By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel
The INDYCAR season officially starts this weekend with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. The Open Wheel will be covering the action all weekend so stay tuned to this site and our Twitter page @openwh33l for all of the latest news.
Photo by Riley Bridges/The Open Wheel
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Preview: Indy Lights Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Cooper Tires – Spotter Guide – Race 1 Saturday, April 17th, 2021 1:05PM (ET) Peacock & Race 2 Sunday, April 18, 2021 1:10PM (ET) Peacock – Indy Lights returns for 2021 after a one-year hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19 with a stacked lineup with 13 full-time entries. This should be an exciting series all season long. Andretti Autosport rookie Kyle Kirkwood is thought to be the series favorite but a legitimate case could be made championship contenders could comprise over half the field. Preseason testing results at Barber showed the HMD Motorsports Team along with their Global Racing Group partners were extremely quick in the test with David Malukas posting the fast time.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES Preview: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama – Sunday, April 18, 2021 3:00PM (ET) NBC – The 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season kicks off this weekend for the series’ first race weekend at Barber Motorsports Park since 2019. There are numerous storylines for the weekend as there always are for a season opener, but there may be even more this year. The driver and team lineup is as deep as ever with arguably eight legitimate championship contenders and nearly a full-field of drivers you wouldn’t be surprised to see win a race any given weekend. The series should get some big attention from new or different viewers with the debut of NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson with Chip Ganassi Racing and Formula 1 veteran Romain Grosjean with Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing.
Previous driver experience at Barber shows five former winners in the field in Josef Newgarden (3), Will Power (2), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2), Simon Pagenaud (1), and Takuma Sato (1). The two most recent winners are Sato (2019) and Newgarden (2018). Looking at the box scores from the last two Barber races in 2019 and 2018, only Sebastien Bourdais and Newgarden finished in the Top 5 in each of the last two races. If that’s expanded to the Top 10, those two are joined by Sato, Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay, and Pagenaud.
My pick to win: Race: Josef Newgarden – Josef Newgarden has been dominant at Barber with three wins, one pole, and five Top 5’s in his last five appearances. Factor in his Team Penske backing and hunger to reclaim a championship after missing out in 2020 and he’s a big favorite to me this weekend.
My fantasy.indycar.com picks: Josef Newgarden, Pato O’Ward, Scott McLaughlin, & Sebastien Bourdais – You know my thoughts on Newgarden. O’Ward has been ultra fast all through testing and has two Indy Lights wins at Barber. McLaughlin may be a rookie but I’ll take him at $20 for sure with a Penske car and all the sim and testing work he’s put in. Bourdais has finishes of P3, P5, and P8 in his last three Barber races and should be good value at $23.