Honda Grand Prix of Alabama Preview


Fans cheer the action at the 2013 Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. Photo by Matt Schafer

They said it wouldn’t last, but the Verizon Indycar Series returns to Barber Motorsport Park for the fourth Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.

The picturesque rolling road course is only twenty minutes from the temple of stock car racing that is Talladega Motor Speedway the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama is Indycar’s only stop in the deep south. This is my hometown race, and this year will be the first GP I’ve missed in the history of the event, but nursing school is tough and time consuming.

So I won’t be one of the nearly 58,000-strong crowd that comes out to race every year, and I’ll have to watch on television for the first time.

When it was first announced a lot of fans thought that Barber, originally designed as a motorcycle course, wouldn’t provide good racing for Indycar. Most of us have come to appreciate the difficult, tight racing the track provides.

There’s only one significant passing opportunity, the sweeping turn five. Drivers approach the turn downhill and then climb uphill as the exit. If you’re at the track any place you can see turn five is a good place to sit.

This year’s race looks to be one of the most competitive in the event’s history. In qualifying the field was split inside 1.2 seconds. There’s a lot of drivers we expect to see up front at the tail end of the field, and that should make for a compelling race


Ganassi coming from behind: Tony Kanaan turned in the slowest qualifying time in 23rd with Ryan Briscoe close by in 20th and Charlie Kimball in 17th. With passing at a premium I’d expect to see at least Kimball go off sequence like he did last year at Mid-Ohio to snare his first win.

Conway screws up qualifying: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach winner Mike Conway shot himself in the foot Saturday, qualifying 21st. Unlike Kimball I expect him to try to race his way forward.

Another Dark Horse Winner? Speaking of Mike Conway I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the Sunday that Sebastien Bourdais gets his first Indycar win since leaving for Formula One in 2007. He was fast in both practice sessions and after an embarrassing LBGP where he spun himself twice the Frenchman has to be looking for redemption. Josef Newgarden had his best qualifying result of the year to start fourth, and is hungry for a win. Either driver could pull an upset Sunday.

Veach Goes for a perfect weekend: Zach Veach lead the first Legacy Credit Union 100 flag to flag. The Indy Lights series is putting on double headers at all the road courses this year, giving Veach a chance to repeat his victory Sunday. That race will be shown after the Indycar race on NBC Sports because the network is airing Premiereship Futball as a lead-in to the Grand Prix. American Spencer Pigot won the Pro Mazda Race

Montoya Progresses: Juan Pablo Montoya admits he’s still adjusting to Indycars, but he took another step forward this weekend at Barber. During the qualifying broadcast his team said the goal was to reach Q2, and he qualified eight. With the best track position of the year for Montoya it should be interesting to see what he does on the first Road Course of the year.

Redemption for Hunter-Reay: After causing a multiple-car pileup at Long Beach the 2012 champion has to be looking to return to form. He lead both practice sessions and is the event’s defending champion. He qualified third and wants to remain upfront all race long. Newgarden, the man he was trying to pass, starts next to him on row two.