IndyCar-Round 2: Honda Grand Prix of Alabama Preview

BarberReliefMapWhat: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
Where: Grand Prix Circuit, Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, AL
Who: Will Power looks to repeat as race winner, taking three of four visits to the circuit by IndyCar. Power’s teammate, Helio Castroneves, is the only other former winner at Barber, and comes off a strong second place finish at St. Pete. Points leader James Hinchcliffe ran well at Barber last year and in preseason testing. Hinch looks to extend his points lead early in the season.
When: Race time is 3pm EDT on Sunday, April 7.

Storylines
During the preseason test just a few weeks ago at Barber Motorsports Park, drivers all commented on increased grip levels. The track underwent a grinding process in the offseason, taking off a bit of Barber’s legendary slickness. The old track record at 1:10 is going down for sure, but how far down is it going? On the Primary Black tires at the open test, the 1:06 barrier came under attack. Several drivers commented that with the Option Red tires, we could see times improve by as much as 1.5 seconds. Will the 1:04 mark come into play? Also involving tires, the runs made on blacks were significantly longer than previous visits. How will reduced tire degradation come into play in race strategy since teams can now start on whatever fuel load they choose?

James Hinchcliffe grabbed his first career win at St. Petersburg. Now he comes to Barber Motorsports Park, a track he had a very productive preseason test at, and a circuit that has been very kind to him in the past. As the points leader with a big target on his back, can The Mayor of Hinchtown handle the pressure of being on top? Can Hinch extend his points lead, or will his first time being on top cause him to fold under the pressure? My bet is Hinch has another fine run at a track on which he has traditionally excelled.

Will Power got off to a less-than-stellar start at St. Petersburg, struggling after J.R. Hildebrand decided to practice his parking skills on Power’s car. Now the series comes to a circuit Power has dominated, winning two of the previous three visits to the track. In fact, Barber kicks off a stretch of tracks that Power typically dominates, being Barber, Long Beach and Sao Paulo. Is this where Power kicks off his 2013 championship run, or is Willy P snakebit early in the season?

Another driver looking to get the ship pointed in the right direction is Dario Franchitti. Dario had a poor showing in qualifying at St. Pete, putting him deep in the field to start the race. While pushing to catch up on cold tires, Dario stuffed his #10 Honda into the wall on Lap 11, ending his day. Dario’s had some good runs at Barber, but nothing that really stands out. the Honda teams seem to be struggling just a bit, but is this where Dario corrects course and comes out with an early season win?

Simona de Silvestro was headed towards a career best 3rd place at St.Pete until her tires fell off the cliff. Somehow she managed to hold off a hard charging Marco Andretti for several laps in the final stages of the event. ┬áHad it not been for a strategy error by her team to put on scuffed Red tires on the last pit stop, Simona might very well have her first podium. After a strong showing at the Open Test, is this Simona’s week?

By The Numbers
2–That’s how many wins at Barber Motorsports Park Will Power has.
1–That’s how many miles Alex Tagliani completed last season when his Lotus engine died on the first lap. He looks to complete significantly more this time around.
38–Laps led by Scott Dixon in the 2012 event in a losing effort after a slow pit stop
5–Different leaders in the 2012 event
1:10.1060–The current track record set by Will Power in 2010… A time expected to go down by as much as 5 seconds.
26–Drivers under the track record during the preseason test.

Helpful Links
Weekend Schedule
Live timing and scoring
Entrant List
Around Barber Motorsports Park with J.R. Hildebrand