Barber Sunday Wrap-Up

From where I sat atop Turn Two, this was probably the best of the six Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama’s that has taken place. For the most part, it was a clean race. But there was a lot of racing and intrigue. It’s always interesting to compare what you saw live and in person compared to what television viewers saw. I’ve been to races where I had no clue what was really going on. Friends texted me throughout the race what a great race it was. That’s what I thought, but you’re never sure. Susan and I will travel back tonight and I’ll watch the DVR broadcast tomorrow night. buit I’m thinking it played out as well on television as it did in person.

I am very happy for Nashville’s Josef Newgarden. Not to name-drop, but I’ve been a fan of his since 2011, when he was in Indy Lights. IndyCar contacted me to say that Newgarden was in his hometown of Nashville that day and asked if I would interview him that afternoon. I left work early and met him at the Cheesecake Factory at a mall near my house. He had been on a media blitz that day and had been bombarded with the same questions by mainstream local radio and TV stations that knew nothing about open-wheel racing but interviewed him because he was from Nashville. I was his last scheduled interview for the day. We took up a table in the restaurant for two and a half hours as we just sat and talked about his career and IndyCar racing in general. I took it as a major compliment when he told me that I was the only person he had talked to all day that knew anything about IndyCar.

What I took away from our conversation was how articulate and down to earth he was. He was still about five months from turning twenty-one, yet he had the demeanor of a thirty-five year old racing veteran. Not to disparage my child, but I could not believe I was talking to someone that was more than a year younger than my son. He exuded charisma, which is quite unusual for a twenty year-old.

Many questioned his move to sign with Sarah Fisher’s team. Some felt that after a year, it would be a stepping stone to a ride with a major team. but he was loyal to Sarah and she was loyal to him as they struggled for the first couple of years. Last year, he came close to a win, but couldn’t break through. Finally, with the merger of Sarah Fisher’s team and Ed Carpenter’s team – all of the pieces were finally in place at the newly formed CFH Racing.

This is one of those times when you can truly say “Good things happen to good people”. The two underdog teams have banded together with the next superstar driver. Who knows where they can go from here?

Aside from the feel-good vibes that came from the results, it was also a great race. Will Power tried an overzealous move on Takuma Sato coming out of the pits on Lap 19. We happened to be sitting right there. At first I couldn’t tell it was Power, but I could tell whoever it was was very hot coming out of the pits. Power tried to force his way in front of Sato, but it was not to be. Susan caught a timely shot, just as the two made contact.

Power was given a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact. From what I saw, there was no question – yet Power maintained he never saw him. I wasn’t in the cockpit, but I find that highly unlikely.

From there, it was a good race. Power worked his way through the field after his penalty to finish fourth. it wasn’t a win, but he needed the points to salvage what has been a dreadful season so far. With the points, Power moved up to fifth in the championship. Helio Castroneves and Juan Montoya both had forgettable days. Montoya still leads Helio by three points, but Scott Dixon has silently moved up to third. For his efforts, Newgarden has moved up to fourth.

Forgive me for going on about Newgarden’s win, but based on comments I‘ve heard in the media center and in the crowd at Barber – this is a very popular win with everyone. Journalists are not supposed to openly cheer for drivers, but I’m not a journalist. I’m a blogger. I couldn’t be happier for Newgarden and I was very happy to be in Victory Lane to watch him celebrate his first win.

Since we have a long drive in front of us tonight, I’m going to wrap this up. I will still have my “Random Thoughts” up here tomorrow morning. Thanks to those that have followed along this weekend. Despite yesterday’s rain, it was a great race and a fun weekend. After tomorrow, it’ll be time to focus on May.

George Phillips

13 Responses to “Barber Sunday Wrap-Up”

  1. I can’t say why exactly, but my interest in Indycar this year had been fading until this race. But this race turned me around. Now I’m looking forward to INDY–both races–with great anticipation.

    Good for Josef, Sarah, Wink and Ed. Not a Rahal fan, but he drove a real good race and I think finally lived up to all the hype he seems to get. And for Power to finish where he did was fairly amazing.

    I still cringe whenever I hear talk of the fuel settings or fuel saving. It’s like fingers on a chalkboard. Just go fast.

    • Bruce Waine Says:

      Just give the teams fuel to RACE…… Really RACE….. Fuel with no fuel quota or limitations……… Then there will be racing.

  2. SkipinSC Says:

    Great day for Josef, Graham, and Scott Dixon. Had Helio not run out of gas, it made that have been a 1-2-3-4 finish for my fantasy team, but I made the mistake of scrapping Will Power for Helio, so I get what I deserve.

  3. I am very stoked after this race. I enjoyed pretty much all of it. The duels thoughout the field were terrific and the NBC coverage did an excellent job of showing that. The track also looked awesome.

  4. To give Will Power credit, when he saw his in car camera footage, he was like “oh my God” and admitted it was his fault. He never saw Sato there, but thought that Sato had come from behind him and tried to force the issue, not that he was already there and Will just merged into him.

  5. Until an Indycar car can carry enough fuel for the entire race, fuel mileage/saving will always be an issue in some races, some of the time.

  6. Ron Ford Says:

    How a race “looks” on TV will always be way down on my list of what’s important in racing. I found this race to be very exciting and I don’t mind admitting that there was a bit of moistness in this ol’ man’s eyes when Joe took the checkered flag.

    I was surprised and a bit amazed to see Will Power wind up in 4th. Graham Rahal was really on a tear at the end, but I think Newgarden could have pulled away if he needed to.

    Congratulations to Sarah and all the fine folks at CFH Racing for this long overdue win.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    We finally had a sane race at Long Beach, now we finally had a really fun race at Barber. Just fantastic all the way around, and a great broadcast too. Glad to see Newgarden win, even at the expense of my favorites.

    If journalists aren’t supposed to openly cheer for drivers, someone should have told Steve Matchett. He was drowning out my cheers for Rahal… Somebody sign me up for a “Get after him son!” t-shirt.

    For those that did not enjoy the fuel strategy, you all should have joined me last night at the World of Outlaws race. Those A features are just 10 minutes of pure fury, and everyone has more than enough methanol to finish.

  8. Matt B. (Dayton) Says:

    The most competitive and entertaining race of the young season. Good TV coverage too. Nice to see the Hondas gain some mojo. Perfect lead in to the month of May!

  9. I’m happy for you oilpressure bloggers that you have seen, in person, the best race of the year so far.

  10. Randy Holbrook Says:

    That was probably the race of the year! I think you will love the TV coverage George. There were unbelievable battles going on everywhere. You could really hear the genuine excitement in Steve Matchette’s voice as he was urging on Graham Rahal as he made his furious charge at the end. Congratulations to Josef Newgarden. If Indycar can’t make a star out of this guy then the legions of the miserable are right. With his personality, looks, youth, and TALENT he should be a superstar. Loved the interview with his mom and dad. And JPM and HCN were hilarious with their interviews at the end of the telecast.

  11. Ballyhoo Says:

    Was this race a treat or what! I am still smiling and in a very good mood. Even the closure of my freeway to work this morning couldn’t dampen my mood. Congrats to Josef and the CFH team. They all contributed to this very exciting win, their first of many.

    Thank you George and Susan for your coverage. I think Barber is on my short list of races I want to attend in the next few years. I thought the race, the fans, the atmosphere, etc. were first rate. Always appreciate your comments and weekend reviews.

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