2018 Verizon IndyCar Series: Grand Prix of Alabama – Preview


Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park this weekend for the third race in as many weeks for the teams and drivers. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama has been one of the best new additions to the IndyCar calendar in recent years. Here is everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s race:

What happened in 2017 at Barber Motorsports Park?

Twelve months ago, Team Penske continued their domination of qualifying by taking their third pole in three races. Will Power was back on top, but he was closely followed by two of his team-mates, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, who made it a 1-2-3 for Penske.

Josef Newgarden may not have been able to make it a 1-2-3-4 in qualifying, but the American hit the front on Sunday instead. Josef took his first-ever Verizon IndyCar Series victory at the Alabama circuit back in 2015. He would prove that he had an affinity to the circuit by taking his first win as a Penske driver in 2017.

Newgarden inherited the race lead from team-mate Power when the Australian suffered a puncture after having led sixty of the ninety lap race distance. Power would eventually finish down in fourteenth.

Newgarden would control his new race lead until the end of the race to take the victory, with Scott Dixon finishing just over a second behind in second place. Simon Pagenaud would complete the podium ahead of Helio Castroneves, with neither of the two able to match the race pace of Newgarden and former leader Power.

It was also a strong race for the Andretti Autosport car of Alexander Rossi. The American qualified a lowly eighteenth for the race, but he soared through the pack to take a solid fifth-place finish.

You can read the full qualifying and race reports from last year’s Grand Prix of Alabama here: 

What should I look out for this weekend?

After his dominating drive in the last weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, all eyes are on Alexander Rossi to see whether he can continue his fantastic start to the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series. The American driver is the only driver to have finished on the podium in all three races of the season so far, having finished third at St. Petersburg and Phoenix before winning at Long Beach.

With the Andretti Autosports #27 Honda driver having shown speed on both oval tracks and street tracks so far this year, many expect him to be also right up in contention in the first traditional road course race of the year this weekend. He could very well do that too. He showed great pace in last year’s race to come from the rear of the field to finish fifth. If he can start up the front this weekend, he has a good chance of staying there all day on race day.

If Rossi wants to win in Alabama, he may have the reigning series champion standing in his way. Barber Motorsports Park must be considered one of Josef Newgarden’s best tracks. The American took his first ever win in the Verizon IndyCar Series at the circuit back in 2015 whilst he was driving for CFH Racing.

Since that win, he has never finished off of the podium at the Alabama circuit, with third place following in 2016 before a return to victory circle last year. A win this weekend would be his third at Barber, but it would also be Team Penske’s sixth win at the circuit that has only hosted eight IndyCar races to date.

Finally, keep an eye out for a number of drivers trying to bounce back after a bad race at Long Beach last weekend. Former winners at Barber, such as Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud will be hoping that Alabama yields better results for them. Both had fast cars last weekend but neither were able to utilize their speed, with Hunter-Reay having been involved in countless incidents during the race, whilst Pagenaud failed to make it through turn one on lap one after being punted into the wall by Graham Rahal.

It is a similar story for Sebastien Bourdais and Robert Wickens. Whilst neither driver has won at Barber, with Wickens never actually having raced there, both have had very fast race cars in the first three races so far this year. Bourdais had a great result get away from him in Long Beach, whilst the rookie Wickens was hampered with mechanical issues throughout the race. If luck is on their side this weekend, you could very well see one of them taking the chequered flag first on Sunday.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Friday 20 April

12:15 ET / 17:15 GMT – Practice 1
15:50 ET / 20:50 GMT – Practice 2

Saturday 21 April

11:50 ET / 16:50 GMT – Practice 3
16:05 ET / 21:05 GMT – Qualifying

Sunday 22 April

15:30 ET / 20:30 GMT – Race

Where can I watch the Grand Prix of Alabama?

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s race. Head to the Barber Motorsports Park website for more information.

In the United Kingdom, television coverage is limited to just the race itself. Race day coverage will start on Sunday at 20:00 BST on BT Sport ESPN.

Coverage of practice and qualifying will be available in the UK on IndyCar’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

In the United States, television coverage for the Grand Prix of Alabama will be provided by NBCSN, with added broadcasts on Facebook and YouTube courtesy of IndyCar.

How can I keep up to date with all the action over the weekend?

If you cannot make it to Long Beach for this weekend’s Grand Prix, you can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag. We will have coverage of not just this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions, but for all on-track action throughout the season.

Be sure to also follow IndyCar on Twitter – @IndyCar – for live updates throughout the event.