By David Morgan, Associate Editor
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – It’s race day in Alabama as the NTT IndyCar Series gets set for the running of the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park.
The 90 lap, 207-mile race is scheduled for 3:00 pm ET on NBC, with drivers and teams getting a short half-hour warm-up session to get their cars dialed in for the main event later today.
When the checkered flag waved on the session, it was Alexander Rossi at the top of the board in his No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet with a lap of one minute, 6.667 seconds ahead of Colton Herta in second.
Rossi has finished as high as fifth on two separate occasions on the 17-turn, 2.3-mile road course, but maybe a change in scenery is what he needs to finally get over the hump after moving over to Arrow McLaren over the offseason. He will roll off in 10th place when the green flag flies for the race.
Despite the pre-race boost in morale, the question remains on which strategy will be the winning move as the race plays out.
The majority of the field will start on the primary Firestone tires, while Rossi’s team is one of 10 that have elected to start on the alternate red Firestones.
“It’s always hard, right? Because it rained overnight, so the track reset a little bit. It’s probably the worst-case scenario. It’ll be interesting. I still don’t know that I know,” Rossi explained. “Last year, it was a clear decision that the alternate tire was better. This in theory is the 2021 tire, which that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“Everyone’s trying to figure it out. There’s also the decision of is it a two or three-stop [race]. Regardless, I think it’s going to be a lot of split strategies and quite a show for the fans later on.”
The remainder of the top-10 fastest in warm-up was Scott Dixon, Kyle Kirkwood, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, Scott McLaughlin, Alex Palou, Will Power, and Simon Pagenaud.
Polesitter Romain Grosjean finished the session in 23rd, with defending race winner Pato O’Ward timing in 13th.
As has been the case all weekend, the session was not incident-free as Callum Illott became the latest driver to have an off-track excursion after running out of room off Turn 1 and then coming back across the track and finding himself in the gravel trap.
The session remained green as he was able to keep from getting stuck and eventually made his way back onto the racing surface.
BARBER GETS FIVE-YEAR EXTENSION
Since 2010, the IndyCar Series has made Barber its home in the State of Alabama and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
On Sunday morning, it was announced that the series and the track had inked a five-year extension to keep racing at the facility until at least 2027.
“It has been an honor to host this race since 2010 at the world-renowned Barber Motorsports Park,” said Gene Hallman, CEO of ZOOM Motorsports. “The event has become a cornerstone of the Birmingham community, drawing fans from all over the world. We are excited for the future of this event and what it means to Children’s of Alabama.”
“We are pleased the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will return to Barber Motorsports Park for years to come,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles added. “For the last 13 years, Barber has been an ideal host and the perfect Southeastern venue to showcase INDYCAR’s bold and brash personality and compelling action.
“With its unique layout and dramatic features, this beautiful facility is a favorite with our fans and within our paddock. We look forward to growing this meaningful partnership with more thrilling racing and iconic moments.”