Barber flashback: A pleasant surprise in 2012

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Barber Motorsports Park’s reputation as a track that was too narrow for IndyCars to produce solid racing on was successfully rehabilitated in last year’s running of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

In previous events on the 2.3-mile road course outside Birmingham, the lone major passing zone had been the Turn 5-6 hairpin known as ‘Charlotte’s Web.’ But in 2012’s action-packed affair, which served as the road course debut for the turbo-charged Dallara DW12, wheel-to-wheel battles ensued all over the track in places that hadn’t been considered ripe for passing opportunities before.

When the dust settled, however, a familiar name was atop the podium. Will Power came from ninth on the grid to claim his second career win at Barber, withstanding a restart challenge from Scott Dixon at Lap 74 and pulling away to a 2.7-second win.

He later said that he thought a victory was not possible after qualifying as far back in the field as he did.

“We went in thinking that we have to kind of be a little off strategy to the other guys to be able to pass around here,” Power said. “So we started on black [primary] tires, everyone else started on [alternate] reds. We went to reds when everyone was on blacks. That got us a couple of spots.

“Then…Good stops and good strategy calls put me out in clean air, so we could use our speed. We slowly passed one by one. It was a very good team effort, absolute team effort. The strategy was perfect. The stops were perfect.”

Power would credit Firestone’s softer tire compounds on both the primary and alternate tires for the amount of passing overall.

“I really thought, as green as the race was, you put it down to the tires really, the fact that the tires had a discrepancy from brand-new to old of up to two seconds, three seconds,” he said. “That allowed for good passing. It really eradicated fuel saving because often we go in, we start lifting, fuel saving. Doing that with the tires eradicated that.

“It was just hard racing. I ran hard the whole day, never saved fuel.”

Dixon came home second, followed by Helio Castroneves in third, Graham Rahal in fourth and Simon Pagenaud in fifth.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.