Thursday, April 4, 2013

Track Walk: Barber 2013

Coming off his first career win at St. Petersburg, James Hinchcliffe leads the Izod IndyCar Series to Barber Motorsports Park for the fourth edition of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. The Canadian looks to double up while Will Power goes for his third consecutive victory at Barber Motorsports Park.

Top Names At The Back
Dario Franchitti is last in the standings with five points. That is how unpredictable St. Pete was two weeks ago. Misfortune hit many big names at St. Pete. A good weekend was never in Simon Pagenaud's cards as he was an after though all three days. Mechanical problems ended the days of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tristan Vautier and Josef Newgarden and Will Power's chances at victory vanished when JR Hildebrand got in the back of the Aussie under yellow. To better illustrate how bad the weekend was for these six drivers, Ed Carpenter is ahead of all of them in the standings (But round of applause for Carpenter who had a really good race and passed Sébastien Bourdais for position under green flag conditions. By far his best career street race).

Pagenaud, Hunter-Reay, Franchitti and Power were all preseason favorites and will have to keep their noses clean and avoid any further mechanical issues if they would like to get back in the championship picture quickly.

The Names Up Front
As mentioned earlier, James Hinchcliffe leads the Izod IndyCar Series point standings after his first career win at St. Pete. The Canadian held off Helio Castroneves for the win and now looks to turn this victory into momentum for the rest of 2013. Joining Hinchcliffe and Castroneves on the podium was one Marco Andretti, who had a wonderful weekend at St. Pete, a big improvement from 2012. Tony Kanaan finished fourth while Scott Dixon drove his way up from 20th to fifth. Simona de Silvestro finished sixth after running in the top five most of the race, a fresh change from her 2012 season with Lotus. EJ Viso, Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson and Alex Tagliani round out the top ten.

The Return of AJ Allmendinger
Barber marks the anticipated return to IndyCar for AJ Allmendinger, six and a half years since his last start at Surfers Paradise. Allmendinger won five races in his final year before heading to NASCAR and he now returns with Penske Racing. Allmendinger has tested on three occasion, once at Sebring, Barber and most recently at Texas to complete his rookie oval orientation program. While only Barber and Indianapolis have been confirmed for Allmendinger, Long Beach has been rumored as potentially being added to his schedule.

Allmendinger was a little over a second off the fastest time at the Barber test last month. No one expects Allmendinger to come in and pick up right where he left off in 2006 but he should improve after each day during the weekend and if he does indeed run Long Beach, he could be on the fringe of the top ten.

On-Track Action
Last year, Barber surprised everyone with plenty of on-track action. Power drove from ninth to first. Bourdais went from seventeenth to ninth in a Lotus, while Franchitti drove from eighteenth to tenth, heck Serviá went from twenty-sixth, dead last to thirteenth in a Lotus. Now can Barber replicate the racing from 2012? That has yet to be seen but everyone is hoping

Other Notes
Ana Beatriz will drive the #18 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing through Indianapolis. Stefan Wilson was thought to make his debut this weekend. Nothing has been announced about any future races for Wilson.

The track record of 1:10.1060 set by Will Power in 2010 maybe in jeopardy as the fastest time at last month's test was a 1:07.1329 by Power.

James Hinchcliffe looks to become the first driver to get his first two career wins back-to-back since AJ Allmendinger did it at Portland and Cleveland in 2006. Allmendinger would go on to win a third in a row at Toronto.

There will be an open tire test at Pocono Raceway on Wednesday April 10. Marco Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power will each testing at the 2.5 mile triangle. The test is open to the fans for free with gates opening at 9 am.

This Sunday's race will be the fourth race in American open-wheel history on April 7th. The other three have been won by Unsers. Bobby won at Phoenix in 1968 and Trenton in 1974, while Al won at Texas World Speedway in 1973.

Weather for this weekend at Barber calls for a slight chance of rain Friday at 20% with temperatures in the mid 60s. Saturday and Sunday temperatures should be in the mid 70s with no chance of rain.

While Power was fastest at the Barber test, Hinchcliffe was second. Both should be a factor at Barber. This will be the weekend Josef Newgarden finally breaks through and gets his first career top ten. Ryan Hunter-Reay will have a much better weekend than his weekend at St. Pete. Pagenaud turns it around and finishes ahead of his teammate. JR Hildebrand will not make the same mistakes he made at St. Pete. AJ Allmendinger keeps his nose clean and runs mid-pack all weekend. I want to take Scott Dixon this weekend but Honda's pace has been concerning. Give me Hinchcliffe again. He has the momentum, was quick during testing at Barber and seems in the zone. Sleeper: Oriol Serviá.