DiZinno: Barber, IndyCar’s southern gem, delivers an instant classic


Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. was just what the doctor ordered for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

OK, so it wasn’t a cure-all and a single magic tonic to remove all issues in the series, not the least of which has been a brutal opening four-race in five-weekend, cross-country start to the season before prepping the cars over to the new superspeedway oval aero kit package ahead of this weekend’s test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But after two ragged races to open the year, and one better than normal street race at Long Beach, Barber showcased the best of IndyCar in all formats.

Here’s what was on display Sunday at Barber:


Between the three-in-one opening lap move by Josef Newgarden, any of Graham Rahal’s moves, some excellent outside passes by Marco Andretti and Stefano Coletti, or others throughout the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, there was no shortage of passing during the 90-lap race.

Some of that owed to bravery and some to high tire degradation of Firestone’s red alternate compounds, which made this race, like 2012, an awesome one to watch. Kudos to Firestone for enough of a gap between the reds and the blacks.


Between the two different strategies that were playing out, especially towards the finish when it was slightly unclear whether Newgarden or the master of fuel saving, Scott Dixon, would make it home, it was great to see these two in their element. Newgarden was attempting to hang on for his first win, and Dixon enjoyed a built-in one-lap advantage set to capitalize if need be.

All the while Rahal was driving like a man possessed, with some great moves including one on Dixon for second in the last lap as he gained a staggering 1.5 to 2 seconds per lap in the final stint. He put on a show that was reminiscent of some of his great drives in the past, which have been all too infrequent the last few years.


On-track, Honda teams enjoyed their best race of the season and best performance levels, notably from Rahal and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe, who was unlucky to finish just seventh. With Andretti Autosport’s trio in the top-10, Honda had a season-best five of the top-10 finishers, one better than the four they had at NOLA.

This being a Honda-sponsored race, the activation level was significant too throughout the weekend. As the company heads toward making a decision on its future participation in the championship, seeing Honda – in all its elements of a race weekend – have a good weekend was a very positive sign.


Save for a couple moments of contact, the field of 23 put on the race without any major dramas or incidents. It was the second consecutive low-caution race, with two flying for nine laps on Sunday. It was also the second consecutive race where all 23 drivers finished, owing to their cleanliness and the reliability of both Honda and Chevrolet during the race.


Both on TV and in person, Barber Motorsports Park remains an immaculate facility – no stone is left unturned in ensuring its presence as one of the best circuits in North America. In six years, IndyCar has established a foothold in what should have been an unlikely place, and while the fan numbers aren’t as huge as in Long Beach, there’s still a distinct enough presence around the grounds to make it feel like a big deal. Chamber of Commerce weather, certainly on Sunday, also paid dividends. Barber isn’t mentioned – yet – among the best races on the calendar every year, but given the facility and level of racing we saw Sunday, it should be.


There’s no need to spend too many more words beyond what we wrote on Sunday about what Josef Newgarden’s elusive, overdue first career win means to the sport. Think pieces are out and available for that. If all the stars align, this should be the first of many wins for the popular driver who has worked a long time for this opportunity, will promote IndyCar at every turn, has grown as a driver over four years, is so well-spoken and has the maturity level beyond his years.

Kyle Larson wins High Limit Sprint race at Tri-City Speedway ahead of Rico Abreu

Larson High Limit Tri-City
High Limit Sprint Car Series

A late race caution set up a 14-lap shootout at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois with Kyle Larson winning his second consecutive High Limit Sprint Car Series race over Rico Abreu.

Starting eight on the grid after a disappointing pole dash, Larson missed several major incidents as he worked his way to the front. On Lap 1 of 35, a five-car accident claimed Tyler Courtney and Michael “Buddy” Kofoid, who both took a tumble and before collecting three other cars. Once that red flag was lifted, it didn’t take long for drivers to get tangled again as the leader Danny Dietrich experienced engine trouble on Lap 8. When he slowed rapidly, second-place Brent Marks collided with his back tire, ending the day for both.

Larson moved up to fourth with this incident.

Another red flag on Lap 21 for a flip involving Parker Price-Miller set up the dash for the win.

“My car felt really good and then we got that red,” Larson said from victory lane. “I was kind of running through the crumbs before that in 3 and 4; I could tell the top was getting really sketchy. Parker was making mistakes up there.

“When the red came out, I could see there was a clean lane of grip – not just marbles. It’s hard to see when you’re at speed. I figured Rico was going to run the top and he did. I got to his inside a couple of times and I was like ‘please don’t go to the bottom,’ and I threw a slider on him. Then he went to the bottom and I thought I was screwed until he spun his tires really bad off the corner and I was able to hit the top okay and get another run and slide him. I got good grip off the cushion.”

The victory makes Larson the first repeat winner in the series’ five-race history. He beat Justin Sanders earlier this month at Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio.

With 10 laps remaining, Larson caught and pressured Abreu. The two threw a series of sliders at one another until Abreu bobbled on the cushion and lost momentum.

“Anytime you race Rico and he’s on the wall like that, you have to get aggressive,” Larson said. “He’s pushing so hard that just to stay in the striking zone if he makes a mistake, you have to push hard too.”

For Abreu, it was his second near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps.

“I felt like I made a lot of mistakes at the end,” Abreu said. “It’s just hard to judge race pace. You’ve got Kyle behind you and [Anthony] Macri and these guys that have had speed all year long. I was racing as hard as I could and the mistake factor is more and more critical.”

Cory Eliason earned his career-best High Limit finish of third after starting deep in the field in 13th.

Macri lost one position during the race to finish fourth with Sam Hafertepe, Jr. rounding out the top five.

Visiting from the NASCAR Cup series, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 19th in the 25-car field after advancing from the B-Main.

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway