Barber Race Review: Wow, Were We Wrong

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Photo from usatoday.com

Almost incredibly, a real live IndyCar race broke out for the first time in six visits to the amazingly gorgeous and beautiful facility outside Birmingham. Tennessee’s native son Josef Newgarden prevailed, making co-owner Sarah Fisher exceptionally happy. She’s stuck by him for four years and it finally paid off on a day Newkid’s dad not only made the broadcast, but also called him a “bad ass” on live television. Newgarden’s benefited greatly from his team’s switch to Chevy this year and it showed. When you’re seeing three wide racing at Barber – not to mention ten lead changes – you know it’s going to be an unusually entertaining race. It was one of those magical Sundays in IndyCarland that keep we fans coming back for more.

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Photo from indycar.com

The race didn’t start out that magically however, with a Penske front row for the fifth consecutive race and the TCGR cars lurking nearby. But also there at the front of the field and largely overlooked was young Josef Newgarden, who’d had a decent season already and started fifth. The twenty four year old would hang tough all day and eventually take the lead for good as his competitors had penalties, pit issues and other problems to contend with in addition to CFHR’s road course ace. Newgarden proved too stout for the field, cruising to his first IndyCar victory in fifty five races and providing his team with its coveted first win.

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Photo from usatoday.com

Graham Rahal turned in the drive of the race, steadily storming to the front for a second place finish after starting eighth. During his highly entertaining late race charge, he banged into Power as he passed him damaging his front wing. Had Graham been more cautious, he’d have had more speed and the result could have been different. Nevertheless Rahal passed Scott Dixon for second and held on, inching closer to the leader. Ultimately he ran out of laps, but was thrilled with his best finish of the season on a day it was reported that Bobby Rahal had “removed himself” from Graham’s pit box this season. His dad’s absence seemed to work like a charm for the team at Barber.

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Photo from indycar.com

Championship leader Juan Montoya had a terrible day struggling to a fourteenth place finish, one spot ahead of his Penske team mate Helio whose team had trouble with their lug nuts in the pits. Power caused a wreck as he hit Sato while reentering the fray after a stop, receiving a drive through penalty for the incident. “Typical,” he growled on the radio after the call. Power battled back to an impressive fourth place finish, tops for his team. Ryan Hunter-Reay finished fifth, commenting afterward on an encounter with rookie Sage Karam taking him off course that he should “come join the bench with me.”

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Photo from motorsport.com

The racing was superb most of the day, prompting us to ask “which track have they substituted for Barber?” more than once. There were two cautions – only one for debris – for a total of nine laps, which seemed about right after the single caution at strung out Long Beach. It was so exciting at points that we were yelling “whoa!” more than Steve Matchett, which is telling. Drivers raced hard but fairly clean and the reinforced aero kits behaved much better for the third race in a row.

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Photo from indycar.com

In victory lane, Josef Newgarden remained relatively composed. “Oh man, I was just so nervous! I can’t tell you how nervous I was. I’m normally not in racing, but … It’s just been such a long time coming trying to do this. I can’t believe now is when it happened.  You know, I knew one of these days it was going to happen with this team, they’re so solid. I can’t thank everyone enough that gave me an IndyCar ride.”

Post Race Quotes

Graham Rahal: “This team has come a long way. I think we’re proving that. Honda did a great job today.  . . . One of these days we’ll win one of these things.”

Scott Dixon:  “Fuel was not a problem today. The Chevy actually was getting great fuel mileage. We just couldn’t hold on to the tires. In the first stint we dropped like a rock. . . . Huge congrats to Josef – helluva talent – and good to see him take the victory today.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Felt like a wounded duck out there, but we got it done. First of all, big congrats to Josef Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Well deserved, that’s been coming for a while, he’s a good kid and he’s doing a great job. It’s good for the series. . . . We don’t have it right now. . . . But it’s disappointing to be somewhat relieved with fifth place.”

Will Power: “I thought oh, he’s already gone by. . . . Feel bad for Sato there. Didn’t see him.”

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16 thoughts on “Barber Race Review: Wow, Were We Wrong

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