Barber Motorsports Park

The tire rubber has barely cooled on Long Beach’s street circuit following the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, and it’s time for another venue to prepare for the hot action of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

The first back-to-back weekend sequence of the season is at hand with Sunday’s Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix powered by AmFirst on tap at Barber Motorsports Park (1 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE and the INDYCAR Radio Network). This will be the second on-track weekend of seven in an eight-week grind for the teams, a stretch featuring the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

SEE: Barber Event Details

For now, there is no rest for the weary.

Barber Motorsports Park is officially the first permanent road course event of the season, although the series spent three days testing and racing a non-points event last month at The Thermal Club. Given the amount of track time the teams got in Southern California, expect that to be a primer for what’s ahead this weekend on the 17-turn, 2.3-mile circuit.

In other words, look for those who were strong at The Thermal Club to be strong in Alabama. Namely, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, who won The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge, and podium finishers Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske and Felix Rosenqvist of Meyer Shank Racing. And never discount Josef Newgarden, who has won a series-leading three times at Barber, and Long Beach winner Scott Dixon.

The first chance to size up the 27-car field will be in Friday’s practice at 3:40 p.m. ET (Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE and the INDYCAR Radio Network).

This will be the 14th time the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has raced at Barber, with Team Penske winning seven of the first 13. Will Power, who finished sixth at Long Beach, has won the most NTT P1 Awards as the fastest qualifier with four. Last year that honor went to Romain Grosjean, who finished second in the 90-lap race for Andretti Global after leading 57 laps to McLaughlin’s 24. Grosjean now drives for Juncos Hollinger Racing.

Expect to hear a lot this week about Dixon’s previous races at the track. He finished seventh in last year’s race, an unusually low result for him. Six times he has finished second in one of these races, and he has finished third on three other occasions. That computes to nine podium finishes, remarkably without a race win. Yes, this is one of the few venues where Dixon has not gone to victory lane, and he has 57 career wins, just 10 shy of A.J. Foyt’s all-time record.

Power is another one with an impressive Barber history. He has twice won, in 2011 and 2012, and he has finished second (2021) and third (last year) to go with his four poles.

Barber has been known for many memorable moments, including the first-lap incident in 2021 that damaged no fewer than eight cars. The catalyst was Newgarden, who lost control in dirty air after cresting the hill off Turn 4. That race ended with Palou edging Power in the track’s closest NTT INDYCAR SERIES finish – a margin of .4016 of a second.

Last year’s Barber race was clean and a strategist’s dream. The lone caution came on Lap 39 when Sting Ray Robb’s car came to a rest in Turn 9. The stoppage was for a mere three laps, part of the reason why it was the series’ fastest Barber race on record.

Those two long green-flag runs split the decision-making. Twenty-six cars finished on the lead lap, with 12 using a three-stop strategy and 14 going with just two stops. The top four finishers had two of each, further proof of the intrigue that played out.

What will be the course of action this year? Ideally, there are again multiple advantageous pit options, as there were at Long Beach.

The rest of the Barber weekend schedule features the second practice on Saturday, at 12:15 p.m. ET, followed by qualifying at 3:30 p.m. ET. Both sessions will air live on Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE and the INDYCAR Radio Network. The pre-race warmup is Sunday at 10:15 a.m. ET.

The resumption of the INDY NXT by Firestone season is also on the schedule. The first practice is Friday at 2:30 p.m. ET (INDYCAR LIVE, INDYCAR Radio Network). The 35-lap race is at 11:15 a.m. ET Sunday (Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE, INDYCAR Radio Network).

Nolan Siegel, who finished 20th in his official NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in Long Beach, returns to his day job. The INDY NXT by Firestone points leader by way of winning last month’s season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Florida, drives for HMD Motorsports.