While Roger Penske’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams have had limited luck in Alabama, with just one win (Brad Keselowski, spring 2012) in 84 starts at Talladega Superspeedway, the Team Penske Verizon IndyCar Series teams love it there – “The Captain’s” drivers have won three of the first four races contested by the series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Only Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport has spoiled the Penske party at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, winning the race last season.
Helio Castroneves took the inaugural win for Team Penske at Barber in 2010, and claimed the pole for the race in 2012. Castroneves currently sits fourth in points after a third-place finish in St. Petersburg and an 11th-place finish in Long Beach. Castroneves has top 10 finishes in all four Barber Motorsports Park events, including third-place finishes in the last two races.
Will Power took home wins from Birmingham in 2011 and 2012, and had the pole in 2010 and 2011. Power is currently the IndyCar points leader after a win at St. Petersburg and a runner-up finish at Long Beach. The Australian driver finished fourth (2010) and fifth (2013) in his other starts at Barber Motorsports Park, and has led laps in every race.
Team Penske’s third driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, earned a pole at Talladega during his NASCAR stint, but makes his first start at Barber Motorsports Park in IndyCar this weekend. Montoya finished fourth in the last race at Long Beach.
Simon Pagenaud made his IndyCar debut at Barber Motorsports Park in 2011, and has finishes of eighth (2011), fifth (2012) and sixth (2013) in three races at the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course. The 30-year-old driver, currently third in IndyCar points after fifth-place finishes at both St. Petersburg and Long Beach, enjoys the physical nature of the track.
“I really like that track. It’s fast. It’s very difficult,” said Pagenaud in a recent IndyCar teleconference. “You have to be very, very precise with your driving, with your race car. There’s no margin for error. It’s a track also where IndyCar teams test a lot, therefore pretty much everybody is on their game. It makes it very difficult in qualifying to make a difference. It’s pretty easy to lose six spots in 1/10th of a second on the grid. It’s a track I enjoy racing at. It’s very physical. You really have to be focused for the whole race. That’s the characteristic that I like.”
Mike Conway, winner of the Long Beach race for Ed Carpenter Racing, will make his fourth start at Barber and first since 2012. Conway, who is driving in all of the road and street course races for ECR, has a best-finish at the road course of seventh (2012); he’s currently second in points, and hoping to help ECR wins its first owner’s championship in IndyCar.
Qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama takes place Saturday, April 26 at 2 p.m. CT, with the race going green on Sunday, April 27 at 2:12 p.m. CT.
Source: “Fast Facts: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama,” IndyCar Media
“Transcript: IndyCar Conference Call – Simon Pagenaud,” IndyCar Media, April 23, 2014