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Barber Motorsports Park: INDYCAR Fantasy Picks

Takuma Sato leads the pack at Barber Motorsports Park in 2019. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

Takuma Sato leads the pack at Barber Motorsports Park in 2019. © [Andy Clary/ Spacesuit Media]

The NTT IndyCar Series kicks off the 2021 season at a different locale than usual.  With a flip flop in the schedule due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park will open the season on April 18th.  The race can be seen on NBC at 3pm ET.

Barber Motorsports Park located in Birmingham, Alabama is a 2.38 mile natural terrain road course.  The NTT IndyCar Series has competed at the track ten times from 2010 – 2019.  Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is the most recent winner but Team Penske has been most successful with six wins and their driver Josef Newgarden has the most victories for a driver with three (2015 with CFH Racing, 2017 & 2018 with Team Penske).

Join in the fun with the INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge (https://fantasy.indycar.com/).

If you haven’t played the Challenge, it is a simple and fun way to put a little stake in the game.  It’s free to play so sign up, name your team and pick drivers for the race.  With a $100 salary cap, you need to pick four drivers.  Then pick the top three finishers of the race (they don’t need to be in your four driver team and the salary cap doesn’t apply) and the decide on the speed for the fastest lap of the race as a tie breaker.  You can also join public leagues such as “Road America Fans” or create your own private league.

There are 24 drivers competing in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama this weekend.  So, who should you pick?  With driver salaries ranging from $32 to $18, you are going to need to spread out your choices.  There are many different strategies in a Salary Cap league so you are on your own to choose yours.

High Salary Drivers $32-$26

Six-time Series Champion Scott Dixon leads the list with a $32 price tag.  Dixon has finished second an incredible six times in this race, including the last race in 2019.  You could say he is due for a win.  He also finished 3rd twice and his other finishes were 6th and 10th.

Up next is Jose Newgarden at $31.  Newgarden has won this race three times and has not finished outside of the top four in the last five events at Barber.

Will Power ($29) has two wins at Barber (2011 & 2012) and has qualified in the top two in eight of the ten races with four poles.  But, his last three races at Barber resulted in 14th, 21st and 11th place finishes.

Colton Herta ($28) is an interesting choice.  The young driver heads into his third season in IndyCar and continues to improve.  His only race at Barber was marred by a fuel pressure issue in the race that forced the team to pit for thirty plus laps to fix the issue.  Herta was second quickest at a test at Barber in November of last year.

Pato O’Ward, Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato all are $26 salary drivers.  Sato is the most recent winner at the track.  Like Herta, O’Ward is ayoung gun that looks to put himself in championship contention again this season and Pagenaud has one win at the track (2016) and never has finished outside of the top ten with an average finish of sixth.

Medium Salary Drivers $25-$23

Andretti Autosport drivers Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe join Felix Rosenqvist in the $25 salary group.  Andretti Autosport had an off year last season with Rossi expected to be in the championship hunt, something that never materialized.  Rossi has two fifth place finishes in four races at Barber, Hunter-Reay won in 2014 and has a 7.7 average finish after finishing 8th in the last event.  Hinchcliffe, now back to running a full season, has six consecutive finishes of 7th or better and finished 6th in 2019.  Rosenqvist finished 10th in 2019 for Chip Ganassi but is joining Arrow McLaren SP this season.

Marcus Ericsson, Graham Rahal and Alex Palou are at the $24 salary.  Ericsson finished seventh in 2019, his only race at Barber and Palou has not raced there in the IndyCar Series.  Rahal has raced all ten races at Barber and has an average start and finish of 12.4 with runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2016.

Sebastien Bourdais ($23) finished eighth, fifth and a spectacular third place in the last three races at Barber.  The 2019 race had Bourdais on a two pit stop strategy which had him racing on worn out tires, and the gamble almost paid off with a spectacular drive.  Bourdais was quickest in the February test with non push-to-pass laps.

Bargain Drivers? $21-$18

Depending on how you spent your salary so far will determine who you might need from this group.

Rinus VeeKay ($21) and Jack Harvey ($21) are both drivers that should be considered.  While VeeKay has not yet raced at Barber in the IndyCar Series, in November and February testing at Barber, he was the quickest. But, he has a broken finger.  Harvey raced at Barber in 2019 and finished thirteenth.  He was fifth quickest in the November test.  Also at $21 is Conor Daly driving for Ed Carpenter Racing.  Conor has raced twice at barber and was sixth in testing speeds in November.

Max Chilton comes in at $20 and has four starts at Barber with an average finish of 19.2.  Ed Jones ($20) returns to the IndyCar Series with Dayle Coyne Racing, a team he had his best finish in three tries at Barber with a 16th place run. And rookie Scott McLaughlin will cost you $20.  McLaughlin is making his first start at Barber in his rookie season at Team Penske.  McLaughlin was 19th quickest in the November test but at this price would be a great choice if you are running out of cap room.  Dalton Kellett ($18) will be driving for AJ Foyt Enterprises and making his first start at Barber.

Wrapping up the field are former F1 driver Romain Grosjean $19) and NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson ($18) making their IndyCar debuts.  Each will be working out the differences from their former experiences to racing an Indy Car for the first time.  It will be interesting to see how they do, but I don’t think I would pick either of them.

There you go, enjoy the opening of the 2021 NTT IndyCar season and good luck in the IndyCar Fantasy Challenge.  Next week I’ll share my results and preview the field for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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