeopleReady Force For Good Challenge’s $1 million prize. This challenge tasks drivers to win on each type of track during the 2022 season; that being an oval, a street course and a road course/circuit. After consecutive wins at Texas Motor Speedway and Long Beach, Newgarden is just left with a circuit to tick off to win the grand prize. The win on a circuit such as Barber this weekend would earn him a $500,000 bonus and a matching $500,000 donation for his charities, Wags and Walks Nashville and SeriousFun Children’s Network.

Fifth place in the standings Scott Dixon, will be hoping to finally go one place higher on the podium and capture his first victory at Barber Motorsports Park, having been runner up in the race six times, and finishing third or better in nine of the last 11 races there, including third in 2021.

Scott Dixon celebrating with race winner and teammate Álex Palou on the podium after the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

In qualifying, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward will be looking to repeat last years feat of not only taking the pole position but beating the track record with a lap time of 1:05.5019. Four-time Barber pole sitter Will Power will be looking to make it five poles, last doing so in 2017.

Pato O’Ward taking the NTT P1 pole award for the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Chris Owens/IndyCar Media)

Twenty-six drivers are entered for the race weekend, the same roster of drivers from Long Beach, with all six rookies, Calderon, DeFrancesco, Ilott, who went eighth fastest in Friday’s practice session, Kirkwood, Lundgaard and Malukas who won the second Indy Light’s race at Barber last year, set to compete in their first Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

Callum Ilott in Friday’s practice session (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

Aside from three-time winner Josef Newgarden who won in 2018, 2017, and 2015, and reigning race winner Álex Palou, active race winners include two-time winner Will Power who won in 2011 and 2012, Takuma Sato in 2019, Simon Pagenaud in 2016 and Helio Castroneves in 2010.

Don’t miss the potentially rain-filled action thriller on Sunday. The green flag flies at 12:15pm CT.

Featured Image: The start of the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Photo by Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media)

 

IndyCar Birmingham Report: Sato dominates proceedings at Barber

Takuma Sato converted a slightly unexpected pole position into a dominant win at Barber Motorsports Park, in a race that could’ve seen a one-two for his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team.

Sato ran an almost faultless race to take his first victory of the season and in turn the first of the season for RLL. His win only looked in danger once or twice during the race, with the first scare from Sebastien Bourdais’ two-stop strategy and the second from an off-track excursion from Sato with only five laps to go. Even so, Sato took the win with a two-second gap over second-place Scott Dixon to elevate him to third in the championship.

The only disappointment of the weekend for RLL was that Graham Rahal couldn’t convert his front row start to a decent finish. Rahal had the pace to stay with Sato and hold second, but his throttle started to stick on Lap 3, meaning he had to have a long pit stop to correct it. Just after halfway through the race, his car completely died, ending any hopes of a recovery drive and forming half of the reason for the race’s only caution.

Credit: Matt Fraver/IndyCar

The other reason for the caution was an incident between Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton at pit entry that left the latter stranded in the wall, though he did manage to re-join the race, albeit two laps down.

Dixon seems to be making a habit of finishing second at Barber, with his second place this race taking his total up to six, all without a win at the track. He ran a fairly uneventful race, with the only major drama coming as a result of Bourdais’ two-stop strategy. After the last stops, Dixon had got back ahead of Bourdais, but the Frenchman stayed with him throughout the final stint, though he was never able to make a move on Dixon, meaning they finished second and third respectively.

Bourdais was the only driver to make the two-stop work, with many others bailing out and sticking to the safer three-stop. Spencer Pigot and Jack Harvey were the only other two to try the two-stop, but they finished seventeenth and thirteenth respectively, though it could’ve been a different story for Pigot had he not got a drive-thru penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Bourdais was helped by the one and only caution which ended up merging the two strategies, meaning he was not at too much of a disadvantage tyre-wise in the final stint.

Championship leader Josef Newgarden had a very impressive recovery drive, finishing fourth despite having started down in sixteenth. He made up a lot of places through the first two stints and made steady progress after the restart, giving Alexander Rossi a taste of his own medicine with two laps to go as the pair banged wheels and, for once, Rossi didn’t come out on top. Penske struggled all weekend with pace and tyre wear, with Newgarden’s result a surprise compared to Simon Pagenaud’s ninth-place and Will Power’s eleventh. It wasn’t just Penske struggling though, all the Chevrolet cars were off the pace with only two finishing in the top ten.

Credit: Matt Fraver/IndyCar

Rossi made light of what was otherwise quite a disappointing weekend for Andretti, finishing a respectable fifth after getting the better of James Hinchcliffe on the restart. Ryan Hunter-Reay was the next best Andretti, coming home eighth while both Zach Veach and Marco Andretti spent the day buried in the midfield, eventually finishing twelfth and fourteenth.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports scored one of the best team results since Toronto last year with Hinchcliffe finishing sixth and Marcus Ericsson one behind him in seventh. Hinchcliffe had been in a solid fourth-place for most of the race but both Newgarden and Rossi passed him on the restart, and from there he was unable to stick with their pace. Ericsson, however, spent the whole race passing cars and making some Rossi-esque moves to finish seventh having started way down the order in twentieth.

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Having won the race last time out, Colton Herta was brought back down to reality with a thump. He’d had some engine issues throughout qualifying that his Harding team had hoped to be on top of by the race; the issues resurfaced early on and forced Herta to go behind the wall. The team managed to get him back out on track, but it was only for a test session as he was already 35 laps down by then, meaning he’s gone from hero to zero in the space of two races.

After an eventful race at Barber, IndyCar head to Long Beach next weekend for their first back-to-back of the season.

Full Race Results:

  1. Takuma Sato
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Sebastien Bourdais
  4. Josef Newgarden
  5. Alexander Rossi
  6. James Hinchcliffe
  7. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  8. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  9. Simon Pagenaud
  10. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  11. Will Power
  12. Zach Veach
  13. Jack Harvey
  14. Marco Andretti
  15. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  16. Patricio O’Ward (R)
  17. Spencer Pigot
  18. Tony Kanaan
  19. Ed Jones
  20. Matheus Leist
  21. Ben Hanley (R)
  22. Max Chilton

DNF – Graham Rahal (engine), Colton Herta (R) (engine)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Scott Dixon
  3. Takuma Sato
  4. Alexander Rossi
  5. Colton Herta (R)

Featured Image Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

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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