Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Track Walk: Barber 2015

Barber Motorsports Park hosts IndyCar for the sixth time.
IndyCar returns to Barber Motorsports Park for the sixth consecutive year. Chevrolet has won two of three races this season and took the top seven spots at Long Beach and eight of the top ten. Honda sponsors the Grand Prix of Alabama and put two cars on the Barber podium last year.

Time: Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday April 26th. Green flag at 3:37 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN.
Announcers: Leigh Diffey make his season debut and joins Townsend Bell and Steve Matchett in the booth. Kevin Lee, Robin Miller, Kelli Stavast and Marty Snider will work the pit lane.

Will Dixon Double Down?
Last week, Scott Dixon scored victory at Long Beach; a track the New Zealander had only one top ten at in eight Long Beach starts entering the weekend. For the second consecutive week, Dixon heads to a track that has been cruel to him but in the opposite way of Long Beach. In five Barber starts, Dixon has never won and his worst finish is third. He finished runner-up in the first four editions of the Grand Prix of Alabama before finished third last year. He has never started outside the top five at Barber. Dixon is always at the front at Barber but there always seems to be someone ahead of him. He has only led in two of five Barber starts for a total of 39 laps.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has won the last two Barber races. The American currently sits 14th in the championship are back-to-back finishes outside the top ten. Hunter-Reay was the top Honda qualifier at Long Beach, as he started fourth, right next to Dixon in third.

Like Hunter-Reay, Will Power is also a two-time winner at Barber and enters this year's race looking for his first victory of 2015. After finishing second at St. Petersburg, Power finished seventh in the wet at NOLA and finished 20th at Long Beach after stalling when entering the pit lane under the only full-course caution period.

Juan Pablo Montoya continues to lead the championship as he enters Barber with a three-point cushion over Penske teammate Hélio Castroneves. Both Montoya and Castroneves have finished on the podium twice this year. Castroneves won the inaugural Grand Prix of Alabama in 2010. Montoya finished 21st last year in his Barber debut after starting eighth.

Tony Kanaan is third in the championship, 26 behind Montoya and six ahead of Dixon. James Hinchcliffe rounds out the top five in the championship, trailing Montoya by 36 points. Power is three back of the Canadian with Simon Pagenaud seven back of the Australian. Sébastien Bourdais and Josef Newgarden are tied for eighth on 66 points. Graham Rahal rounds out the top ten with 62 points and Marco Andretti a point back of the Ohioan.

A Stabbing Reminder How Motorsports Defies All Logic
Rodolfo González will make his IndyCar debut this weekend in the #18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. González made 64 starts in GP2 where he finished in the points on three occasions and tallied 10 points. His best finish in GP2 was fourth. González's last victory was August 22, 2009 in a Euroseries 3000 (now-Auto GP) at Zolder. Francesco Dracone finished seventh in that Zolder race and he will be González's teammate for Barber. Dracone is only scheduled to race through Barber. The future of the #19 Honda is unknown from the month of May onward.

Last week, Conor Daly drove the #18 Honda after Rocky Moran, Jr. broke his thumb in Friday practice. Daly finished a season-best 17th for Coyne and on the lead lap, something neither Coyne car had done in the first two races of 2015.

But On The Bright Side
Sage Karam will be back in the #8 Ganassi Chevrolet at Barber after being replaced by Sebastián Saavedra at Long Beach.

Road to Indy
All three Road to Indy series will run doubleheaders this weekend.

Ed Jones has won all three Indy Lights races this season. The Emirati holds a 26-point lead over Spencer Pigot, who has finished on the podium in all three races this year. Jack Harvey is seven points behind Pigot after retiring at Long Beach. Max Chilton is 50 points back of his Carlin teammate. Félix Serrallés finished third at Long Beach and rounds out the top five, a point back of Chilton. Kyle Kaiser retired after contact with Harvey in turn one, lap one and is a point behind Serrallés.

All six Indy Lights races at Barber have been won by the pole-sitter and there has only been one lead change in the six races. Charlie Kimball led the first lap of the first Indy Lights race at Barber in 2010 but pole-sitter J.K. Vernay was able to take the lead on lap two and go on to take the victory.

8Star Motorsports returns after skipping Long Beach and will have Sean Rayhall making his Indy Lights debut. Rayhall won the 2013 IMSA Prototype Lites championship and won two races in Prototype Challenge class last year.

Indy Lights race one will take place Saturday at 3:50 p.m. ET with race two on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET.

Neil Alberico leads the Pro Mazda championship by four points over Uruguayan and NOLA winner Santiago Urrutia. Race two from NOLA was cancelled due to heavy rain. Mexican drivers Jose Gutierrez and Pato O'Ward are third and fourth in the championship 23 and 33 points behind Alberico respectively. Defending U.S. F2000 champion Florian Latorre is two points back of O'Ward.

Pro Mazda race one will be at 11:05 a.m. ET Saturday with race two on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Jake Eidson leads the U.S. F2000 championship by seven points over Frenchman and NOLA 1 winner Nico Jamin. Twenty-six points back of Eidson is Aaron Telitz, who has finished runner-up in three of four races this season. NOLA 2 winner Victor Franzoni is 37 points back of Eidson. Australian Jordan Lloyd rounds out the five, 46 back of Eidson.

U.S. F2000 will race Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET and Saturday at 6:20 p.m. ET.

Pirelli World Challenge
Both GT and GTS will be on track this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.

Olivier Beretta won his third race of 2015 at Long Beach last week. The Monegasque driver has the most wins this year in GT. Chris Dyson scored Bentley it's first podium of 2015 with a second place finish. Ryan Dalziel finished third at Long Beach, his fourth podium in five races. Dalziel's worst finish of 2015 is fourth. Dalziel's teammate Michael Cooper finished fourth at Long Beach while James Davison rounded out the top five.

Long Beach saw plenty of drivers involved in accidents. Johnny O'Connell, Andy Pilgrim, Kevin Éstre, Robert Thorne, Butch Leitzinger and Mike Skeen are just a sample of the drivers who were caught up in an accident at Long Beach.

In GT Cup at Long Beach, Colin Thompson made it four victories in five races this year. Mitch Landy and Victor Gomez rounded out the GT Cup podium.

Dean Martin has a victory and his worst finish is fourth through the first four races. The Ford driver leads the GTS championship by 50 points over Aston Martin's and Austin 1 winner Kris Wilson. Austin 2 winner, Camaro driver Michael Cooper is third in the championship trailing Martin by 62 points. Teammates Kurt Rezzetano and Andrew Aquilante round out the top five in the GTS championship, 68 and 76 points back of Martin respectively. St. Petersburg 2 winner Spencer Pumpelly returns for Barber. Pumpelly finished third in the first GTS race from St. Petersburg.

GTS will race on Friday at 4:55 p.m. ET and Saturday at 1:40 p.m. ET. The GT/GT Cup races will be at 11:20 a.m. ET Saturday and 10:55 a.m. ET Sunday.

Last year, Anthony Lazzaro and Andrew Palmer split the GT races. Mark Wilkins and Jack Baldwin won in GTS.

Fast Facts
This will be the fourth IndyCar race to occur on April 26th. The last to take place was in 2009 where Scott Dixon won at Kansas.

Scott Dixon set the Barber track record in 2013 when he ran a lap of 66.7750 seconds.

The average starting position for a Barber winner is 3.4. The pole-sitter has won twice (Will Power 2011, Ryan Hunter-Reay 2013) and third on the grid has won twice (Hélio Castroneves 2009, Ryan Hunter-Reay 2014). The furthest back a Barber winner has come from is ninth (Will Power 2012).

The average amount of lead changes in the Grand Prix of Alabama is 5.8. Power's 2011 victory is the only Barber race to feature zero lead changes. The next fewest lead changes in a Barber race is 6 in 2013.

The average amount of full-course caution periods at Barber is 3.2 for an average of 11 laps.

Honda has won three of five Barber races. Chevrolet has won twice at Barber.

Five drivers have completed all 429 laps run in the five Barber races. They are Hélio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Will Power and Scott Dixon.

Barber is slated to be Francesco Dracone's final race of 2015 driving for Dale Coyne Racing. He has never finished last in an IndyCar race. Can you name every driver Dracone has finished ahead of in his previous five IndyCar starts?

Possible Milestones at Barber:

Marco Andretti needs to lead 70 laps to join the 1,000 laps led club.

Takuma Sato needs to lead ten laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Simon Pagenaud needs to lead 18 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 50 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs one podium to reach 50 career IndyCar podiums.

Scott Dixon makes it back-to-back victories. Honda gets one car in the top five but no more than three in the top ten. A rookie gets a top ten finish. At least two top ten finishers will have started outside the top fifteen. There will be at least one incident at turn five. There will be fewer than six lead changes in this race. A new track record will be set in qualifying. Sleeper: Charlie Kimball.