Sweet Home Barber Alabama
If you’re like me, then the month of May is a month-long celebration of all things speed and checkered (in fact as I write this I’m already wondering what tasty food will be served at the Taste of Speedway on Thursday, and if maybe I’ll be able to buy the Fuzzy’s Vodka celebratory bottles there). However, in the IndyCar schedule, we still have one last race to get through before May – the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (#HIGPA). Held in the gorgeous and important Barber Motorsports Park.
Similar to Phoenix, the drivers have already turned laps in Barber with the new aero kit this past March. It was an insightful test looking at the results of the test and the first three races of the season. Based on the test – Penske should have more podiums then they currently do. In the test, it was Newgarden and Power who topped the combined speed chart, with Pagenaud also in the Top 10. It seems like Team Penske just doesn’t have the steadiness we saw last year, maybe it’s the removal of Castroneves, or maybe the team just doesn’t have the aero kit down yet. Last year the Top 5 were the four Team Penske teammates and Scott (did you see the Indianapolis Monthly Cover ) Dixon. Currently, there’s a Team Penske member who is not in the Top 10. As was alluded to in the Porch Review of Long Beach the team meetings for Team Penske IndyCar must be very uncomfortable.
Rossi’s not having an uncomfortable team meeting. In fact, Andretti Autosport should be having happier team meetings than during the dark times of the 2017 Honda Road Course Aero Kit (we will never speak of those times again!). If not the team as a whole, at least Rossi’s engineer and crew know how to get Babygirl ™ set up for road courses. St. Petersburg he was quick – Long Beach he was a friggin’ rocket and we’re at a permanent road course. How did he do on the last permanent road course – First. He has continued to continually do better at Barber as well. Sixth place in 2017 and fifteenth place in 2016, which was his rookie year and he started that race in 20th and at one point had fought up to tenth place. They say all good things must come to an end – but I’m still counting on Rossi for a podium finish, if not coming in first at this course.
The rest of Andretti Autosport, I’m not sure about. RHR was seventh at the test; Veach was tenth; and Marco seventeenth. Apparently, and I heard Paul Tracy say this during the broadcast last year (and spoiler alert I do not like Paul Tracy), Marco does well at this course. Marco recently said, and I’m paraphrasing, if he qualifies well he’ll race well. Which earns a very exaggerated eye roll. Of course, if you qualify well you’ll race well – the clean area, especially on a Road Course, is important because of the ability to get clean air. I think Veach has momentum going into the race, coming off his first Top 5 finish as an IndyCar driver, which happened in his third race during his rookie season. That’s a boost of confidence and I look for him to do well. RHR…well I’ll be honest I think RHR won’t have great momentum going into this race, he’s just typically better than this.
Two other drivers who will have great momentum are Ed Jones after a podium finish at Long Beach and Sebastian Bourdais who just decided to tell everyone what he thinks and is going to be driving to back up his words. Of course, as I discussed earlier, Rossi’s got great momentum going into this race coming off a great win (without a fuel issue!).
Three teams seem to be loosing momentum. Schmidt Peterson Motorsport had a hell of a race at St. Petersburg and Phoenix and then something must have happened. Wickens had gearbox gremlins in Long Beach and Hinch had a tire issue. I wouldn’t say that they’re losing momentum, but they’re ooooooonnnnnn the bubble and need to turn the ship around quickly. Then there are the teams that got split results in Long Beach. Rahal Letterman Lanigan saw Rahal with a fifth-place finish and Sato with a twenty-first place finish. Also, anyone else think that team seems like they don’t have the camaraderie of other teams? Just us? Carlin also got split results. Kimball landed a top ten finish – tenth – and Chilton finished seventeenth. All I have to say about that is…well, I’ve already written about this team.
Finally we’ve now gone one race without Matheus Leist attempting vehicular manslaughter on a pit official, let’s see if we can make it two. Then again maybe Jordan King stepped up last week and took the “What a Rookie Mistake” crown. If this is going to turn into a thing, I’ll be sorely disappointed if Wickens or Veach do something to earn them the crown.