Race Weekend Central

Friday IndyCar Happenings at Barber Motorsports Park

LEEDS, Ala. — Honda has put the IndyCar community on notice after the first practice session for Sunday’s (May 1) 2022 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

The brand’s IndyCar engines finished first through fourth in the first hour-long practice session on the 17-turn, 2.3 mile natural terrain road course as Colton Herta led the 26-car field with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 6.5149 seconds in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.

“Really happy with how the car was,” Herta said. “Obviously we were one of the lucky ones that got to test here so we kind of did a lot of stuff on that day to kind of help us prepare for this weekend. It showed. We came here, rolled off the truck, the car was really nice right away.”

Alex Palou was second in his No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda ahead of Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean, while Scott McLaughlin was the first Chevrolet in fifth place.

Of note, Callum Ilott was the top rookie in eighth place in his No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet. Ilott races for the only single-car team on the IndyCar grid in JHR and the team seems to have hit on a good setup right out of the gate.

“What’s different with this track is we did [the time] on the same set of tires as everyone else,” Ilott said. “There’s no rookie excuse on that one, which is good. It’s nice to finally find a bit of pace validly.”

Jimmie Johnson Goes Back to the Beginning

After racing in NASCAR for two decades, Jimmie Johnson started his open wheel racing career last year at Barber Motorsports Park. The seven-time Cup series champion finished 19th in his open wheel debut, avoiding a first lap incident and spinning his car early in the race.

Testing a Formula Regional Americas open wheel car helped Johnson get immersed in his new environment, but after a full year in IndyCar racing the gains are clearly visible for the Californian.

“It’s a big change, I mean we were here a month ago and tested and I was two seconds faster than what I qualified that in the race last year,” Johnson said. “Just understanding the car, a year of racing under my belt, all of that leads to those subtle, little changes that produce lap time.”

Johnson raced 38 times at Talladega Superspeedway, just 37 miles east of Barber, winning twice. One might think it was difficult getting out of the habit of getting off the interstate at the Talladega exit, but not for Johnson.

“It wasn’t too hard,” Johnson said. “Lot of great memories at Talladega, won there a few times, always had a good time over there, but [Barber] is really special and I’ve always heard so much about it, but until I came here last year I hadn’t experienced it first hand so I’m really excited.”

Rowe Rowe Rowe to Pole in USF2000

After winning the second USF2000 race of the 2022 season in St. Petersburg back in February, Myles Rowe put his No. 22 Pabst Racing car on pole position for Saturday afternoon’s (April 30th) USF2000 race, the series that is the second-lowest step on the Road to Indy.

Rowe’s pole position lap of 1 minute, 21.9164 seconds was 0.1248 seconds faster than second place driver Bijoy Garg.

What makes Rowe’s lap so significant is that Barber could very well be his last weekend in USF2000. A decent amount of funding for the rest of the season disappeared following significant crash damage in a last lap battle for the lead of the opening race of the season in St. Petersburg.

Rowe’s pressure to perform helped give the Atlanta native now living in New York City a chance to shine in the spotlight, but his first race of the weekend at 3:20 p.m. CT will give people watching trackside a chance to watch him race.

About the author

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

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