And so it begins…This morning begins a 2,260 mile odyssey over four of the next five weekends in which Susan and I will attend three races and one weekend of qualifying. It all starts this weekend with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Two weeks from now it will be the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, followed by a revamped qualifying format weekend and then the main attraction – the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
First things first, though – this weekend’s race at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Alabama holds our immediate attention. It’s hard to believe, but this will be the fifth race at the “beautiful facility”. That term has become something of a joke, because those of us that were there for the first race at Barber kept using that term relentlessly. There was a reason for that – it was true.
I’ve been to many racetracks over the years. Some are impressive in their size, others can boast of their facilities or their history. None of the tracks that I’ve been to, can claim to have sucha beautiful setting except for one – Barber Motorsports Park. I’ve never been to The Masters, but from what I’ve seen on television Barber comes close to that. The grounds are manicured and dogwoods and azaleas abound. In between whiffs of ethanol fumes and tire smoke, spectators mostly are treated to the scents of pine forests and flower gardens. It is almost a surreal experience to see race cars zooming through such a setting. So, let everyone continue their jokes about the “beautiful facility”. For those of us that have been there – it is no joke.
The first two races here, we in attendance were forced to focus on the beauty because the racing was not very good, quite frankly. But since the introduction of the DW12, the last two races have been quite good – especially on a narrow winding track that was built primarily for motorcycle racing.
The 2.3-mile, 16-turn track offers tight turns and large changes in elevation. There are only a few passing zones, and they require skill and patience form the drivers. Try to force the issue on this track and you’ll tend to regret it.
The first three years of this event had a Team Penske feel to it. Helio Castroneves won the inaugural event in 2010, while Will Power won the following two races. But Ryan Hunter-Reay broke the Penske stranglehold on this track last year. Will Power has started the season with two top-two finishes. He would have to be the odds-own favorite to take his third Barber victory, but that remains to be seen.
Susan and I have attended every Verizon IndyCar Series race that has been held at Barber. In all those races, there has been one common thread – Scott Dixon has finished second in every one of them. Maybe he can break through for Ganassi at this track, or perhaps a new face will grace the podium at Barber. We’ll get a better idea throughout the weekend.
As is always the case when we attend races in person, I plan on having several posts throughout the weekend. Will I have anything newsworthy that scoops everyone else? Probably not, because that’s not what I do. I will, however, have my own unique (read: twisted) opinion and commentary on various topics; along with pictures and a fan’s perspective. Susan will also have a couple of posts, giving her unique (read: quirky) spin on the goings on at Barber.
Since most of the traffic visits this site between 8:00am and 10:00am central time; we will probably be en route as most of you read. My target is to be situated on the grounds before the first IndyCar practice starts at 10:00. But I will be posting, not only throughout the day but throughout the entire weekend – so please check back often throughout all three days.
As usual, it’s time to pick a winner. I’m 0 for 2 this young season. Both drivers I’ve picked to win have finished second, so I haven’t too off base. My pick for Sunday’s winner in Scott Dixon, which – based on my earlier results – will assure him of finishing second at Barber for a fifth straight year. We’ll see.
Check back later this morning.