Barber Motorsports Park

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Will Power ends Barber test on top

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Team Penske stormed to the front in the second session of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ open test at Barber Motorsports Park, with three Penske drivers in the top five spots at the end of the day. Will Power led the way with a lap of 1:07.7518, which he turned as the checkered flag waved on the session. Power’s time pipped Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton by just under eight thousandths of a second (Chilton’s lap was a 1:07.7591).”It just shows how tight it is between Honda and Chevy now,” Power said of the narrow gap between lap times. “It’s tough, man. We just went through a bunch of stuff to see what it does and I think we got some good answers here. I think we’ve got a good car for here, I feel good about my setup.”

Power’s teammates Josef Newgarden and Juan Pablo Montoya were third and fourth, with Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti breaking into fifth as the session came to an end.

While the first session ran cleanly, the second session was stopped four times. The first red flag came out for simultaneous but separate incidents. Charlie Kimball’s No. 83 Novo Nordisk Honda stopped on course at turn six while Josef Newgarden’s No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet made contact with the barriers in turn one. Both drivers had minimal damage and rejoined the session.

The second and third red flags were for a track inspection, while the fourth and final stoppage was for Tony Kanaan, who made contact in turn 1.

The stoppages combined with the availability of push-to-pass to create a flurry of activity in the final hour, with several drivers taking turns at the top of the speed chart as times dipped into the the 1:07 bracket, with Power’s fastest lap roughly half-a-second faster than Takuma Sato’s quick time from the morning session.

Times from the second session are below.

Sato leads early at Barber test; Rossi visor cam debuts (VIDEO)

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Two Andretti Autosport nuggets of note have emerged from the opening three hours of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ open test at Barber Motorsports Park (race occurs April 23 on NBCSN).

Takuma Sato, who banked a top-five finish in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg last weekend, was on top as Hondas were in five of the top six positions in the first three hours of testing.

The second three-hour run occurs from 2 to 5 p.m. Teams have four sets of Firestone tires for the day with the exception of rookie Ed Jones, who has one extra set available.

Meanwhile, to get a sense of just how much of a roller coaster the Birmingham, Ala. road course is, INDYCAR has released another of its stunningly cool “Visor Cam” videos, this time with Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts Honda for Andretti-Herta Autosport.

The other news nugget of note is Juan Pablo Montoya making his first IndyCar test run this season, in Team Penske’s No. 22 Chevrolet, as preparation for his two races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. Montoya, the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion, will run a fifth Team Penske entry at the IndyCar Grand Prix and 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Times from this morning are below.

Unplugged: Watch thrilling Rahal-Pagenaud ‘Bama battle from in-car camera

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The late race battle between Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud in Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama triggered a lot of words in the immediate aftermath.

Sometimes though, things are best left unsaid – and letting your eyes instead take in all the grace and excitement works better.

IndyCar posted in-car video from Rahal’s car after he touched wheels with Pagenaud, sending the latter into the sand, on Lap 82. The only audio is some radio communication between Rahal and his team.

The video continues as Pagenaud comes roaring back, makes a few attempts to get around Rahal, and finally does on Lap 86, four laps from the checkered flag – as the Frenchman goes on to win his second consecutive IndyCar race.

Rahal finished a close second, allowing him to jump three places in the Verizon IndyCar Series point standings to sixth. He lost out on the deficit though, as he’s now 88 points behind series leader Pagenaud.

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Hard work, good effort, disappointing finishes: Hunter-Reay’s 2016

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Ryan Hunter-Reay had gotten used to having strong performances at Barber Motorsports Park.

He won in 2013 and 2014 and finished fifth in last year’s race.

In this past Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at BMS, Hunter-Reay worked his tail off, as usual, only to finish a disappointing 11th.

What’s up with that?

“That was a lot of hard work for P 11, I don’t even know what to say,” Hunter-Reay said after the race. “With no yellows coming out, we needed at least one yellow for our strategy to work out.

“We had nothing, no help. We’re really looking for some luck this year at some point, hopefully we’re saving that up for Indy.”

The next two Verizon IndyCar Series races are at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 14 and the milestone 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.

Those races offer hope for Hunter-Reay to turn his season around. In the first two editions of the Angie’s List race, he finished second in 2014 and 11th last year.

In the Indianapolis 500, he has had eight starts, with a win in 2014 and a third-place finish in 2013. He finished 15th in last year’s race.

Hunter-Reay is hoping to turn around a season that has seemingly gone downhill after his third-place (and only podium) finish in the season opening race at St. Petersburg.

From there, he’s gone from third to fourth to seventh and now to 10th in the IndyCar point standings after four races. He finished 10th at Phoenix, 18th at Long Beach and now 11th at Alabama.

“We’ve had nothing, if not bad luck this year,” Hunter-Reay said.

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Aleshin, Munoz, Hawksworth lament early race contact at Barber

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It’s a good thing we’re still in April.

After a tangle heading to the start of Sunday’s IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park, it’s questionable if Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth will be sending Christmas cards to each other this year.

The three drivers were involved in a wreck heading to the green flag to start Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.

And of course, what manifested itself was a he said, he said and he said analogy that left observers still wondering who did what and who caused it.

For those of you who missed it, Munoz got into the rear of Aleshin’s race car. Hawksworth missed contact but was forced off-track to avoid becoming part of the incident.

First, let’s hear from Aleshin on Munoz:

“That’s what happens when someone doesn’t use their brain,” Aleshin said. “The rest of the race was bad because I got hit in the back of the car at the start and then someone hit me on my front wheel. The car was completely unbalanced after that. Something was bent, so the job was done before it even started.”

Aleshin finished 17th and Hawksworth was 19th. Munoz didn’t end up much better, finishing 14th, yet had a completely different perspective on what happened in the early wreck:

“On the first start everyone started to pack up and brake,” Munoz said. “I couldn’t avoid hitting Aleshin. They put us in the back of the grid, that didn’t help at all. After that the rest of the race had no yellows, and with no yellows it’s hard to move to the front or do any strategy, so it is what it is.”

Hawksworth was somewhat more diplomatic in his thoughts about the early incident, not laying blame upon either driver:

“We didn’t get a good start because (Aleshin got hit (by Munoz) and spun in front of us and I had to go off-track to miss him,” Hawksworth said. “They sent all of us to the back.”

It was the start of what would become a bad day for Hawksworth, who made contact with Aleshin late in the race and, as Hawksworth said, “That was it.”

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