IndyCar setup sheet: Barber
What: Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix / Race 4 of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series
Where: Barber Motorsports Park, Ala.
When: Sunday, April 30, 3:00pm ET (green flag 3:15pm ET)
It’s the fourth race of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season, but the first on a permanent road course, after two street races and the super-fast Texas Motor Speedway oval got things rolling.
Barber Motorsports Park is one of the most beautiful tracks the series visits, but its sweeping layout and elevation changes make it one of the most challenging, too. Recent winners have tended to come from the first two rows of the grid (Josef Newgarden being something of an outlier after starting fifth and seventh for his wins in 2015 and ’17, respectively), and passing moves are seldom the work of a moment, with patience a virtue as drivers stalk their prey.
Taking a different tack on strategy rarely delivers the goods either, as 2021 pole-winner Pato O’Ward’s three-stopping fourth place on a day when two was the magic number attests…
Alex Palou took the 2021 win, but O’Ward made amends last year when he passed pole man and early dominator Rinus VeeKay (main image, leading) after their second and final stops. With VeeKay looking for redemption, all three could be factors again this weekend, but first they must beat Team Penske, which includes three-time Barber winner Newgarden and two-time victor Will Power on its roster.
Look out, too, for Andretti Autosport to carry its red-hot form from the streets of Long Beach into Barber’s more bucolic setting. Kyle Kirkwood dominated the weekend in SoCal for his first NTT IndyCar Series win, but second-placed Romain Grosjean and Colton Herta in fourth showed its strength in depth.
Whoever is your pick is for a big day in Barber, get ready for 90 laps of the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural-terrain road course on Sunday afternoon that could be a slow burner, or could be a barn burner. Either way, it’s set to be a fascinating 207 miles of action in Sweet Home Alabama.
You can follow all the practice and qualifying action on Peacock on Friday, April 28, and Saturday, April 29, with NBC taking over for race day on Sunday, April 30. And to get even closer to it all, grab the best seat in the house with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA and its 14 race day live onboard cameras.
Friday, April 28 / 3:40pm – 4:55pm ET – Practice 1 – Peacock
Saturday, April 29 / NOON – 1:00pm ET – Practice 2 – Peacock
Saturday, April 29 / 3:00pm – 4:15pm ET – Qualifying – Peacock
Sunday, April 30 / NOON – 12:30pm ET – Warmup – NBC, Peacock
Sunday, April 30 / 3:00pm – 6:00pm ET – RACE – NBC, Peacock
* All sessions and the race are also available as audio commentary on SiriusXM and INDYCAR Radio.
Ride along with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA
Taking you inside the action, 14 drivers will be carrying in-car cameras. During the race, you can live-stream every one of them with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA. You choose who you ride along with, and you can switch drivers at any time. The App’s free to download for fans worldwide and you can find out more HERE. If you’re not already onboard, take your viewing experience to a whole new level HERE.
Bringing you the onboard action from the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix are…
Pato O’Ward / No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet
O’Ward’s incident-packed Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach bumped him from the NTT IndyCar Series points lead, but that might be temporary as he returns to the scene of his first win on a permanent road course at Barber last season (below). There’s every indication the Arrow McLaren driver will be a factor once again.
Rinus VeeKay / No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
The Dutchman did all but win in Barber last year, taking the pole and leading 57 of the first 60 laps, but saw his victory chances slip away as O’Ward hunted him down prior to their second and final stop, then passed him on the out lap. But VeeKay says he’s learned his lesson from “the one that got away,” and it won’t happen again. If ECR’s anywhere in the window, are we set for a redemption story?
Colton Herta / No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda
Barber isn’t among Herta’s tally of five wins on permanent road course in the NTT IndyCar Series, but a win and two other podiums in four INDY NXT (then Indy Lights) starts show he knows his way around. So with Andretti Autosport well and truly back in the groove in 2023, can Herta add a ’Bama IndyCar win to his total?
Will Power / No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet
The reigning champ hasn’t matched 2022’s remarkable early-season run that delivered top-four finishes in all of the opening five races, but he isn’t too far away, either. It’s only a matter of time before IndyCar’s pole king becomes a Fast 6 fixture once again, and we’ve got a feeling that it could be this weekend for the two-time Barber winner.
Kyle Kirkwood / No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda
Still buzzing from the ultimate breakout weekend at Long Beach – pole, 53 laps in the lead, and his first NTT IndyCar Series race win – Kirkwood (below) brings confidence and momentum to Alabama in an Andretti Autosport program that’s firing on all cylinders. Adding a second win over IndyCar’s road-course warriors could be a stretch, but expect him to be somewhere in the mix.
Alexander Rossi / No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet
Rossi’s late-race suspension issue and trip into the wall in Long Beach has skewed the picture somewhat, but his move to Arrow McLaren is proving to be a positive experience. Barber could be the weekend when it all comes together for the No. 7 Arrow McLaren driver, so let’s stick our necks out and predict a Fast 6 starting slot and a podium finish, at minimum.
Romain Grosjean / No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda
Just behind Kyle Kirkwood having the weekend of his life in Long Beach, teammate Grosjean put in his most complete performance of the season, qualifying third and finishing second. The Frenchman already has two top-10 finishes in two starts at Barber, and with his 2023 campaign beginning to take shape now, he could be a podium factor – or more – this time around.
Scott McLaughlin / No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet
Like teammate Power, the Team Penske driver is still a step behind where we might have expected him to be at this point in the season, thanks in part to his St. Pete DNF. But Barber’s the sort of track where the Kiwi might run away and hide if he and the No. 3 team connect the dots – and fastest time in the March test at the track (below) suggests they can. Definitely a major factor this weekend.
Felix Rosenqvist / No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet
A seventh-place finish in Long Beach put some needed momentum into Rosenqvist’s 2023 campaign. Barber hasn’t been a great venue for the Swede in terms of results, but if he can match last year’s Firestone Fast 6 spot and build from there, there’s a decent result with his name on it.
Callum Ilott / No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet
Ilott and Juncos Hollinger Racing’s impressive early-season form took a bit of a jolt in Long Beach, but the Brit’s in his element on natural-terrain road course and, after qualifying a stout 11th on his 2022 Barber debut, returns to ’Bama with the potential to pull off a shock result this weekend.
Simon Pagenaud / No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda
Languishing down in 24th in points after three races, the first road course of the season is as good a place as any for Pagenaud and MSR to start putting a decent run together. The Frenchman knows how to get it done at Barber, taking a victory in his 2016 title-winning campaign with Team Penske, so here’s hoping for progress this weekend.
Graham Rahal / No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
So, Rahal (below) started 20th in St. Pete, but finished sixth, and then 24th in Long Beach, which he and the team cajoled into a 12th-place finish. Follow that theme, and if RLL can unload in the ballpark (or at least the same zip code) and he’s able to qualify top-10 in Barber, who knows what’s possible? Oh, and last year he did start ninth in Alabama, so there’s that…
Jack Harvey / No. 30 Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Should Harvey maintain his trajectory from the first three races, Barber could deliver his first top-10 result of the season. That would certainly be a confidence booster for a driver whose struggles go hand in hand with those of RLL.
Christian Lundgaard / No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
The 2022 Rookie of the Year began 2023 with a top-10 finish in St. Pete, but like his teammates, Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey, his Barber weekend could be defined by how strongly, or otherwise, RLL rolls off the hauler this weekend.
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