Thursday, April 24, 2014

Track Walk: Barber 2014

IndyCar returns to Alabama for the fifth consecutive season.

The third round of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season takes place at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama. Ryan Hunter-Reay won at Barber last year while Mike Conway is coming off his third career win at Long Beach two weeks ago. Will Power leads the points by 27 over Conway after a victory at St. Petersburg and second at Long Beach.

Time: Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET with IndyCar coverage. Green flag will be at 3:12 p.m. ET. Indy Lights coverage will follow the IndyCar race
TV Channel: NBCSN
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, Wally Dallenbach, Townsend Bell, Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Kelli Stavast, Jon Beekhuis and Robin Miller.

Can Dixon Take That Next Step?
The defending IndyCar champion Scott Dixon has finished runner-up in all four Barber races. The Kiwi has always started in the top five in every Barber race and has led 38 laps in his four Barber starts. Dixon set the Barber track record last year during the second round of qualifying with a 1:06.7750 lap. He has done it all in Alabama, except stand on the top step of the podium. Can he change that this weekend?

Can Honda Get On The Scoreboard?
Despite winning both poles this season and having eleven top tens through the first two races, Honda has found themselves second fiddle to Chevrolet. Last year Honda won their first race of the season in the third round at Long Beach when Takuma Sato won. Ryan Hunter-Reay is not only the only current Honda driver with an IndyCar victory at Barber having won last year from pole position but he is also the only current Honda driver with a podium at Barber. The next best finish for a current Honda driver at Barber is fourth and done by Marco Andretti in 2011 and Graham Rahal in 2012.

Who Gets Their First Top Ten Of The Season?
Through two races, eighteen different drivers scored a top ten with Will Power and Simon Pagenaud the only ones with top tens in the first two races. The five drivers currently without a top ten are Sébastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal, Jack Hawksworth, James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball. Rahal's lone top ten at Barber was that fourth in 2012, Bourdais finished 9th that year giving Lotus their lone top ten that season. Hinchcliffe finished sixth in 2012 but finished twenty-fourth and twenty-sixth in his other two Barber starts. Kimball picked up his first career top ten at Barber in 2011 with a tenth place finish and finished fourth last year. Hawksworth finished second to Carlos Muñoz in last year's Barber Indy Lights race.

Road to Indy Returns
All three Road to Indy series will run doubleheaders at Barber.

Zach Veach leads Gabby Chaves by one point in the Indy Lights Championship. Jack Harvey is third in the championship ahead of teammate Luiz Razia and Matthew Brabham rounds out the top five.

Spencer Pigot swept the Pro Mazda weekend at St. Petersburg with Kyle Kaiser finishing runner-up both times. Pipo Derani is third in the championship with Scott Hargrove and Shelby Blackstock rounding out the top five.

Victor Franzoni and R.C. Enerson split the U.S. F2000 weekend at St. Petersburg but Enerson leads the points after Franzoni was disqualified after race two. Jake Eidson is second in the championship with Florian Latorre, Adrian Starrantino and Franzoni rounding out the top five.

Pirelli World Challenge
Pirelli World Challenge makes their debut at Barber Motorsports Park with two races, one Saturday at 4:55 p.m. ET and one Sunday at 11:40 a.m. ET. Defending champion Johnny O'Connell won at Long Beach, holding off Cadillac teammate and current points leader Andy Pilgrim. Nic Jönsson took the GTS points lead after winning at Long Beach with help from Lawson Aschenbach failing to score.

Fun Facts
The IndyCar record for most starts between victories is 97 set by Johnny Rutherford from his win at Atlanta 1965 to Ontario 1973. Graham Rahal will be making his 98th start since his lone career victory at St. Petersburg in 2008.

To be fair, Rahal's Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Oriol Servià made his 98th start since his last victory two weeks ago at Long Beach so should he win at Barber he would also break Rutherford's record.

This is the first race on April 27th since Dan Wheldon won at Kansas in 2008.

Helio Castroneves is 26 laps away from 5,000 laps led in his career.

Of the eighteen drivers who have previously made starts at Barber, Takuma Sato Sebastián Saavedra are the only two without a top ten finish. Sato's best finish is fourteenth and Saavedra's best finish is twentieth, both of which came last year.

The pole-sitter has won on two occasions (Will Power 2011, Ryan Hunter-Reay 2013).

The worst finish for a pole sitter at Barber is fourth (Will Power 2010).

The furthest back a winner has come from on the grid is ninth (Will Power 2012).

Remember more facts can be found at the Telemetry Center.

Andretti Autosport recovers from a rough Long Beach and Ryan Hunter-Reay makes it back-to-back wins at Barber. Will Power is up front all weekend. Scott Dixon does not get a podium but finishes respectably. Simon Pagenaud does get a podium. Jack Hawksworth avoids the misfortune of others and gets his first career top ten. Sébastien Bourdais gets his first top ten of the season and so does James Hinchcliffe. Mike Conway has an average weekend. Oriol Servià continues making his full-time teammate Graham Rahal look bad. Sleeper: Marco Andretti.