IndyCar Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama: Drivers to Watch

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images by IndyCar/Chris Owens (1); IndyCar/Joe Skibinski (2)

Believe it or not, it’s already been nearly a decade since Barber Motorsports Park made its debut on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Since that debut event in the spring of 2010, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama has been the marquee event on the track’s annual calendar, and some of the sport’s top drivers have taken victories on the 2.3-mile road course.

As IndyCar wraps up a stretch of three races in three weekends and drivers ready for a return to Indianapolis, scoring a solid result at Barber will be crucial to going into the month of May on a high note. Here are a handful of the drivers we’ll be paying attention to this weekend:

Last Week’s Winner: Alexander Rossi

Rossi’s meteoric rise to the peak of the IndyCar mountain continued with a victory in Long Beach, enabling him to take the championship lead for the first time in his career. After dominating in California, he should be poised for another great run in Alabama, and maybe keep his podium streak alive: last year, despite qualifying 18th, he charged through the pack to score his first top five finish of the season.

Last Year’s Winner: Josef Newgarden

After taking the points lead for the first time this season in Phoenix, Newgarden crossed the finish line seventh in Long Beach and ceded the top spot in the standings to Rossi. Still, he’s one of three drivers to win twice at Barber (the others are Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay), and it’ll always be a special track to the defending IndyCar champion as he took his first victory here in 2015.

Consistent Contender: Will Power

Scott Dixon’s average finish of 3.2 is actually better than Power’s mark of 4.8, but the Aussie would be ahead of the Kiwi if not for rotten late-race luck last year. Pitting from the lead with less than 15 laps to go, Power’s 14th place result marked the only time he’s ever missed out on a top five result in Alabama. He had not only scored the pole, but also led 60 of the race’s 90 laps before the unlucky break.

On a Hot Streak: Graham Rahal

While he hasn’t yet returned to victory lane in 2018, Rahal’s finishes of second, ninth, and fifth so far have been good enough to claim third place in the IndyCar standings. First-lap contact with Simon Pagenaud in Long Beach meant he spent a lot of his post-race interviews apologizing to the Frenchman, but he’s got plenty to be proud of about his team’s solid performance so far this season.

On the Hot Seat: Sebastien Bourdais

It may not be a “hot seat” in the traditional sense, but the St. Petersburg winner’s cockpit must have been a little warmer at the end last weekend’s action. He was livid after taking a penalty for a daring pass on Scott Dixon, in which IndyCar determined that he used the exit of pit lane to make the move. Still fourth in points, he’ll look to rebound at a track where he holds the race lap record (1:06.6001).

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