IndyCar – Augusta of Racing and the Beauty of Road Courses

Kaanan and Wheldon at Barber
In the past, I have made no secret that I prefer a good road course to street course racing. Problem has been that the road courses currently on the IndyCar schedule have not provided much in the way of interesting racing or overtaking. Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Sonoma may provide a picturesque background (some more than others) and a technically challenging drive, but the racing has been less than stellar.

So now we get to add Barber Motorsports Park to the IndyCar Road Course quiver, and while it did not live up to the excitement of rounds 1 and 2 of the IndyCar season so far, it certainly provided a beautiful backdrop, strategic racing, elevation changes, high g cornering and a bit of overtaking at turn 5.

More than 50,000 fans saw the inaugural IndyCar race this weekend at the Birmingham area track, with three day attendance figures topping 85,000. We haven’t yet seen the TV numbers come out, but “Indy Grand Prix” was trending on twitter this weekend (one of the top 10 subjects being discussed).

Satellite image of Barber Motorsports Park
As for the action on the track, qaulifying saw another unlikely assortment in the Firestone Fast Six with Will Power taking pole followed by Mike Conway, Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato. With Conway for D&R and Sato for KV providing the unlikely surprises. But then again, both of those teams have made significant strides forward with their programs and may both be in contention with Andretti Autosport for 3rd best behind the Penske and Ganassi.

The race got underway with one of the most perfect rolling starts I have ever seen. Power kept the field bunched up long enough so that almost everyone was formed up 2 by 2 for the green flag. After the race, both Dixon and Franchitti complained that they had to take the start in 1st gear, but regardless of what gear you start the race in, you can’t change positions on the track until crossing the start line as Dixon found out the hard way. He was forced to give up the positions he took from Marco and Helio on the start since he crossed the start finish line ahead of Marco and then carried that momentum into turn 1 and picked off Helio.

The strategies started to play out early as Wheldon, Kanaan, Romancini and Tagliani dove into the pits on laps 8 and 9 for their first stop of what should have been a 3 stop race, but some would end up stretching it as a 2 stopper with some judicious fuel consumption and timely yellows.

Lap 11 saw Takuma Sato bring out the first caution of the day as his KV entry developed a broken throttle cable. This brought about half of the field down pit lane, including Power and most of the leaders. Helio, who started 3rd, ended up taking the restart in 1st place with Marco Andretti following close behind. Marco ended up taking the point in the trun 5 and would maintain that lead until the closing stages of the race. But while Marco pitted on lap 29, Helio made more fuel and was able to stay out until lap 31. Now with their strategies set, Marco needed a few full course yellows to make it the full 90 laps on one more stop. Helio, however was looking much better on fuel consumption.

Unfortunately for Marco, that yellow never came. Marco had to pit on lap 57, while Helio took his pit on lap 60. All the while, Dixon was stalking both of them on a similar fuel strategy. After the race, Dixon spent much time lamenting about how the penalty on the start cost him the race since he never did get by Marco or Helio. Maybe he will think twice about jumping the start next time.

Marco relinquished his lead on lap 82 for his final fueling, giving the lead to Helio. The yellow he needed never came until too late. Simona De Silvestro spun out and the ensuing caution allowed Dixon and Franchitti to make it 90 laps on 2 stops. On the restart, nobody had anything for Helio and he commenced climbing the nearest fence he could find.

As for other notable incidents, Milka finished the race 4 laps down and yet again embarrased herself, Citgo, and Dale Coyne Racing. Her qualifying laps were 5 seconds off the pace and people were streaming by her throughout the race. Two incidents were caught on television where cars went inside and outside of her at the same time, creating a three wide Milka sandwich. Black flags work nicely for these situations Brian. Use them!

1 Helio Castroneves
2 Scott Dixon
3 Dario Franchitti
4 Will Power
5 Marco Andretti
6 Ryan Briscoe
7 Justin Wilson
8 Tony Kanaan
9 Mike Conway
10 Alex Tagliani
11 Dan Wheldon
12 Ryan Hunter-Reay
13 Mario Moraes
14 Raphael Matos
15 Hideki Mutoh
16 EJ Viso
17 Graham Rahal
18 Vitor Meira
19 Danica Patrick
20 Bertrand Baguette
21 Simona de Silvestro
22 Mario Romancini
23 Alex Lloyd
24 Milka Duno
25 Takuma Sato

Related posts

2 Thoughts to “IndyCar – Augusta of Racing and the Beauty of Road Courses

  1. Loved seeing the multiple lines taken through T5, and there were several instances where a driver would initiate a pass on the inside, but exit too wide, and lose the spot on exit. Classic moves! It was brilliant!

    Oh, and I’m beginning to wonder if we shouldn’t keep Milka on the track for the excitement factor. Tell me seeing people go three-wide into a hairpin didn’t get you excited and yelling at the TV!

  2. Robin Miller has an article up today with some quotes from George Barber. Barber felt there was plenty of passing and that they did not need to make any changes. I would agree with him that the race provided more overtaking than I thought there would be, but they might still want to lay down some extra asphalt to add a little more for the IndyCars. I dont think you would have to tear up the track to do it either. Maybe make turn 1 into a 90 or greater, or extend the track past the turn 7 complex and come back sharply. Just add a bit harder of a braking zone after those straights.

    But whether they do anything to the track or not, this is easily my favorite road course on the circuit now. Beautiful, well attended, decent racing, nice natural terrain…. and no armco canyons like the glen.

    As for Milka…. she is an abomination. The league should be ashamed of themselves that they have let this train wreck go on for so long. I’m sure she is a wonderful girl, keeps the sponsors happy and gets along well with the fans, but she has no upside. It’s like they took a star mazda driver and threw them in a car, but the driver never learned anything from the experience. She is way off pace wherever she goes, and it is not the equipment. Her teammates consistently finish laps ahead of her. She has had plenty of time to get up to speed and she hasn’t. Now she is on her first full season effort and she is still floundering.

Comments are closed.