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Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama preview

After two street races the IndyCar series moves to a natural road course, the a 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course (clockwise) Barber Motorsports Park outside of Birmingham, Alabama. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be the eighth Verizon IndyCar Series event conducted at Barber Motorsports Park.

The 90 laps / 207 mile race takes place on Sunday, April 23 at 3:42 pm ET and will be broadcast live on NBCSN. The race broadcast begins at 3:00 pm. NBCSN qualifying broadcast is on Saturday, April 22 beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET. All practice sessions will be available on RaceControl.IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR YouTube channel www.youtube.com/indycar.

Last year Simon Pagenaud won both the race and the pole though Sebastien Bourdais owns the track record, a lap of 1:06.6001 set last year during qualifying.

"Barber is very unique in many ways." said Pagenaud "The layout is beautiful with lots of elevation changes, it's a very challenging track both physically and technically. The site is an actual racing park with the most incredible vintage museum of motorbike and racing cars. We tested there in March and we found answers to a lot of our technical questions. After the first two races, let's say that the Menards Chevrolet team went through a lot and still managed to bring a lot of points to classify third in the championship. We will continue to keep our heads down and work toward our return to Victory Lane."

In 2015 James Hinchcliffe completed the story of his comeback from serious injury claiming his first win since his 2015 injury received at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 9. Hinchcliffe, who made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut at Barber in 2011, trails four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais by 19 points for the championship lead heading into this weekend's race.

"I think the whole Arrow Electronics team is really looking forward to Barber this weekend." said Hinchcliffe "After two street courses, it's going to be great to get back to a road course. The test there went pretty well for us; it's always tough to know where everybody else is running. We've had good pace the first two races and we're really hoping to carry that momentum, especially coming off the win at Long Beach, into this weekend and hopefully keep it rolling for the rest of the season."

Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud are the only drivers to have won at Barber Motorsports Park. Castroneves won the inaugural race in 2010, Power won the race in 2011 and 2012, Hunter-Reay in 2013 and 2014, Newgarden in 2015 and Pagenaud in 2016.

"Barber is so much fun." Castroneves said "It's a really unique place due to its elevation changes. We had a decent finish in Long Beach after some mechanical things with the car cost us a little, but we are hungry to turn that top 10 into a top-five finish at the next race. We finished seventh at Barber last year and, with the momentum the AAA Chevrolet team is slowly building this season, I know we feel great about heading into Barber with another chance to win."

Castroneves, Hunter-Reay, Power and Pagenaud are the only drivers to have won the pole position at Barber Motorsports Park. Pagenaud won the pole in 2016. Power claimed the pole position in 2010, 2011 and 2014; Castroneves won the pole in 2012 and 2015 and Hunter-Reay in 2013. Three drivers have won the race from the pole - Power in 2011, Hunter-Reay in 2013 and Pagenaud in 2016.

"After having a rough go of it at Long Beach, I know the whole Verizon Chevy team is just itching to race at Barber." said Power "We've won there a couple times and have always finished within the top 10. Qualifying, as usual, is key here and we've got a plan in place to help with that. We've had good speed in the car in tests and races and now we need to turn that into results. We're putting Long Beach in the rear-view mirror and head to Barber with a lot of excitement."

Eight drivers have competed in every Indy car race at Barber - Marco Andretti, Castroneves, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Power, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato. All are entered this year.

"We have one goal this weekend and that is to get back to our winning ways at Barber." said Hunter-Reay "After logging race wins in 2013 and 2014, we've spent too much time away from the podium here. The team as a whole has done a great job through the first two rounds of the series when it comes to fielding fast, competitive race cars. Long Beach is yet another race that slipped form our grasp, so we'll be looking to rebound strong this weekend."

Scott Dixon has finished on the podium in six of his seven previous starts at Barber Motorsports Park - including four runner-up finishes - but he has yet to finish on the top step of the podium at the picturesque road circuit - one of the five tracks on the 2017 schedule where he has raced more than once and hasn't won. Dixon is fourth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 40 wins.

"Barber is demanding." Dixon added "It's like a little bullring almost. It's very fast and very high grip. There are both fast and blind corners and it can get narrow in some places as well. The facility itself is one to see. The track has done a great job with the park over the years and it attracts a lot of people, which is great for our sport."

Rookies Ed Jones and Zach Veach and second-year competitor Spencer Pigot will race Verizon IndyCar Series cars at Barber Motorsports Park for the first time this weekend. Jones and Pigot, the last two Indy Lights champions, have competed at the circuit in the Mazda Road to Indy, as did Veach, who will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut as a substitute for JR Hildebrand, who sustained a broken bone in his left hand in a last-lap crash April 9 at Long Beach.

"First and foremost my thoughts are with JR (Hildebrand) and his recovery, that's the most important part of this." said Veach "My heart goes out to him as I suffered a broken hand a couple years ago and I wouldn't wish that upon anyone. This isn't how any driver wants to get his first race but with that said, I'm extremely thankful for the opportunity to sub for JR. Ed (Carpenter) gave me my first chance to test an Indy car a few months ago. It's going to be very special for me to be back in that same car representing Fuzzy's Vodka at Barber. It's going to be a lot to take in in a short amount of time, but I'm really excited to do the best I can for the team, as well as JR."

Team Penske has four wins at Barber Motorsports Park (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016). Andretti Autosport and Ed Carpenter Racing are the only other teams to win at the track. Andretti Autosport won in 2013 and 2014 with Hunter-Reay. Ed Carpenter Racing won with Newgarden in 2015.

Driver milestones this weekend include Kanaan seeks to start his 268th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Teammate Dixon has made 209 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the third-longest streak in Indy car racing. Castroneves will attempt to make his 330th career Indy car start, which ranks fourth on the all-time list. Kanaan will attempt to make his 329th Indy car start, which is fifth all-time. Both are competing in their 20th season of Indy car racing in 2017.

FYI, drivers may engage their "push-to-pass" for a total of 200 seconds during the race, with a maximum duration of 20 seconds for any one activation. The push-to-pass is not available on the initial race start or any restart unless it occurs in the final two laps or three minutes of a timed race. The feature increases the power of the engine by approximately 60 horsepower for 2017.

At-track schedule (all times local):

Friday, April 21
10:45-11:30 a.m. - Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)
2:25-3:10 p.m. - Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)

Saturday, April 22
11-11:45 a.m. - Verizon IndyCar Series practice #3, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)
3:15 p.m. - Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (three rounds of Verizon IndyCar Series knockout qualifications), NBCSN (telecast starts at 3:30 p.m.)

Sunday, April 23
9:45-10:15 a.m. - Verizon IndyCar Series warm-up, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)
2 p.m. - Driver Introductions
2 p.m. - NBCSN on air
2:35 p.m. - "Drivers, start your engines" command
2:42 p.m. - Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (90 laps/207 miles), NBCSN (live)

Entry list

04/20/17

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