More records are likely to be broken as IndyCar screeches into Alabama this weekend, the series’ third consecutive race since inexplicably skipping an entire month after the St. Pete opener. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but Team Penske’s success at Barber is nearly as unblemished as a mint condition Beatles vinyl still in the original packaging.
Josef “new American hero” Newgarden (according to Robin Miller) has swiped two of the last three at the deep south’s premier motorbike track, an undeniably impressive album of work. He’s tied for the record with other multiple winners Will “rap sheet” Power – also for Team Penske – and AA’s Ryan “nose-cam” Hunter-Reay. They scored back to back wins in 2011-12 and 2013-14, respectively – no skipping years there. Unfortunately, that was prior to the advent of the tiny lens and its limitless documentary potential.
Newkid’s first ever IndyCar win came at BMSP (sounds like a digestive tract ailment, doesn’t it?) with the short lived CFH Racing (which, in fact, proved to be an ailment) in 2015. It was his fiftieth race and an exciting show, which is exceptionally rare for Barber. Rudely interrupting his victories was everyone’s second favorite Frenchman Pags in an absolute snoozer of a race two years ago. Record breaking boring and part of a three consecutive race run by Simon, he’d go on to win five in total as well as the championship during that breakout second year with the Cap’n. Yay.
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But it gets better. Team Penske’s scratched out wins in nearly three quarters of all races held at Barber – taking three in a row beginning with the semi-retired Helio at the inaugural race way back in 2010. Plus, they’ve shattered the competition in the last two. Those are merely the records the Cap’n’s team – the most successful in the sport – owns in ‘Bama.
In his stable Penske has the reigning series champ Newgarden and the previous one in Pags, both of whom prevailed after winning on the serpentine track down south. Not to sound like a broken record, but as we’ve documented this dominance at tracks like Barber is nothing new. St. Pete, Detroit and Sonoma also come to mind – not to mention Indy – when listing tracks at which the Cap’n’s crew enjoys an excellent reputation.
It’s wise to expect still more records to fall Sunday, perhaps even speed thanks to the sleek, superlative new cars. One for rookie starters is a given at a quarter of the field, while some nose-cam damage is a distinct possibility for much the same reason, although the Long Beach record will be tough to beat. Ever.
Record attendance – much less ratings – are less certain, although at least it’s on NBCSN. A decent show at Long Beach thanks largely to well timed cautions and the indispensable nose-cam should help. However, another prolonged Penske parade like ’16 could prove predictable and passe. If, on the other hand, the race is reasonably entertaining and multiple records are smashed, Barber could provide some decent momentum heading into the month of May.
After another annoying two week skip in the schedule, that is.
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