After hosting the opening round of the 2021 season, Barber Motorsports Park plays host to the fourth race of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Nobody has yet to beat Team Penske, as Josef Newgarden made it three wins in as many races for “The Captain” at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, taking the championship lead in the process on 118 points.
He took the lead from Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin, who had a weekend to forget at Long Beach and now sits second place in the championship five points behind Newgarden. Alex Palou returns to the track where he earned his first career victory maintaining third place in the standings on 103 points, with Will Power falling behind the Spaniard to fourth on 102 points. From there, it’s a 19 point gap back to Scott Dixon who rounds out the top five.
Barber is known as an extremely physical, high-speed track, but also as a driver’s favorite. This was the first year since 2012 that Penske has won the first three races of the season, will we see someone finally topple the juggernaut? Will we see another first time winner or championship run sparked here like Palou last year? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?
Barber opened the 2021 season in spectacular fashion, with Palou taking home the first win of his career. Pato O’Ward led the field to green, but on the first lap a spectacular crash took out Newgarden, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Colton Herta and more. The race re-started on lap eight, but by lap ten another caution came out for Jimmie Johnson who spun out in turn 13.
The race then went caution-free to the finish, with O’Ward leading the field back to green on lap 13. The Mexican driver complained about the condition of his alternate red tyres, pitting on lap 18 for the primary black tyres, with second-place Alexander Rossi coming in as well to cover him off in case of another caution. Palou inherited the lead, and along with the other frontrunners, was able to make his tyres last much longer to attempt the two-stop strategy.
Palou controlled the race through the second pit stop cycle, and held off a hard-charging Will Power who had the benefit of push to pass on his side a Palou navigated some lap traffic in the final laps of the race, but the Spaniard remained cool to take the win that kick-started his championship-winning campaign. Power came home second while Scott Dixon rounded out the podium in third.
You can read the full race report here.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND?
The obvious team to look out for is Penske, who are undefeated on the season. However it’s not the race winners Newgarden and McLaughlin, but Power we’re going to highlight here. Power has finished in the top five in every race so far this season, marking his best start to a campaign in eight seasons. Penske have won six of the ten races at Barber, two of which belong to the Australian veteran, and after a second place finish in last year’s race, Power could be poised to get his first win of the season and remain “Penske Perfect”.
Thirteen cars tested at Barber at the beginning of April, and it was Andretti Autosport that sat atop both sessions. Colton Herta and Rossi led the morning session, with Romain Grosjean leading Herta in the afternoon session. Herta is looking for redemption after his crash at Long Beach, and Grosjean came within meters of his first IndyCar victory. If that pace hasn’t gone away over the last month, Andretti could be the team to knock Penske off the top step of the podium.
Many members of this rookie class actually come to Barber with testing experience. Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas, Christian Lundgaard, and Callum Ilott have all previously tested at the 3.8 kilometer circuit, but this will be their first full race weekend at the track. Only Tatiana Calderon comes in with no IndyCar experience at Barber, which may put her behind the metaphorical 8-ball. How they translate that experience, or lack thereof, to the weekend will be worth keeping an eye on.
Friday 29 April
1300 PT / 1600 ET / 2000 GMT – Practice 1
Saturday 30 April
0700 PT / 1000 ET / 1400 GMT – Practice 2
1000 PT / 1300 ET / 1700 GMT – Qualifying
1420 PT / 1720 ET / 2120 GMT – Final Practice
Sunday 01 May
1000 PT / 1300 ET / 1700 GMT – Race
WHERE CAN I WATCH?
Coverage in the UK for qualifying and the race will be provided by Sky Sports F1.
In the United States, coverage for the race will be on NBC. Practice and Qualifying will be shown live on the Peacock streaming service.
HOW CAN I KEEP UP WITH ALL THE ACTION?
You can follow all the all the action here at The Checkered Flag. We will be providing coverage of the practice, qualifying, and race sessions.
You can also follow IndyCar on Twitter (@Indycar) for live updates during the sessions.