Barber Motorsports Park Fan Guide
Since 2010, Barber Motorsports Park has hosted an IndyCar/Grand-Am weekend in early April. The track is in Leeds, Alabama which is a suburb east of Birmingham. Right off of I-20 with nearby outlet malls and a Bass Pro Shop is a world-class road course carved into the Alabama hills. The weekend includes Continental Tire, Rolex Grand-Am, Mazda Pro, Firestone Indy Lights and IZOD Indycar Series all crammed into three days.
The park’s namesake, George Barber, is a motorcycle guy, originally constructing the circuit and adjoining museum as a motorcycle racing facility. The entire complex is motorcycle-friendly with preferred bike parking at the museum and along the ring road. Because Barber is a motorcycle circuit, many auto racing drivers have complained that it’s difficult to pass. On the other hand, savvy and aggressive drivers are able to make moves on track. The flowing, undulating terrain rewards drivers who are smooth not only with the wheel but with the throttle as well. Patience is also a virtue at Barber as drivers who bide their time and seize opportunity are likely to succeed.
Where To Sit
Hillside – Turn 1-3, aka “The Alabama Rollercoaster”
This is where we setup our base of operations. There is a jumbo screen near Turn 3. The hill overlooks the exit of Turn 1 through Turn 3, and up the hill out of Turn 4 to the hairpin, an there’s lots of action, especially on starts/restarts. You can also see parts of the entry to the 7-9 complex and a bit of the back straight.
In addition, it’s a relatively short walk to the paddock from The Rollercoaster. With onsite parking, it’s relatively close to where we park in Lot B. That makes getting in and out a bit easier.
Turn 9- “The Museum Turn”
The 5th floor of the museum provides a great overhead view of Turns 8 and 9 and a short straight into the Turns 10-11 chicane. It’s a pretty low-speed turn with limited action on this part of the course. The museum is air-conditioned, though and houses a café on race weekends. The Museum is also located on Tram Stop 1, so moving around the complex is fairly easy.
Red Diamond Fan Zone Area
There are grandstands in the Red Diamond Fan Zone. They provide a view of the back straight and the hairpin, Turns 5-6. The grandstands aren’t particularly comfortable, and the areas in view aren’t typically action spots. The hairpin is a braking zone, but you’re watching from the exit side. There is a jumbo screen visible from the grandstands. There is also a Ferris Wheel and a bucket truck that gives you an overhead vantage point for a short time, albeit for a fee.
The Fan Zone has merchandise and food vendors, as well as promo areas for series, manufacturers, sponsors and the like. Recent years have added a kids play area, zip-line, Ferris Wheel and sky lift.
This is also where IndyCar driver autograph sessions, meet-n-greet events, Q&A sessions and the like are held. Check the schedule at the IndyCar fan zone for driver appearances through the weekend.
Treeline Back Straight
The treeline is great because it offers natural shade. This area fills up quickly, especially on Sunday. The area doesn’t have smooth level areas, so a folding chair may be unstable. There are also some rocks to contend with.
The action closer to Turns 12 and 13 is great, especially with multi-class races like Grand-Am. Some locations in the treeline area may be able to see the jumbo screen near the Fan Zone area. There is a handicapped viewing area at the end of the treeline, right at the entrance to Turn 13.
Turn 14 typically has good action with cars coming over the hill, but this area offers a pretty limited view of the track, mainly due to the terrain. There is a handicapped viewing platform near turn 14, as well. In Turn 16 is Billy’s Sports Bar, and there is hillside seating nearby. This area also contains various displays like Nissan Racing, the Porsche Club area and various hospitality tents for car clubs.
Things to Do
Get Paddock Access
Full access to the paddock is $50 for the weekend. You can also get access for a day. Considering the range of teams and drivers, everything is in pretty cramped quarters. It’s pretty easy to see everything by walking down each tier. There is everything from homegrown racers in the ConTi ST class to the Grand-Am Daytona Prototypes and the IndyCar and Lights teams.
All the drivers and teams are friendly. The IndyCar and top-level Grand-Am drivers have more demands on their time in order to satisfy commitments to media, sponsors, and so on. Be respectful of them, and they will do the same. Want an autograph? The paddock on Friday is probably the best place to get it.
The paddock is also a very busy place. There is constant movement of people, equipment and vehicles. Always be aware of what’s going on around you and be prepared to get out of the way of a team as they move their car. The nice thing about the paddock is you can watch the teams do what they do, but you have to let them do it.
The paddock at Barber Motorsports Park is a hillside that has been terraced. If you go into the paddock, you will be walking up and/or down a pretty steep hill. Make sure you’re wearing clothes that are comfortable for walking, especially your shoes! Closed toe shoes are required in the paddock for your safety. Regardless, keep your own personal safety in mind and wear clothing that will keep you safe and comfortable. And try not to step on anyone’s toes.
Go to the Barber Motorsport Museum
The Barber Museum is the private collection of George Barber, a local supplier of dairy products to the region. The collection is on display year-round. It is primarily motorcycles, but it also happens to be the largest private collection of Lotus cars outside of Lotus themselves. All but three of the active exhibits in the collection are roadworthy, and if time permits, the museum runs demo laps in vintage cars and/or bikes.
The northwest side of the museum building overlooks Turn 9, aptly named “the museum turn”. The museum is open all weekend, so you can watch on-track action from the climate-controlled comfort of the museum. Three day weekend passes are also available. On event weekends, the museum opens the basement level, where they do the restoration work and maintenance on all the museum pieces. They typically have demonstrations of the CNC machines and works in progress on display. This level isn’t open any other time, so it’s a great opportunity to see classic machines being brought back to life!
Learn your way around
Print the track facilities map here. Track access is general admission. The only areas that require specific credentials are the paddock, the hospitality areas and Billy’s Sports Bar. Trams run clockwise around the racetrack during event weekends. You can also walk the ring road, ride bicycles or motorcycles.
|Tram Stop 1||Ticketing Will-Call
Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum
Shuttle bus pick-up and drop-off
|Tram Stop 2||Red Diamond Fan Zone (food, merchandise, rides, fan activities)
Car Corral (display for local car clubs, mostly sports cars)
Hospitality Parking – Lot E
Treeline Seating – Backstretch to Turn 13
|Tram Stop 3||Porsche Car Corral (parking for Porsche Club members, manufacturer displays)
Hillside Seating – Turns 14-15
NISMO Display & hospitality
|Tram Stop 4||Billy’s Sports Bar
Access to tent camping and RV lots.
Onsite Parking – Lot D
Hillside Seating – Turns 15-16
|Tram Stop 5||Paddock Entry|
|Tram Stop 6||Onsite Parking – Lot B
Officials Parking – Lot C
Hillside Seating – Turns 1-3
|Tram Stop 7||Hospitality Parking – Lot A|
Make a picnic out of it!
Barber is very picnic-friendly, with almost all of the seating on the lawn. The only grandstand is in the FanFest area, overlooking the exit of turn 11 and along the back straight. Collapsible chairs, blankets and beach towels are all welcome. Pop-awnings are allowed in designated hillside seating areas only. If you can avoid blocking the view of the people behind you, you’re in good shape. There is also onsite camping, however it isn’t trackside. There are concessions in the paddock and the Fan Fest and paddock areas, and you’re going to pay event prices. Most of the food is fried (corn dogs, funnel cakes, etc.) and is generally not “healthy”. A cooler full of sandwiches, fresh fruits & veggies, bottled water, and the like is far healthier.
Watch for Insects
There are many other whimsical touches at Barber Motorsports Park. In 2012, the new addition was “The Lady of the Lake”, and Graham Rahal vowed to swim out and kiss her if he won. He didn’t, and the Lady has been relocated. You can still see the “Bouncy Chapel”, an inflatable church building where services are held Sunday morning. One pond has a creature coming out of a pipe in the center. The gates to the circuit have silhouettes of classic motorcycles in the design.
Area Attractions and Dining
Rusty’s BBQ is a dive has become popular with IndyCar drivers. Graham Rahal and Dario Franchiti have all spent some time there. It’s about 15 minutes from the track, so you can drive there from the track relatively quickly, especially on Friday or Saturday.
Birmingham has a lot to offer in the way of restaurants, entertainment and attractions. Vulcan Park, Sloss Furnace, and the Civil Rights Museum are all popular tourist attractions. Next to the track is Bass Pro Shop, as well as the Shops of Grand River outlet mall. For nightlife, head to the Lakeview District of Birmingham on 29th Street South for restaurants and bars. Be sure to check out Birmingham’s growing local brewery scene with brewpubs at Good People Brewing, Avondale Brewery and Cahaba Brewing.
Talladega Superspeedway is about 30 miles east on Interstate 20. Even if you’re not into NASCAR, the speedway is fascinating, if for no other reason than it’s insanely huge. Talladega Superspeedway is also the home of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum, which is entertaining.
There is also Talladega Short Track, if you want to see some dirt track action on a Saturday night.
Things to Avoid
Billy’s Sports Grill
The idea is a trackside sports bar. The food is mediocre and you get a couple of drinks for free. The sightlines are overlooking turns 15-16, which is low speed and the entry to the pits. Don’t waste your money.
Don’t Trash the Place
On Sunday, there is a substantial crowd, and everyone is mostly respectful everyone else. There are always a few drunks or troublemakers, but they are certainly the exception. The facility is beautiful. The least we can do is try to keep it beautiful. Pick up after yourself and don’t walk through the wooded areas where they don’t want you to walk.
Heatstroke, Sunburn, and Dehydration
Alabama in the spring is typically sunny and warm. Sunscreen is a must, especially for kids.
Drink lots of water. You’re going to be outside walking a lot, so replenishing fluids. We typically bring as much bottled water as all other beverages (soda, beer, sports drink) combined to make sure we’re staying hydrated. Keeping some band-aids and Tylenol on-hand is a good idea, too. A little bit of prevention will insure you’re able to enjoy the races!