By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel
This weekend INDYCAR heads to beautiful Barber Motorsports Park for an Indy Lights double header and the Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Both the defending series champion Scott Dixon and current championship-leader Simon Pagenaud have had plenty of success at Barber over the years but neither has a win at the track. But as you’ll read below their typical challengers have plenty of consistency in the rolling hills of Birmingham, Alabama so it should be an exciting weekend of INDYCAR action. The Open Wheel will be live on site covering the race weekend so stay tuned to this site and our Twitter page @openwh33l for all the action.
Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens/INDYCAR
Indy Lights Preview: Legacy Indy Lights 100, Race 1 – Saturday April 23, 2016 1:00PM (ET) & Race 2 – Sunday April 24, 2016 1:20PM (ET) – Results from Race 1 & Race 2 last year at Barber do have some relevance this year but there are many drivers that have moved on from the series. RC Enerson had the best combined results of the returnees from the two races but Ed Jones wasn’t too far behind. However, passing can be tough in this series and Kyle Kaiser was able to qualify P4 for both races in last year’s strong field and has looked great so far in his second season in Lights so he’s my favorite for a big weekend. The championship leader looks to be on the verge of dominance and we could see that shine through this weekend. He had a couple rough races at Barber last year but I think he’ll come through with two poles and two big wins. Ed Jones had great qualifying results here last year and could be due for a turnaround this weekend with a podium or two. I like what I’ve seen from Zach Veach so far this year and think he’ll pick up at least one podium. My picks to win: Kyle Kaiser (sweep)
Verizon IndyCar Series Preview: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Sunday April 24, 2016 3:00PM (ET) NBCSN – Looking at previous driver experience at Barber the only multiple race winners at the circuit are Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power. The other race winners at the circuit are Helio Castroneves and last year’s winner Josef Newgarden but while he hasn’t won at Barber, Scott Dixon has a Top 3 finish in all six of his appearances at Barber! Recent history at Barber in 2015 and 2014 shows plenty of consistency at the top of the box score. Dixon, Power, and Hunter-Reay all have Top 5’s in each of the last two years at Barber and if you expand that to the Top 10 then it also includes Newgarden, Hinchcliffe, Pagenaud, and Andretti. My pick to win: Will Power – Power has been outstanding in practice and qualifying this year (outside of the Firestone Fast 6 at Long Beach) and has three poles in six starts at Barber. He’s due to win the pole (and take the start) and get the much-needed confidence boost of leading some laps. If Power can get up front at Barber I don’t see any non-strategy way he gives up the lead as badly as he needs a win at the moment.
My fantasy.indycar.com picks: Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, and Graham Rahal – You know my thoughts on Power and at $31 compared to Scott Dixon’s option-restricting $35 I think he’s the smarter “big money” choice this weekend. Based on recent history at Barber and strong showings in the first two races RHR looks like good value at $23. From there it gets tough but Newgarden is the defending champ and Rahal continues to look racy and had the fastest car on track at the end of last year’s race.