Random Thoughts On Barber

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As I write this, I have still not seen the television broadcast of yesterday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. But from speaking with fans and everyone in the media center, the general consensus was that it was a good race. We always have fun going to Barber, but leaving after a good race makes it even better.

There were seven lead changes among four different drivers. Not bad for a course that everyone used to call boring. Plus the neck-to-neck racing between Will Power, Helio Castroneves and eventual winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in the middle stages was fun to watch even as a spectator that only got a short glimpse of it on every lap.

Helio Castroneves put on a good smile for the cameras when being interviewed and holding up his third-place trophy. But he looked forlorn and dejected in victory lane when the focus was on someone else.

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But we shouldn’t feel too bad for Helio for finishing third in this race. He finished second in the first race at St. Petersburg and is the current points leader. My pick to win the race, Scott Dixon, finished second for the fourth time in four races at Barber. He currently sits second in points, while this week’s race winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay, is third. By virtue of finishing seventh yesterday and third two weeks ago, Marco Andretti is fourth in points, while the St. Petersburg winner, James Hinchcliffe rounds out the Top-Five in points.

Dario Franchitti’s nightmarish start continues. He has the distinction of starting the season with two consecutive twenty-fifth place finishes and currently sits dead last in points. Helio Castroneves has a total of seventy-nine points, while Dario has ten. To rub salt in his wounds – Dario has fewer points than AJ Allmendinger, who finished nineteenth and didn’t even run the first race. Ouch!

After a weekend break, the series now heads out west to Long Beach; an event that is second only to the Indianapolis 500 in tradition. That’s sort of hard to believe. After that they head south – way south to São Paulo, before setting up shop for the month of May. So far, the season is off to a very interesting start.

TV Coverage: I normally have an opinion that doesn’t matter much about the TV coverage, but since I haven’t watched the coverage yet, I can’t comment. Sorry.

Name Dropping: It was good to reconnect with acquaintances and outright friends this weekend. Our good friends Tad & Silvia were gracious as usual. It’s always good to catch up with them. I was also able to chat a bit about the Final Four with Curt Cavin on Friday. On Saturday morning, Kevin Lee was kind enough to give us a ride from the parking lot on his golf cart. Sunday morning, Susan and I both had a nice long visit with our good friend Pippa Mann. She couldn’t share much about her plans for the month of May, but suffice it to say she is working feverishly to not be on the sidelines. I’m sure the highlight of her weekend was when she was presented with an Oilpressure.com T-shirt. What could be better?

Pippa Shirt

Nashville Connection: It was good to see Nashville native Josef Newgarden with a top-ten finish. The Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver had a rough weekend and started twenty-second. But he moved up and stayed in the top ten for most of the second half of the race and finished ninth. His DNF at St. Petersburg two weeks ago puts him at sixteenth in points. I don’t think he is going to be under the radar much longer.

Thieves:  While I’ve always lauded the crowd at Barber for being knowledgeable and very civilized, Susan and I left our blanket and cooler at the top of the hill looking over Turn Two and went down right against the rail to take pictures and be up close and personal with the racing. When we returned to our cooler, there were a few adult beverages missing. Who does that? Stealing another man’s (and woman’s) beer at a race is not done. These were obviously not racing fans, but Auburn fans, instead.

All in all: I thought it was a good race to go along with another fabulous race weekend. It wasn’t as unpredictable as St. Petersburg, but compared to the first two races here – it was very enjoyable. I may sit down tonight to watch the broadcast and have a totally different opinion, but from viewing it as a fan at the track, we really enjoyed it.

Even though the weather could not have been better, I’m not sure there is a better way than spending it at a race track. Susan and I have been lucky in that every race we leave, we say it was even more fun than the last. I’m sure a letdown is coming, but I hope it isn’t anywhere soon.

Perhaps, I’ll bore everyone with more pictures on Wednesday. Thanks for following us all weekend long.

George Phillips

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10 Responses to “Random Thoughts On Barber”

  1. Leigh Diffy’s screaming has crossed the line to squealing. I really don’t want to turn the sound off, especially when Mr Matchett is in the booth with him, but this is getting out of hand.

    Save me Bob Varsha, you’re our only hope.

  2. I’ll take the OTHER side to JB above. I am starting to get used to Mr. Diffey and I rather like his excitement, even when it borders on “forced.” I can however understnd those who take the other view, as the pitch of his voice is initially annoying.

    George, my question to you is, how was the attendance? I caught your worried comment yesterday morning and the broadcast really didn’t show very much. Is it maybe an indication of “new fans” when you observe an an obvious breach of racetrack decorum such as the pilferage of malt beverages from your cooler? (Always looking for an upside, you know….)

    • Oilpressure Says:

      Looking at the stands across the way and the crowd around Turns 2 & 3, I’d say it was about the same as last year. I hear they had a huge walk-up crowd. – GP

      • Jenna Fryer tweeted that Sunday was biggest race day ever. Weekend was second to the first year. Saturday seemed off to me, which Jennas numbers seem to corroborate, saw more people in “other” places Sunday.

        Sorry about the beer, just figured you wouldnt mind.

  3. Hal Bush Says:

    Auburn fans? I don’t know but if it is any indication, but Bama fans like that guy who poisoned those Auburn trees would make great suspects for your missing beer.

    The race was fabulous and your reports were, too!

    • billytheskink Says:

      The thieves could also have been Samford fans, Baptists don’t like to be seen buying alcohol you know…

  4. I’ve never seen a road race in person, but from your comments George–and an otherwise favorable article in the Birmingham newspaper–it seems that no one has any understanding of what’s actually happening on the track. What’s the point of attending a sporting event that is so difficult to follow or comprehend while it’s happening? As much as I enjoy a picnic in scenic surroundings, it doesn’t seem worth the time if you can’t follow the competition.

    Isn’t there anything they can do to make the live experience at least as entertaining as the broadcast version?

    • Spectators can listen to a ‘track announcer’ narrate each race via the dozens of modern loudspeakers which surround the race course.

      Spectators can listen to a track announcer narrate each race via FM radio 106.3 MHz. A large sign at the entrance to the park, and the free-of-charge, printed Fan Guide, advises this.

      Spectators can listen to IMS Radio commentators Mike King, Davey Hamilton, Mark James, and Pippa Mann narrate qualifying and racing via VHF pocket radios and Sirius/XM radios.

      Spectators can listen to NBC Sports Network narrate IndyCar and Indy Lights qualifying and racing via VHF pocket radios and by satellite television in RVs.

      Spectators can view large video screen (‘jumbotrons’).

      Incidentally, to answer others’ comments regarding qualifying, … That’s not intended to be entertainment, but rather the athletes’ qualification for future competition/sporting contest.
      Not everything is as entertaining as a Hollywood movie or television show.
      However, spectators may read the conditions and parameters of qualifying sessions in enthusiast websites, magazines, IndyCar’s website, and perhaps the freely-distributed Fan Guide. And they can listen to radios and view the jumbotrons. Qualifying is not secretive or mysterious or confusing.

  5. Auburn’s tough couple of weeks has just gotten tougher. They now lie, cheat, and now steal!

    Watching any sporting event on TV gives the viewer more information than the spectator in the crowd. You go because there is more excitement in person than on a couch. Having a radio call on a headset has always enhanced my viewing in person specifically at a race.

    • billytheskink Says:

      The radio broadcast is played over the public address system as well, though that can be tough to hear when cars other than those Grand Am GX-class Mazda diesels drive by your seat.

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