IndyCar

INDYCAR: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama postponed until Monday due to rain

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After two red-flag race stoppages due to rain, hydroplaning and several on-track incidents, Sunday’s INDYCAR Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama has been postponed until Monday.

The race will resume at 11:30 a.m. ET, live on NBCSN, at the 2.3-mile permanent road course of Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. The race was stopped at Lap 22 Sunday afternoon. It had originally been scheduled for 90 laps, then was cut to two hours, and efforts had been made to hopefully get at least one full hour of racing in.

All of those efforts failed due to Mother Nature. It’s expected that the race will resume somewhere around Lap 25 on Monday after likely two pace laps.

However, there’s more bad news: Rain is also in the forecast for Monday in the Birmingham area.

Josef Newgarden, who is the defending winner, also started the race after capturing the pole during qualifying on Saturday. He led all 22 laps Sunday before the race was called.

Newgarden is scored as the race leader, followed by St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi, James Hinchcliffe, Zach Veach, Robert Wickens, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon and Ed Jones.

Restarting eleventh though 20th on Monday will be Jordan King, Spencer Pigot, Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Max Chilton, Rene Binder, Matheus Leist, Gabby Chaves and Tony Kanaan.

Rounding out the rest of the field are Zachary Claman DeMelo, Will Power and Charlie Kimball.

INCIDENTS:

* The race began under rain and it never stopped. Marco Andretti experienced the first incident when he spun into the grass on the last turn on Lap 3 but was able to get back underway.

* Rookie Matheus Leist had difficulty getting started, missed the pace laps and didn’t get onto the track until just before the green flag dropped.

* Gabby Chaves had to pit just nine laps into the race because his helmet visor was fogging up. He also took fuel at the time.

* Charlie Kimball spun in the final turn and made contact with the fence, causing suspension damage. It brought out a full-course yellow caution and Kimball had to be towed to the pits.

Kimball told NBCSN that Ed Jones got into the back of his car and forced him into grass and wall.

“I was just going through the corner and he ran into the back of me, and apparently the (race) stewards reviewed it and no action taken,” Kimball said of Jones. “I vehemently disagree with that.

“When you’re driving a race, especially in the wet, you have to be conscious of what the other cars are. Yeah, it’s hard to see, but at the same time that’s just a dumb move. He’s not a rookie anymore. He needs to not be making rookie mistakes like that.”

* On the restart on Lap 17, Josef Newgarden spun but was able to regain control. Not so lucky was his Penske Racing teammate, Will Power, who spun and hit the inside retaining wall, ending his day.

“I couldn’t see a thing,” Power told NBCSN. “It was just hydroplaning out of control. I just can’t believe they went green on that, how bad it was and so much standing water.

“Very disappointing, but to me, very dangerous. I kept telling Roger (Penske), ‘I can’t see a thing ahead of me.’ It’s the last thing we needed. Very disappointing.”

* The race was stopped under red flag conditions on Lap 19 because there was so much puddling on the track.

* During the 37-minute red flag stoppage, Graham Rahal gave his perspective on how bad the conditions were to NBCSN:

“I’ve raced a long time and the lack of visibility today is the worst I’ve ever seen, by far,” Rahal said. “The underwing on this new car is pretty powerful and it’s just throwing water absolutely everywhere.

“We just have to figure it out. It’s not ideal right now, we need to get some of this flooding out of here, but so far I think the Firestone rain tires have done a good job and the car seems to be happy. You just have to keep it safe. I’m not kidding you: on the front straight, I can’t see my own nose cone.”

* Zachary Claman DeMelo was assessed a two-lap penalty for unapproved repairs on his car during the red-flag stoppage.

* During caution on Lap 23, Tony Kanaan had an issue getting up a hill, slipping his tires, potentially with his gearbox. After stopping, he finally got going and took his car to the pits for service.

* Ditto for Graham Rahal, who also lost a couple of positions when he spun before what was supposed to be the restart, only to see the red flag come out for a second time.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The start of the race was moved up a half-hour from its originally scheduled start time of 3:38 p.m. ET.

* Actor Channing Tatum was grand marshal and gave the command to start engines.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

NHRA
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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

Follow @JerryBonkowski