It’s going to be hard for the NTT IndyCar Series to top the show it put on two weeks ago at Circuit of the Americas, as Colton Herta shocked the establishment with a victory in just his third career start. But the series will attempt to do just that at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend, as the track celebrates its 10th year on the IndyCar schedule with Sunday’s Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
The third race of the IndyCar season will see 24 drivers take on 90 laps of a 2.38-mile track. Barber is one of the most picturesque settings on the circuit, as features a number of challenging sections, elevation changes, and eye-catching sculptures. The track counts IndyCar and MotoAmerica among its most prominent visitors over the course of any given year, while it also hosted Grand-Am racing for over a decade in the past.
Barber has produced five winners in its nine events so far, with defending winner Josef Newgarden becoming the third driver in track history to go back-to-back when he won 2018’s rain-delayed round. Newgarden, the only three-time Barber winner, is also the incoming championship leader, having won the season opener in St. Petersburg and taking second at COTA two weeks ago. He leads Herta by 18 points, while Scott Dixon sits in a distant third, 36 points off the championship lead. Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal complete the top five.
But while Herta has been making the most noise to the casual observer, it was his one-time teammate, Patricio O’Ward, who impressed many observers in the paddock after finishing eighth at COTA. After a proposed second car with Harding Steinbrenner Racing fell through, O’Ward landed a deal with Carlin Racing to run the Indianapolis 500 and 12 other races, and paid off the team’s faith with an impressive run that included a thrilling duel for position with Rahal early in the race. O’Ward also swept both Indy Lights races at Barber last year.
Other drivers to watch during the weekend include Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2013 and 2014 winner who finished third at COTA and second here last year; James Hinchcliffe, who will hope to replicate last year’s Barber podium after running 16th in Austin; and fellow previous race winners Will Power (2011-12) and Simon Pagenaud (2016). Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser will sit this weekend out after finishing 18th at COTA, while DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley, who had the same result in St. Petersburg, will make his second of five scheduled 2019 starts at Barber.
The 2019 Indy Grand Prix of Alabama airs on Sunday at 4PM ET/1PM PT on NBCSN. After Barber, IndyCar will immediately pack up and head to California for the 36th IndyCar edition of the Grand Prix of Long Beach, and the 45th running of the event overall, dating back to its Formula 1 and Formula 5000 days.