Editor’s Note: Kevin Neely has been kind enough to write some articles for us while down at Barber Motorsports Park this week. I would like to personally thank Kevin for reaching out and offering his observations!
There’s one thing for certain about late March/early April in Central Alabama; the weather is going to be anything but predictable. For the past two years, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union has had the luxury of Chamber of Commerce weather conditions. This year, however, that streak looks to be broken as Mother Nature has decided this event is now worthy of her attention.
One thing that could not be ignored was the overcast skies in Leeds, Alabama today. With showers and thunderstorms to the northwest, it was never a matter of if there would be rain, but rather when the heavens would open above the 2.3 mile pristine ribbon of asphalt. The local meteorologists all predict a 60 percent chance of rain for Friday, 20 percent for Saturday, and clear skies for Sunday’s main event. The teams chose not to ignore those numbers though. Walking by the Firestone Tires prep area, rims from teams up and down the paddock were waiting for Firestone’s rain tires. Firestone tire techs were working at a frantic pace trying to fill orders for not only the primary blacks and alternate reds, but the wet tire that looks like might come into play for the first time at Barber.
This was my first time seeing the DW12 in person. After all the wailing and gnashing of teeth by fans in the offseason about how ugly the new Indycar looks, I have to say I find it quite aesthetically pleasing in person. The new sidepod configuration clearly gives more room for sponsorship, and makes the sponsorship more visible. The “Kardashians,” the bumpers added to the car to prevent wheel interlock, give just a bit more room for sponsorship. What I noticed in person though, was how these add to the sightlines of the car from behind. It creates a sleek silhouette that honestly reminds me a bit of an LMP car. If you haven’t seen the DW12 in person, I highly suggest holding off on all criticism until you get to see it in person.
I also have to say Sebastien Bourdais might just have the best looking car in the paddock. The iconic colors of Lotus’ famed John Player Special really pop on the DW12, and especially the way Dragon Racing chose to represent. Whereas Dreyer & Reinbold went with a slightly more dull gold finish on the trim, reminiscent of the Nashville Predators “Mustard Yellow” jersey, Dragon picked metallic gold for the trim. The car looks like it’s tearing tail around the paddock while it is sitting still. Another thing I noticed is Tony Kanaan’s paint job does not look quite so bad in person. Based on all the earlier photography, I thought it was going to look like the Kermit the Frog Special. Instead, the green and yellow play well off each other, but it’s nothing like last year’s Lotus Green.
It was a pleasure to run into Arie Luyndyke today, who is onsite driving the two seater. One thing to remember about Arie; he never shakes hands. Instead, Arie always gives a fist bump. My only suggestion? Follow it up with a quality Bro Fist. It was too much fun to watch Arie take off with his first guest in the two seater. Everyone settled into their places, and Arie flat out dropped the hammer, leaving two nice sets of tire marks on pit lane. Nobody seemed to mind.
Simona de Silvestro is always a pleasure to speak with. She is such a well grounded, down to Earth individual who always has a minute for the fans. She was doing an interview with the local ABC affiliate. The camera man asked her if he could get a shot of her walking towards the camera, and Simona, being an ever good sport, obliged. Every time they tried to film the bit, someone would walk into the shot. After the fourth try, they finally got the camera shot. Simona’s hands have healed well, and she’s very optimistic about this season. I’m hoping the Swiss Missile has a better season than last year.
Like I said, it should be an interesting weekend at Barber, since tomorrow’s practice sessions should be run in wet conditions. There’s also a very high possibility of Saturday’s qualifying being run under wet conditions as well. It should be interesting to see how the DW12 reacts to wet conditions in a race environment. I will be back at the track tomorrow with information on the IZOD Indycar Series practice sessions, as well as Firestone Indy Lights and Star Mazda series