Defending Barber winner Pagenaud learns to speak ‘Southern’ (VIDEO)

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There’s a weird symmetry between Simon Pagenaud, who hails from Montmorillon, France and now lives in Charlotte, and Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion for Team Penske, Pagenaud made his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series after a four-year absence in a one-off, injury fill-in drive for Ana Beatriz at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2011. That was the first step towards laying the groundwork for a full-time return that followed in 2012 with Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports.

In 2013, Pagenaud and then-teammate Tristan Vautier made a voyage to the Bass Pro Shops right next to the track in Birmingham. This went as you’d expect for the pair of Frenchmen, transplanted into the world of wild animals and game who entered while speaking French and then embracing the store.

Pagenaud’s decisive, aggressive move for the lead on Graham Rahal, his sparring partner the year they competed for the 2006 Atlantic Championship, netted him his second straight victory and helped to propel him from possible to likely championship favorite.

And now heading into this year’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (April 23, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Pagenaud and Barber have their latest connection – where Pagenaud learns to speak “Southern” English from an app showcased by his new teammate and Hendersonville, Tenn. native Josef Newgarden.

You can see the video, filmed during IndyCar’s recent open test at Barber last month, above via This is Alabama and aired during Thursday’s NASCAR AMERICA on NBCSN.

Pagenaud and Birmingham are the odd couple that seem to keep on giving to IndyCar. He’ll look for an encore of his victory here later this month, but first are in Long Beach this weekend.

Champion Marc Marquez leads MotoGP into virtual world Sunday

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During its layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, MotoGP will become the latest racing series to enter the virtual world.

The MotoGP Virtual Race will be held at 9 a.m. ET Sunday, March 29 with 10 riders. It will be streamed on several platforms, including the Motorsports on NBC YouTube channel. Reigning series champion Marc Marquez is among the riders in the field.

The premier class of MotoGP has yet to hit the track this season as its opener was canceled and the next three races were postponed, including the Grand Prix of the Americas being moved from April 5 to Nov. 15.

Several other racing series have tried online racing in recent weeks.

IMSA held a “SuperSaturday at Sebring” March 21 in place of the postponed Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. NASCAR started its Pro Invitational Series last Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway and will continue Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. IndyCar kicked off its six-race IndyCar iRacing Challenge with a Saturday race at Watkins Glen International that was won by Sage Karam.