Note: In case you get distracted (or bored) and don’t make it to the end of this post – be sure and check back several times today. I’ll be posting several times throughout the day from Barber.
By the time most of you read this, I will be en route to Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, AL – just east of downtown Birmingham off of I-20. It’s about a three-hour drive from Nashville. By the time we leave (hopefully by 6:00), pick up our credentials at the nearby Hampton Inn and try to sneak a couple of breakfast items as if we’re guests – we probably won’t get situated at the track until close to 10:00. By that time, the rolling hills and picturesque woods will be filled with the sounds of the cars of the Continental Tire Series. No matter what cars are running, as you approach the wooded area of the track, the sound of race cars permeating the air is enough to get your blood pumping.
That’s the fun thing about being at Barber. No matter what is going on in the IndyCar world, there is always some type of cars on track.
It’s become somewhat of a standing joke for someone to describe Barber Motorsports Park as “beautiful”. Skeptics will say that the word “beautiful” is code-speak for boring track. There is no denying that passing zones are at a premium at Barber, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pass or that the racing is boring. If you’re looking for the side-by-side action normally associated with Chicago or Texas – well, you’re going to be disappointed.
Most know that I am an oval guy, through and through. I grew up watching ovals and they will always be my preferred form of racing. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy and appreciate the nuances of road racing. Make no mistake, Barber is a tough course. It’s tough to qualify, it’s tough to pass and it’s tough to win. Those that use patience throughout this race are usually rewarded. Those that don’t, get burned – as seen by Ryan Hunter-Reay last year, whose impatience took out not only himself but Ryan Briscoe as well.
Granted, my expertise is not only limited; it’s practically non-existent. Barber is the only road course I’ve ever been to. I have nothing to compare it to. I’ve also never watched an IZOD IndyCar Series race from Barber live on television. I’ve always been in attendance. So the thrill of being there or the sheer beauty of the place may not come across at all on television.
The atmosphere at Barber is completely different to any oval tracks that I’ve been to. Although there is a vibe and an energy to the place, the crowd is also very laid back and respectful. For instance, last year during the race – we left our lawn chairs and coolers on the hill overlooking Turn Two. We rode the tram over to the backstretch and watched about twenty laps or so over there. When we rode the tram back around to Turn Two, all of our belongings were still there and untouched. Can you imagine doing that at many oval tracks and finding everything as you left it?
Friday is my favorite day at Barber. It’s not near as crowded and the pace is not hectic. The teams and drivers seem very relaxed. The weather is usually pleasant (except for a brief shower last year on Friday) and it’s good to just stroll aimlessly to see what you can come across. When it’s a Friday, you’re at a well-manicured race track with cars on it and azaleas and dogwoods around it and the sun is shining…can it really get any better?
I’ll be curious to see if the drivers are as well-behaved as they were last week at St. Petersburg. Something tells me with the tight and narrow confines of Barber Motorsports Park, they won’t be. It’ll probably be too tempting to try out those new "bumpers" and semi-enclosed wheels to see if they make passing any easier. It should be very interesting.
My curse for picking the winner is still perfect. I haven’t successfully chosen a race winner since I picked Tony Kanaan to win at Iowa in 2010. So who am I going to doom this weekend? Marco Andretti – that’s who. He should have won this race two years ago, but still finished fifth. Last year, he finished fourth at Barber. He should be motivated after being outperformed by his teammates last week. Things should come together for him on Sunday.
Check back all day today: So you did make it this far…I’ll be posting all day today from Barber with pictures and possibly videos. Who knows what Susan and I will come across, but we’ll be relaying various reports from Barber throughout the day today. Check back later…