IndyCar, Joe Skibinski

Five things to watch for at Barber Motorsports Park

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The 10th running of the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park marks the third consecutive street or road course on the 2019 calendar. It remains to be seen if there will be a third different winner in the field.

Fittingly, last week’s inaugural running of the IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas was won by a driver earning his first win. The Barber track rewards big names. There have been five different winners on this track and most of them have come in pairs. Helio Castroneves (2010), Will Power (2011 and 2012), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2013 and 2014) Josef Newgarden (2015, 2017 and 2018) and Simon Pagenaud (2016) all have taken turns at the front.

  1. Of course, one cannot discount the rookies. When the green flag waved over St. Petersburg, the freshmen were immediately established with the leaders. Felix Rosenqvist led 31 laps and had a shot at Victory Lane before scoring a fourth. In Round 2, Colton Herta quickly answered the question of whether a rookie could win in 2019 by taking over the lead from Scott Dixon on Lap 46 and winning in his third IndyCar start.
  2. Rain forced last year’s edition of this race to be run on two days. The sun was shining when the field restarted on Monday morning after being red-flagged Sunday, but rain returned for the end. According to NBC’s affiliate in Birmingham, Ala. rain is once again in the forecast.
  3. Rain bookending last year’s race forced the conclusion eight laps from the scheduled distance, but one thing was consistent with the previous seasons: Team Penske stood on the top step of the podium for the third consecutive year. Newgarden won back-to-back Alabama Grand Prixs with Pagenaud winning from the pole in ’16.
  4. With a little luck, Newgarden might have been looking at four straight wins. Pagenaud’s victory interrupted a streak of three Barber victories in four years for Newgarden. The Nashville native finished a solid third in 2016. He’ll try to be the first to win this race in three straight years.
  5. The pole has been the best place to start at Barber. This race has been won from the top spot four times in nine runnings but never in back-to-back seasons. Last year, Newgarden won from the pole.

Watch Sunday’s race at 4 pm ET on NBCSN or the NBC Sports app

MORE: Colton Herta earned this trip to Victory Lane

MORE: Scott Dixon annoyed he’s winless at Barber 

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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.