Random Thoughts on Barber

Barber Motorsports Park had another great weekend of hosting the NTT IndyCar Series. The weather was perfect, the crowd was big and the racing was good, with Scott McLaughlin taking the win, and Romain Grosjean finishing second. After a somewhat processional first art of the race, things picked up considerably after the “three-stoppers” pitted. Grosjean said in the post race press-conference that he was very surprised how Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward raced him hard early on. But Grosjean stretched out about a 1.5 second lead by about Lap 25.

At first it looked like those on the two-stop strategy had chosen the best route, but ultimately, three stops was the way to go.

In the end, Grosjean was on old tires and having to save fuel, while McLaughlin was on fresh tires and had plenty of fuel for the end. McLaughlin passed Grosjean on Lap 72 and never looked back. For a while, it looked like Will Power may take second from Grosjean, but he settled for third.


The first three positions in the points battle remain the same with Marcus Ericsson still in front, despite a tenth-place finish – with Pato O’Ward in second and Alex Palou in third. But McLaughlin supplanted teammate Josef Newgarden from fourth, and Grosjean is now fifth. I think Grosjean and McLaughlin will both be in the championship hunt until the end.

TV Coverage: Of course, we weren’t able to watch or listen to NBC’s TV coverage of the race. That’s what a DVR is for, so you can attend then fins out what you missed. However, I did want to relay a humorous story – although it made me look somewhat like an idiot.

Whenever I’m at a track, I always try to catch up with NBC’s Russ Thompson – the longtime statistician who is always in the booth during races. Russ is from Nashville and we stay in touch throughout the offseason and try to eat lunch together in early May. I had texted Russ on Saturday morning to see if he was onsite, but he had not yet responded. Susan and I were eating lunch in Honda Hospitality, when the NBC booth guys came in. As I was throwing my plate away, Leigh Diffey was walking my way.

I asked him if Russ Thompson was at the track. He looked at me like “who wants to know?” I explained that I was a friend of his from Nashville, and he lightened up. After telling me Russ was around, Diffey informed me that Supercross was in Nashville this weekend. Trying to sound like a Supercross fan, I asked where. Diffey looked at me like I had two heads and said “Nissan Stadium”. When I responded with the lame “Oh, really?” – he looked at me like I was an idiot, to be from Nashville and not know that. Oh, well.

The Crowd: We were told on Saturday that they were expecting a record crowd on Sunday. I’ve not heard any official reports, but that may have actually happened. We watched the race from two spots – the pits and the hill overlooking Turn Two. It’s hard to compare from year to year, but it was certainly a healthy crowd in Turn Two. The other viewpoint was from the pits, looking across the track to the Fan Zone and the woods along the backstretch. Both looked as full as I can remember seeing.

On Sunday morning, IndyCar and Zoom Motorsports announced a contract extension for this event, running through 2027. It was fitting that the announcement came on a day with such a large crowd on hand.

The Buzz: While there seemed to be a very large crowd on hand, the overall buzz and excitement of the crowd seemed a little subdued this weekend. I don’t know if the novelty has worn off, where everyone still comes but they now take it for granted – or what. But Susan and I both noticed it by Saturday afternoon.

One thing we did notice was that the prices of concessions had gone up, but the selection had gone down. When we were at the Fan Zone on Saturday afternoon, Susan went over to a stand advertising their lemonade and iced-tea. She asked for an iced-tea, without asking the price. When she was told it was $15, she about fell over. Granted it was a very big plastic cup, but she couldn’t believe it. When she asked if that was a mistake, the guy informed her that she was entitled to free refills for the rest of the day. Keep in mind it was already 3:30 when she bought it. I saw very few people carrying adult beverages. I did not look to see how much they were charging for beer, but if beers were as much or more than iced-tea, that might explain why the buzz seemed to be down.

New Grid: They’ve been doing it since last year, but I am not a fan of the way they grid the cars now. I’m not sure why they decided that lining up two-by two in the pits (or on the track) was a bad way to do it – realizing that they’ve been doing it that way for decades. Now they back the cars at a 45° angle to the pit wall – sort of like a Le Mans style start. I don’t like it. Change is Bad!


Delayed Yellow: I’ve gone off on this before, but on Lap 38, rookie Sting Ray Robb found himself stranded on the inside of Turn Nine, after he lost power. He was positioned precariously where drivers would not see him, until they were right on him. I thought surely they would throw the yellow, but it stayed green. Race Control decided to allow all the cars on a three-stop strategy to pit, while Sting Ray Robb sat in harm’s way.

I don’t like this way of bringing out selective yellows. How do you determine whether a situation is safe or not, and to what degree? I liked the fact they called a local yellow at Long Beach, but the AMR Safety Team had no access to Robb’s stranded car on the inside. I guess it will take a disabled car getting plowed into, before they stop this silly (and unsafe) practice.

It’s unfortunate if an ill-timed yellow messes up a strategy, but you know what? That’s racing. Nothing is guaranteed.

Early Favorite: I have picked Romain Grosjean to win the past two races, and he has come in second both times as he still chases that elusive first win. Although it is still almost two weeks away, I can tell you right now that I will be picking Grosjean to get that first win at the GMR grand Prix on the IMS road course. He has an excellent record on that track. Now that he has the equipment and the mindset – I think he will finally get that win in mid-May.

Drive of the Day: There were a lot of good drivers that had bad days on Sunday. Josef Newgarden started seventh and finished fifteenth. Alex Palou started on the front row, but was disappointed to finish fifth; and Rinus VeeKay started ninth and finished fifteenth. Marcus Armstrong won a Hard-Charger Award, by making up fifteen spots, moving up from twenty-sixth to finish eleventh. But those cars he passed were not having the best of days. I think Will Power had the Drive of the Day. He started eleventh and finished third, passing a lot of very good cars along the way.

All in All: You could not have asked for better weather for a race weekend. Friday was sunny and warm, Saturday was partly sunny to overcast with even warmer temperatures but a strong breeze. Sunday was cooler, a slight breeze and very sunny. It was perfect for the fans.

If I have a suggestion, it would be to move this event back one week. If Long Beach has to maintain it’s date in the middle of the month, can they cross the country in a week’s time? They did it a few years ago. Birmingham hits its sweet spot in mid-April, so far as the dogwoods and azaleas are concerned. Early April is too early, as the grass is still brown and it can be chilly. This date can be beastly hot, and the flowering shrubs and trees are past their date. Jumping around to avoid Easter, this event has been held every single weekend in April. Here’s hoping they get more toward the middle of the month.

It was a good event and a good race. Early on, Barber had a few duds, but lately this has been a very good race. Yesterday was no exception.

If anyone needed reminding, today is the beginning of the Month of May. Today we are focused on barber, but tomorrow begins Every day in the Month of May at Oilpressure.com. So please remember to come back here tomorrow and every day in May. It’s finally here!

George Phillips

3 Responses to “Random Thoughts on Barber”

  1. I agree that that the tone of the crowd was subdued. It felt that way all weekend.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    I was surprised that the Robb caution didn’t seem to help the two-stoppers more, though I suppose letting the three-stoppers pit before the yellow took away the biggest advantage they might have gotten out of it. I really thought Palou was going to run Grosjean down early. Felt bad for Newgarden, the team made the right strategy call but the car let them down. Good to see some speed at RLL out of Lundgaard, now find some for the other cars.

    That had better be some iced tea. $15 for a non-alcoholic beverage, even at a sporting event and with free refills, is wild. Maybe if it was Luzianne…

  3. Even better than the delayed yellow flag is not closing the pits. It’s an outdated practice that, in an era of electronic timing and scoring, has no purpose. Unless there is a fire, a wreck, injured crew member, or immobile car in the pit lane, the pits need to remain open.

    Good race with tire management as a crucial factor. A certain stock car series used to be like that.

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