The NTT IndyCar Series returns to the track this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Two weeks ago, Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood claimed his first career victory in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and will be looking to go back-to-back this weekend.
Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward, last season’s race winner, headlines the list of six past winners at the 17-turn, 2.3-mile permanent road course in Birmingham, Alabama. Although fans are looking forward to the highly anticipated Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 90-lap race at Barber will test the patience of some of the greatest drivers in the world.
In the past two seasons, O’Ward and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou used two-stop strategies to secure victories. Come Sunday we could see more of the same.
Headed into the final race before the series heads to IMS, a few drivers stand out to me as ones who could be in victory lane Sunday.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon
Dixon is a driver that has the capability of winning at any given time, but I think he is poised to finally win at Barber. 2023 is the 13th time that the IndyCar Series has visited the road course, but Dixon has been unable to reach the podium's top step. In 12 prior races at Barber, Dixon has a remarkable average finish of 3.5, finishing in second six times and in third three times.
Prior to his last-place finish of 27th at Long Beach, Dixon finished third and fifth in the season's first two races. What better place for Dixon to get his first win of the season than a place where victory has eluded him several times over the years?
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou
Palou finished second last year and won in 2021, making him an obvious favorite for Sunday. Palou has been consistent to start the 2023 season with a pair of finishes in the top five and an eighth-place finish in St Petersburg, Florida. In his Astor Cup-winning season in 2021, Palou won on three road courses, leading me to believe that he’ll be in the mix Sunday.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden
Like Dixon, Newgarden is a favorite going into every race of the season, so he’s one of the drivers that I think will be in the mix Sunday. Although he has finished in 14th and 23rd at Barber in the past two seasons, Newgarden has three wins to his name alongside his average finish of 8.1.
Newgarden has also struggled in qualifying at Barber as he hasn’t started sixth or higher since 2018. He enters Sunday fourth in the standings, trailing Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson, O’Ward and Palou, but he has the potential to bounce back this year at Barber.
Sleeper: Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean
Once again, I think Grosjean could finally claim his first career win Sunday. In his two prior races at Barber, he has finished in the seventh and 10th positions. Grosjean has been in the mix at both street course races so far this season in St. Pete and Long Beach, leading me to believe Sunday has the potential to be the day for the former Formula 1 driver.
Longshot: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal
Yes, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has been disappointing to start the season off, but I think Rahal will have a solid race. In the past two seasons, he’s finished in the eigth and seventh positions alongside his pair of second-place finishes in 2016 and 2015.
Who I predict will win: Scott Dixon
The NTT IndyCar Series will take to the track Saturday for a second practice at noon, followed by qualifying at 3 p.m., both being televised on Peacock. The Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday on NBC.