Random Thoughts On Barber
There was probably enough gushing from me yesterday about how happy I was to finally see Nashville native Josef Newgarden earn his first win in the Verizon IndyCar series. I’ll try not to gush anymore, but suffice it to say that I was very pleased and proud of him. Now that he has finally gotten that first win, I think you can count him as one of the favorites at just about any track the series goes to.
But there were other things to take away from yesterday’s race. First of all, Honda had a much better showing in the race than they showed in practice. Graham Rahal was racy all weekend and has continued to show signs that he is finally putting all together. But there were other Honda drivers that showed speed and not due to fluky situations. James Hinchcliffe and all three Andretti cars showed that they could keep up and race with the Chevys.
Meanwhile, many of the Chevy teams had an off day yesterday. Other than Scott Dixon coming in third, the other Ganassi cars were mostly silent. Charlie Kimball finished twelfth, Tony Kanaan was thirteenth and Sage Karam came in eighteenth.
Will Power was the highest finishing Penske car, after serving a drive-through penalty and salvaging fourth. Simon Pagenaud finished ninth, Juan Montoya was fourteenth and Helio Castroneves ended up fifteenth after starting on the pole. So much for the Penske juggernaut everyone was fretting about after St. Petersburg.
There are those that love to hate on Barber, road courses and IndyCar in general. Nothing will change that. But you will have a hard time convincing me that this race was boring or not entertaining. There was a lot going on, and it ended up with a very popular winner. What more could you want?
TV Coverage: Obviously, I have not watched the race broadcast, but I plan to tonight. But it had Steve Matchett in the booth from Formula one, so it had to be good. I’ll be interested to see how something that looked so good in person, plays out on television.
Honda Presence: Although Honda has been woefully lacking in performance on the track this season, yesterday’s race notwithstanding – they have really stepped up in their promotional efforts at this race they have sponsored since its inception in 2010. Honda has always provided the courtesy shuttles from the parking lots to the paddock, but this year, you are greeted by a fleet of brand-new Honda automobiles as you enter the park.
Their signage is everywhere and they have a very interactive display in the IndyCar Fan Zone. It’s a shame they have been behind Chevy since the debut of the oval kits in open testing last month, but yesterday’s performance has to up their spirits.
Decent Crowd: As I mentioned yesterday, the crowds here have been good all weekend, despite threatening weather on Saturday. Yesterday for the race, the spectator crowd was good, but not the largest I’ve seen here. I assume people were scared away by the thought of sitting in the mud. But this is a savvy crowd and they were very excited to see a native southerner from just up I-65 come away with the win.
This race may not usually be the most enticing on television, even though yesterday’s race was a thriller. But it’s a great event to attend. I would highly recommend to anyone that lives within a day’s drive to try to make this event sometime. But unlike other events on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule – this date does not seem to be in peril. The track seems to love having IndyCar come to its track and the attendance seems to grow every year. The future is very bright regarding IndyCar and Barber Motorsports Park.
Support Races: Unlike some tracks that seem to lack a lot of on-track activity on their weekend schedule – there seemed to be no down-time whatsoever this entire weekend. As soon as one series finished using the track, another was lined up.
Unlike many, I’m not one that follows the support series. I can’t name more than three Indy Lights drivers off the top of my head. But as a racing fan, it was very enjoyable to go onto the backstretch and watch the various support series from the wooded areas. If you are a die-hard fan of US F2000 or the Pirelli World Challenge, I would think a weekend at Barber would be like dying and going to heaven.
Fan Friendly: Although there is no shortage of adult beverages on-hand, I never see anyone acting drunk, stupid and obnoxious. Instead of looking for different venues for getting drunk, like the patrons at some tracks – these are race fans and families that simply don’t mind an occasional beer while they watch racing.
Since I’m fortunately beyond the child-rearing age, it’s not a great selling point to me that I noticed a huge increase of kids at Barber this year. The Fan Village has many parts geared towards small children. The viewing areas are close to the track so that kids can get a sense of speed and see how good the cars look. That’s important. If we hook them while they’re young, they can become our next generation of IndyCar fans.
All In All: This was, without a doubt, my favorite Verizon IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park – and I’ve been to every one of them. I would say that even if Newgarden had run out of fuel and someone else won. It was good to see Honda fight back, and it was good to see Graham Rahal get on the podium. Four winners from four different teams to start the season is about as good as IndyCar could hope for.
Please note: I will TRY to load up some photos from this past weekend for a special post on TUESDAY. – GP