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(Photo: John Cote/INDYCAR)

IndyCar Preview: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Last weekend the drivers in IndyCar finally got out of their own way (for most of the race) and held a decent event.  After the messiness of St. Pete and the less than spectacular debut of the aerokits, followed by the rain-soaked race in NOLA, it was good to have some solid competition.  With only one caution for four laps, it was an actual race in Long Beach.

Though the Penske foursome has looked like they’re the team to beat, Scott Dixon provided a bit of a surprise by besting pole sitter Helio Castroneves and taking the win.  Of course, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud followed Castroneves, meaning that Penske took three of the top four positions.  The odd man out was Will Power, who faced a tough qualifying session, started 18th, then stalled on pit road during the caution, lost a lap and never recovered.

The series now comes back east to race at Barber Motorsports Park.  Obviously the hope is for another race like Long Beach, a relatively clean affair that showcases things like driver ability, team execution and strategy.  It’d be good if the weather cooperated as well.

What’s News

This race marks the third in three weekends which, in a way, is surprising for the series.  The quick succession of races has seemingly quelled any major news from being announced.  As the Indy 500 draws closer it would not be surprising for something of note to come about.  For now, maybe it’s best that all is quiet along the Indy racing front.

2014 IndyCar MidOhio Scott Dixon with fans
Scott Dixon looks to continue his recent success

The Track

Barber Motorsports Park opened in 2003 but did not gain attention from INDYCAR until 2007, when teams first tested there.  The track had been discussed as a possibility for the 2009 Indy schedule though instead another test session was held there.  The following year Barber held its first Indy race with Helio Castroneves taking the inaugural event.  Since 2010, the track has been a mainstay on the schedule and is signed on for the 2016 season.  The compact track is 2.3 miles long with 16 turns with notable elevation changes and features sculptures throughout the infield.

What’s the points?  Drivers

Juan Pablo Montoya is holding steady at the front.  His finishes of first, fifth and third have allowed him to eke out a three point lead over Castroneves, 119 to 116.  Then there’s a semblance of a gap back to Tony Kanaan, who’s accumulated 93 points, with Scott Dixon in fourth with 87.  The NOLA race winner, James Hinchcliffe maintains the fifth spot with 83 points.  It’s difficult to ascertain if these five drivers have distanced themselves from the rest or if this season may continue to feature bizarre circumstances.

What’s the points? Engines

With Chevrolet still reeling from the penalties suffered at St. Pete the goal is to do its best to recover.  That being noted, Honda is keeping the gap at 252-136.  The way that the bowties are running it shouldn’t be too long until Chevy takes over the lead.

Driver(s) to Watch

Sure, the season may be only three races old, but there’s only 16 races this year which means that Barber marks the quarter point.  Yes, already.  For Will Power this race is important if he continues to have hope of defending his series championship.  With two of his teammates already 30-plus points ahead of him, a podium finish is required just to make sure the gap doesn’t grow any larger.  That Power is driving for one of the two best teams and has won twice at Barber should all provide optimism – then again, he was in similar circumstances last weekend and look how that turned out.

Who Ya Got?

Thus far this season, I’ve picked Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, and Power – and have done magnificently poorly, like if I were a car running this season I’d be close to thinking that we should switch to testing for next year.  My compatriots have fared much better.  Using similar picks!  Oh well.  This week Toni Montgomery is going with Will Power, while Matt Stallknecht, who is leading this *&&%%*(((*^% thing, is taking Montoya.  Smart and boring picks.  If there’s any way to get back in this thing… why not… Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Matt2,2,48
Toni1,7,311
Huston15,20,2055

Coverage

The race will be shown on NBCSN on Sunday, April 26, at 3 p.m. EST.  Qualifying and all Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 213, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR 15 app.

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About Ava Huston Ladner

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As an editor, Ava works through some of the site’s biggest columns while writing one of her own on F1 each week. “Stranded” on the islands of Oahu in Hawaii, the aspiring college professor also helps anchor other coverage while coordinating Pace Laps, our multi-series news update.

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