Archive for the IndyCar Category

Saturday Morning At Barber Motorsports Park

Posted in IndyCar on April 22, 2017 by Oilpressure

Good morning from Barber Motorsports Park and the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. We have been here for a while, but there was a generator problem in the Media Center this morning, meaning there was no power or internet. That problem was fixed around 9:30, so I was able to come in and type

It is still warm (and a bit muggy), but the clouds have rolled in and it is pretty much overcast. That is probably the way things will be throughout the day, until the storms start in late afternoon or early evening.

The first Verizon IndyCar practice starts at 11:00 Central time and will conclude at 11:45. Qualifications get underway at 3:15 and will be over with by around 4:30. The NBCSN broadcast of qualifications will be slightly delayed and will begin at 3:30 pm Central time.

As promised (or threatened), I was able to upload the One Take Only episode that John McLallen and I recorded from the track on Friday afternoon. We had to yell to be heard over the Indy Lights cars in the background. What turned out to be even more distracting was the PA announcer in the background. It’s less than nine minutes, so give it a listen.

Anyway, Susan and I are going to go wander the IndyCar paddock as teams prepare for the third and final practice in less than an hour. Check back here later for updates. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog or Susan at @MrsOilpressure. See you in a bit.

George Phillips

That’s A Wrap For Friday

Posted in IndyCar on April 21, 2017 by Oilpressure

Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s been a great day here at the track. The bad news is that we were able to record an episode of One Take Only beside the track this afternoon. I will work on it tonight and post it either late tonight or first thing in the morning, assuming I can get the software on my laptop to cooperate. If not, it’ll have to wait until we get back home.. You’ve been warned.

As far as the racing goes, things were a little more balanced as far as the manufacturer’s battle goes. Marco was at the top of the charts with a time of 1:07.7134 – about four-tenths of a second off of Simon Pagenaud’s top speed this morning.

Second was Will Power in a Chevy, then Pagenaud was third, followed by Helio Castroneves. Scott Dixon wedged his way into the Penske party and was fifth quickest followed by the fourth Penske car of Josef Newgarden. Charlie Kimball, Mikhail Aleshin, Sébastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top-ten – all in Hondas.

I was able to snap a couple of pics. I got a shot of Helio pitting in the second practice and then just after he got out of his car. Then I got a good shot in the paddock of Rick Mears taking time to chat with fans and signing autographs. He hasn’t driven a car in a quarter-century but he is still one of the best ambassadors for IndyCar. By the way, he is still one of my favorite all-time drivers.




That’ll do it for us today. Susan finally arrived about 5:00, just in time to shift my luggage from John’s car to hers. John and his son then left to go back to Nashville. I don’t worry about him falling asleep since he got to sleep in this morning. He and Jack are talking about coming back Sunday for the race. We’ll see.

Anyway, check back early and often tomorrow. Hopefully, we’ll be here earlier than today. Plus be sure to check for the uploaded One Take Only either tonight or first thing in the morning. Tanks for following along today. We’ll do it again tomorrow.

George Phillips

Practice One In The Books

Posted in IndyCar on April 21, 2017 by Oilpressure

The first Verizon IndyCar practice at Barber Motorsports Park is in the books. Based off of one single practice, one might get the opinion that Roger Penske is tired of seeing the smaller teams come away with the wins in the first two races.

The four cars that make up Team Penske also made up the top four positions on the speed chart. Last year’s winner at Barber, Simon Pagenaud, finished where he left off last year by turning the fastest lap in practice. For those that weren’t able to watch live streaming, Pagenaud is in the day-glo yellow Menard’s car that you can clearly spot completely on the other side of the track.

Just behind Pagenaud was his newest Penske teammate, Joesf Newgarden who won this race in 2015 wile driving for CFH Racing. Will Power was third quick and Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves was last compared to his teammates but still was fourth quick.

For the rest of the field, it was a mixed bag. Alexander Rossi was quickest of the non-Penske drivers. He is running a red, white and blue scheme with bank sidepods and NAPA on the cowling as an associate sponsor. I knew NAPA was sponsoring only ten races as a primary sponsor, so I guess this is one of the seven where they are not on board.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was sixth with Graham Rahal seventh. The Long Beach winner, James Hinchcliffe was eighth quickest while Sébastien Bourdais was ninth and Scott Dixon was tenth. Aside from the four Team Penske cars, you have to go all the way down to the thirteenth spot to find the next fastest Chevy, that would be the car of Carlos Muñoz.

Zach Veach, making his Verizon IndyCar debut this weekend, was last in the practice, about two and a half seconds behind the time of Simon Pagenaud.

I found it striking that three of the four Andretti Autosport cars are carrying blank sidepods this weekend. the only one with full sponsorship appears to be Hunter-Reay. Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi all seem to have space for rent on their cars.

As I said earlier, it is hot here. As I type at 1:54, it is 84° and will probably get hotter. Keep in mind, a front is scheduled to go through Saturday night and we will have temperatures more than twenty degrees cooler for Sunday’s race.

I’m now going back out into the heat and wander the paddock and the grounds. Again, follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog for photos and comments. Did I tell you how great it is to be back at a race track?

George Phillips

Finally Made It To Barber

Posted in IndyCar on April 21, 2017 by Oilpressure

Never again will I complain about how slowly my wife moves on race weekend mornings. When we leave Nashville for Barber, I tend to target a 6:00 am departure. Susan usually makes it out the door by 6:30. In the past, I found that irritating and I usually let her know about it in some not-so-subtle ways.

As I mentioned in my earlier post this morning, Susan had some work she had to do and couldn’t get away until after lunch today. My One Take Only cohort, John McLallen, and his son were coming down for the day so it seemed like a god idea to ride with them. He asked me what time I wanted t leave. He didn’t blink when I said 6:00, so I assumed t wasn’t a rhetorical question.

At 6:30 I called and he sounded odd. I deduced by his demeanor that a death in the family had just occurred. He said he was leaving then. By about 7:15, he finally showed up. I found out that his demeanor was due to the fact that I woke him up when I called.

My 9:30 anticipated arrival ended up being 11:00. We were so late that the shuttles had stopped running from the parking lot. I normally don’t have high blood pressure, but I could feel my temples pounding the whole way down here.

Anyway, now that I’ve got that out of my system…there was one stroke of luck in all of this delay. In one of the other series running here this weekend, a crash took out the Turn Three barrier and it had t be repaired. That has shifted the schedule for the day. The Verizon IndyCar Series will practice for the first time at 11:45 local time (which is Central Daylight Time). The second practice has been moved to 3:25 this afternoon.

It is very hot here. It is already 80-degrees and it’s not even noon yet. It is sunny but there are some large puffy clouds around that look like they could possibly become active at some point in the day.

With that, Practice is about ten minutes away. I’m headed out to watch it. Susan will be here sometime mid-afternoon. I’ll try to post something here before the second practice. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog for photos, videos, etc.

Please check back a little later. By tge way…it’s great to be back a race track.

George Phillips

Barber Preview

Posted in IndyCar on April 21, 2017 by Oilpressure

By the time you read this, one of us will be well on our way to Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. I say one of us, but I guess I should say I’ll be on my way. Susan has some work to do and will be driving down to Birmingham later today. In order to not have two cars to deal with for the weekend, I am riding down early this morning with my One Take Only cohort, John McLallen; who is driving down for the day to watch practice with his son Jack.

With John down here, we may (notice I said “may”) record a trackside episode of One Take Only today and post it here sometime this weekend. That should give you something to dread and try to avoid over the weekend.

We had to wait four weeks between the first and second race of the season. That’s been cut in half between the second and third. After this week’s race at Barber, the Verizon IndyCar Series heads straight to Phoenix for a race next Saturday night. That will be three races over four weekends, so the season is undoubtedly in full swing now.

After two races, it seems that the resurgence of Honda and the lack of wins among the top-three teams is what everyone is talking about. Dale Coyne Racing won at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports took the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The big question heading into the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is will this trend continue or will normalcy return to the series?

Of course, the other big topic is still the news that Fernando Alonso will forego the Grand Prix of Monaco in order to run this year’s Indianapolis 500. Interest in that topic will probably grow this weekend, since Alonso will be on the grounds at Baber Motorsports Park Saturday. He will be in the Andretti Autosport pits and garage this weekend getting familiar with his team and the way things are done in the series.

It’s hard to believe, but this is the eighth Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Susan and I have been here for every one of them. Those that have never been here will joke about the “beautiful facility” references that we make, but once you’ve been here to see it for yourself – you know we aren’t just making conversation. If you saw any of The Masters a couple of weekends ago, Barber Motorsports Park is not too far away from having its grounds manicured almost as meticulously as Augusta National. But instead of a golf course sitting amongst the dogwoods and azaleas, it’s a 2.3 mile road course.

I’ve been to many IndyCar venues over the years and Barber Motorsports Park is one of my all-time favorites. First of all, they do things right. Everything at the facility is first class. The fan village across the track offers anything you would want if you were a new race fan and wanted to know more about the sport. There are trams running at all times around the track, giving fans free access to any vantage point or attraction they might want.

The concessions are good and varied with enough spots that there are rarely any lines to speak of. And there is the art work that randomly appears at obscure places either right next to the track or somewhere on the grounds. From morning until late in the day, there is rarely a time when there is not some type of race cars on the track either practicing, qualifying or racing.

Then there is the museum on the grounds. Whenever IMS decides they have outgrown the Hall of Fame Museum, they should take a few cues from the Barber Museum. I’m not sure how many stories tall it is, but it’s huge. They have also made use of every inch of space, mounting cars and motorcycles on the wall and suspending them in the air. If you are ever at this race or even passing through Birmingham at any time of year, you need to make a point to stop in and visit.

One thing I really like about Barber (other than the fact it is the closest race to Nashville) is how laid back it is. The Month of May is exhilarating, but it can be very hectic no matter what weekend you are there. Barber has a different feel. It’s hard to describe, but it’s just …different.

And don’t fall into the trap of thinking these are NASCAR fans that just came over from Talladega for the weekend. You would be mistaken. The folks that come to the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama are savvy open-wheel and road racing fans. They know all about IndyCar past and present.

As far as this year’s race goes, I think everything is wide open. Since Chevy returned to the sport in 2012, Honda has only won this race once – when Ryan Hunter-Reay won his second in a row in 2014 (remember in 2013, Andretti Autosport was still a Chevy team). Other than that, it has been pretty well dominated by Chevy. Only once has one of the big-three teams not won this race. That was in 2015 when Josef Newgarden won for CFH Racing.

Oddly enough, Chip Ganassi Racing has never won at Barber, although Scott Dixon has finished on the podium in six of the first seven races here. He finished second in his first four Barber races and third in the next two. Last year’s tenth place finish was Scott Dixon’s only non-podium finish since this race started in 2010.

The weather for the race is looking better than it was earlier in the week. It looks like today and tomorrow will be in the mid-eighties with some partial overcast. Severe storms are scheduled to rumble through the area Saturday night, but are supposed to clear out by sunrise Sunday morning. The bad news is that the parking lot will be an absolute quagmire and the grounds will be soggy. The good news is that the temperature is supposed to drop considerably on Sunday – with a predicted high of only 65°. That should make for some interesting conditions since no one will have run in cooler temperatures all weekend.

So who am I picking to win this year’s race? Based on the past two races, I should be picking our points leader, Sébastien Bourdais – but I’m not. While I think Bourdais and Dale Coyne Racing will have an excellent season, I don’t think they will excel at Barber. That’s based on more of a gut feeling than anything else. I’m torn between going with Josef Newgarden getting his first win for Roger Penske, or Scott Dixon finally breaking through to reach the top spot of the Barber podium. Whoever I pick will have their race ruined. My picks for the first two races this season have not even sniffed the podium. My heart says Newgarden, but my head says Dixon. I think I’ll go with logic and say that Scott Dixon will be the winner on Sunday.

As usual on race weekends that we attend in person, there will be multiple posts here throughout the day, every day. Susan will have a couple of posts showing her perspective. Plus, there’s also the threat of the possibility of a One Take Only on here at some point this weekend. Please check back here often throughout the day. As usual, follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog or Susan at @MrsOilpressure for instantaneous photos, comments and more. I’ll have a post up here shortly after we arrive at the track. See you then.

George Phillips

Looking Back At A Recent Memory

Posted in IndyCar on April 19, 2017 by Oilpressure

For those of you that have Facebook, you know there is a relatively new feature called Memories that shows you where you were or what you posted on a certain date, so many years ago. Last week a photo popped up on mine that was from exactly two years ago at NOLA Motorsports Park, when Susan and I were there for the Inaugural Grand Prix of Louisiana.

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Brilliant Move Or Shameless Publicity Stunt?

Posted in IndyCar on April 14, 2017 by Oilpressure

We all awoke to the same announcement on Wednesday morning; two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso will skip the Grand Prix of Monaco and run the Indianapolis 500 instead. Like most of you, I thought it was a hoax of some kind. But we all now know that it turned out to be true.

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