Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park and Vintage Motorsports Museum opened to little fanfare in 2003 as the nation went to war. The 16 turn, nearly two and a half mile undulating road course allowed for Scott Dixon‘s track record of 124 miles per hour in 2013. We’ll soon see if the injurious, reinforced and ill-advised aero kit experiment allows drivers to top Dixon’s mark. Sadly and for a variety of reasons, that’s likely to be the most exciting part of the entire weekend.
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Barber was designed by Alan Wilson, the same guy who designed NOLA – last mention, we promise. The track was designed for and used primarily by motorbikes, while sports cars and Porsche’s North American driving school also utilize the facility. Oddly, the track has no grandstands at the start/finish line offering only a very veiled view of arguably its best parts.
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Known as a “beautiful” and “scenic” circuit in the woods outside Birmingham, the permanent road course may be visually pleasing but it’s not a good fit for IndyCars. It’s simply too narrow and technical with too few opportunities for passing, which is boring for paying fans and viewers alike. Racing at Barber tends to be as dull and mundane as a trip to the barber, with little on track action, low speeds and strung out fields. Barber is like a more scenic Mid-Ohio Racecourse, but without the history.
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In IndyCar’s five years of racing there, three different drivers have won the race. Helio won the inaugural event in 2010, Penske’s Will Power prevailed the next two years in a row and Ryan Hunter-Reay won the last two for Andretti Autosport. Interestingly, three youthful Colombian drivers previously won Indy Lights races at Barber – Saavedra in 2012, Munoz the next year and Gabby “Pat” Chavez last year.
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Teams and fans alike must adequately prepare themselves for the trip to Birmingham, which is a bit of a letdown coming off of visits to Southern California and even New Orleans. Much like its counterpart in the English midlands, Birmingham’s not exactly a tourist destination. Unfortunately the city resembles its British namesake in another, more lethal way also. Strangely, both areas supply fresh recruits to the infamous terror group ISIS, as just this week it was reported that a Muslim student left Alabama to begin her glamorous new life as an ISIS bride. Imagine that veil.
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Coming off his 36th career win at Long Beach, Ganassi’s Scott Dixon will be a threat to take the checkers, as will Penske’s Power, Helio, et cetera. As for a wildcard to watch, there aren’t many except possibly Josef Newgarden who’s run well this year for CFHR. Trying to make it three in a row down south, AA’s Hunter-Reay is another one to watch – provided he’s not running other cars off track and getting penalized this week. From far out left field, RHR’s team mate Marco ran decently at Long Beach and finished second at Barber last year.
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If you’re a fan of processional racing and the usual suspects appearing on the podium in a “gorgeous setting,” then Barber’s probably for you. Frankly, we’re already looking forward to some IndyCar oval track racing – remember that? The best news about the upcoming race in ‘Bama is that Indianapolis and the month of May will soon follow. The second best news? It’s the longest possible span of time until the series again returns to Birmingham’s beautifully bland, boring track next year. That is, unless ISIS and their western brides rule the world by then, in which case all forms of racing will be banned and punishable by crucifixion.
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