2012 Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama

Can we now please put to rest they myth that you can’t pass at Barber? Thank You.  That was the mantra for the 2012 Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.  In previous seasons, Barber was much maligned for a lack of passing and excitement.  This year, the myth that you can’t pass at Barber was put to rest.  While there may have not been much passing for the podium positions or top 5, there was plenty of hard racing and passing from mid-pack back.

Great Race. One of the best @IndyCar road course races in quite awhile. At Barber at least, the DW12 has made quite the difference.  This was indeed the best IndyCar road or street course race I’ve seen in quite awhile; I can’t remember the last time I saw one with as much excitement.  In addition to the the new cars we can also thank the new blocking rule and a much racier tire from Firestone.  The DW12 is quite a bit sturdier than the previous generation of IndyCar, the drivers can dice without knocking wings and various other appendages off of the car, as a result the drivers could race side by side more without fear of damaging the car as much.  Second, the new blocking rule allows for defending; the drivers can now be racers and dice with each other, they are required by the rules to leave the preferred line open. Instead of “after you” driving we now have exciting racing.  A racing tire, except in endurance racing where strategy can hinge on multi-stinting tires, should never be so durable that it will last for an entire fuel stint.  Firestone’s IndyCar tires have consistently been that way but on Sunday, there was a greater difference in tire life between the red (softer) tire and black (harder) tire.  The reds were faster but the performance dropped off quicker than the more durable but slower black tires.  The result was cars on varying tire strategies who were faster at various times thus leading to passing opportunities.

Bad stop for RHR – left rear tire change issue. #IndyCar #HIGPA  Bad stops were a theme of the day for multiple teams.  The problems stemmed from tire changes and it wasn’t caused by the side pods and rear bumper structure enveloping the rear tires.  The problems were mostly related to wheel nuts and wheel guns.  This also resulted in more passing opportunities because it dropped good cars back in the field forcing them to make up positions on the track.

What could Bourdais be doing with a Chevy of Honda lump? #IndyCar  While drivers like Tony Kanaan continued to suffer from bad luck and drivers such as Dario Franchitti continued to have problems adapting to the new cars and rules, drivers like Sebastien Bourdais had terrific drives in subpar equipment.  He started 17th but finished 9th in a Lotus engined car, racing better than others with much better engines by grabbing the car by the scruff of the neck and wringing everything he could out of it.  Marco Andretti had an impressive drive as well, but it has to be considered that he had a much better engine and potentially a better prepared car.  In my opinion, Bourdais’ was the drive of the weekend.  Bourdais’ personality doesn’t often lend him to big shows of emotion, but there was a broad smile on his face after Sunday’s race.  If he had a Honda or Chevrolet engine, he’d have been fighting for the win.

@BeauxBarfield Keep up the good work! Your changes and the DW12 have made the difference! You’re restoring my faith in IndyCar.  Barfield and the rest of the new crew in IndyCar race control really are restoring my faith in IndyCar.  Over the last few years, the performance of the Chief Steward, the ridiculous “no defending” rule, and the application of oval caution theory to road/street courses were some of my biggest gripes.  The “no defending” rule in particular was coming close to driving me away from the sport; Barfield changed to a real blocking rule and look what it brought it us at Barber:  good racing.  He’s made judicious use of full course yellows which hasn’t injected artificial drama into the races.  Race Control, instead of being a headline, has remained in the shadows. As it should be.

@ABC and @ESPN should take notes from this broadcast. Well Done @NBCSN. #IndyCar #HIGPA  NBC Sports Network’s coverage of the race from Barber was wonderful.  They concentrated on the race and what was going on on the race track as opposed to stories that they established beforehand during the pre-race show.  They caught a lot of action as it happened and if they missed it, they quickly showed it through replay.  There was explanation and analysis of fuel and tire strategy.  The booth crew was enthusiastic and in tune with the race (although the mistakes from Bob Jenkins seem to be increasing).   Additionally, the addition of Townsend Bell as a pit reporter was a good one; as a current (albeit unemployed) driver, he fits in as a pit reporter and analyst:  @TownsendBell99 Excellent work today! You were honest, enthusiastic and to the point – exactly what’s needed. 

@PippaMann Great Job by you as well. Your insight into the racer’s mind is a welcome addition to the IndyLights broadcasts.  Pippa Mann’s work the last two races as an analyst on IMS Radio’s IndyLights coverage is worth mentioning.  She’s given us a keen insight into what a driver is thinking on the track – why a driver might make a certain move and the thought process that goes into it.  As long as she remains unemployed as an IndyCar driver, IMS Radio would do well to keep her on as an analyst.

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