The Verizon IndyCar Series was awash with yellow both on track and on the podium as Ryan Hunter-Reay took the victory in a safety car fest at Barber.
Initially, the race started 100 minutes late due to severe rain and thunderstorms around the Birmingham, Alabama circuit but when the race did start it was Team Penske’s Will Power that led the opening 16 laps as the field struggled to cope with the rivers of water running across the track.
Indeed Power was looking comfortable in his lead – the majority of the action was centred on SMP’s Mikhail Aleshin and KV Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais who were having a monumental battle at the lower end of the top ten. The rivalry was finally settled when Bourdais tapped Aleshin into a spin bringing out the first full course yellow.
After the KV driver was adjudged to have caused the spin, he eventually finished a disappointing fifteenth stating: “I had another fast car and another disappointing result. Once again, I feel bad for the KVSH Racing guys. They did a great job. I want to thank my sponsors, especially Hydroxycut for their support this weekend. We just have to move on and try and win the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.”
During the safety car period – which took place on a track in the uncomfortable middle between wet and dry – many drivers pitted for Firestone’s red walled tyres except for Sebastian Saavedra who decided to struggle it out at the front on his almost bald wets. The fellow KV driver managed to struggle on for 10 laps before finally having to pit for dry tyres.
From that point on it was Andretti Autosport’s Hunter-Reay who led all but a fraction of the remaining laps, and with team mate Marco Andretti and Target Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon fighting for second, Hunter-Reay managed to stretch out a three second lead.
There were a number of spinners causing full course yellows during Saavedra’s and Hunter-Reay’s leads but thankfully the race had quietened down caution wise until the aforementioned Mikhail Aleshin crashed heavily into the barriers at turn 14 leaving foam padding and tyres strewn to the edge of track. Thankfully the Russian was fine but it meant that the last four laps – and the checkered flag – were ran with a safety car.
Not that bothered the race winner: “I’ve been anxious to compete since we left Long Beach. What a dream to have a car like that at that distance. Great to get the No. 28 DHL car with a Honda at a Honda sponsored race into Victory Circle. Long Beach should have been a great result, but we got it today.”
The next race for the IndyCar paddock is at the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis – an opening salvo for the month of May at the lead up to the Indy 500.