The IndyCar Series had its first permanent road course round of the season with the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. There were fears that the race would be affected by rain. Thunderstorms did pass over the track, just a few hours too early. Sunday’s delayed Indy Lights race was run mainly in wet conditions but the racing surface dried out by the race’s conclusion.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay won his first career pole position in qualifying. VeeKay beat McLaren’s Pato O’Ward by less than two-tenths of a second on Saturday.
Juncos’ Callum Ilott was the most impressive rookie not only at the start of the race but also on Saturday. He advanced into the second qualifying round and put his car 11th on the grid. From 11th, Illott jumped to eighth on the first lap. The British rookie got as high as seventh before he completely changed the strategic dynamic of the race.
Ilott was racing Meyer Shank’s Hélio Castroneves side-by-side into turn seven. He attempted to outbrake the four-time Indianapolis 500 champion and carried too much speed into the corner. Illot left the track, lost control on the grass and beached his car in a gravel trap, bringing out the race’s first caution.
The caution happened just after all the drivers completed their first pit stops. This played against the drivers on a three-stop strategy instead of two stops, especially Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Andretti’s Colton Herta. The three-stop runners had hoped that the caution came out before drivers on the two-stop strategy made their first stop. The hope was that they would be shuffled to the front behind the pace car as the rest of the field headed down pitlane.
On Lap 62 of 90, Pato O’Ward ended Rinus VeeKay’s stranglehold on the virtual lead with a brilliant pass around the outside in turn five. By Lap 64, VeeKay would be third as Ganassi’s Álex Palou rejoined the track second after taking his final stop. Reigning champion Palou didn’t have anything against the McLaren driver as Pato O’Ward went on to win the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Race Result – Top 10
- Pato O’Ward
- Álex Palou
- Rinus VeeKay
- Will Power
- Scott Dixon
- Scott McLaughlin
- Romain Grosjean
- Graham Rahal
- Alexander Rossi
- Colton Herta
Álex Palou has taken the lead in the points standings, ahead of Scott McLaughlin by three points. IndyCar will return for the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in two weeks.