By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel
The INDYCAR season continues this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park for the Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and the Mazda Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Cooper Tires. The Open Wheel will be on-site covering the action all weekend so stay tuned to this site and our Twitter page @openwh33l for all of the latest news.
Photo by Parker Hall/The Open Wheel
Indy Lights Preview: Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Cooper Tires (Entry List), Race 1 – Saturday, April 22, 2017 3:00PM (ET) & Race 2 – Sunday, April 23, 2017 12:45PM (ET) – The Indy Lights races at Barber last year were won by Ed Jones and Santiago Urrutia. Urrutia was probably the best driver in the series on natural terrain road courses last season with wins at Barber, Road America, and a Mid-Ohio sweep and he figures to be strong again this weekend. Here are the results of last year’s races: Race 1 & Race 2. Pato O’Ward held off fellow rookie Aaron Telitz in each of the two Pro Mazda races at Barber last year so keep an eye on these two rookies this weekend. Championship leader Colton Herta does have previous experience at Barber in USF2000 back in 2014. My picks to win: Santi Urrutia & Aaron Telitz
Verizon IndyCar Series Preview: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Sunday, April 23 3:00PM (ET) NBCSN – The big news of the weekend is Zach Veach making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut filling in for the injured JR Hildebrand in the Ed Carpenter Racing No. 21. Previous driver experience at Barber shows all five former winners will race this weekend in Ryan Hunter-Reay (2), Will Power (2), Helio Castroneves (1), Josef Newgarden (1), and Simon Pagenaud (1). Looking at box scores from 2016 and 2015, Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden, and Will Power have each finished in the Top 5 at Barber in each of the last two years. They are joined by Simon Pagenaud, James Hinchcliffe, and Scott Dixon if that’s expanded to the Top 10. Rookie Ed Jones started on pole for each Indy Lights race at Barber last year and grabbed a win and P2 in the races. My pick to win: Scott Dixon – Dixon has been the fastest driver in the series this season and has been unfortunate to not win a race or pole. He’s topped the charts in five of the eight practice sessions (including four of the six non-morning warmups). Shockingly, Dixon has never won a race or pole at Barber however he’s still been crazy fast. He’s started in the Top 5 in all 7 races and finished on the podium in 6 of his 7 races at Barber (P10 last year). I think he gets his win this weekend.
My fantasy.indycar.com picks: Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, and Marco Andretti – You know my thoughts on Dixon. Hunter-Reay has won this race twice, finished in the Top 5 in 3 of his 7 starts at Barber, and has been very fast all season. Rahal has finished second in each of the last two years. Andretti has been fast in practice in each of the first two race weekends but hasn’t had a ton of luck in qualifying or races. However, Barber has been friendly to him over the years with 3 Top 5’s and 5 Top 10’s in 7 starts and I have a feeling he’s due for a good finish.