By: Spencer Neff
This weekend, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES tackles its first natural terrain road course of the 2023 season at the picturesque Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. The 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course hosts the fourth of 17 rounds in this year’s championship.
The 14th race in the track’s history, the famed motorcycle venue has become a favorite among the paddock and fans because of the scenery and on-track action. Although not the most aesthetically pleasing of days in terms of forecast, the 2018 edition of this race provided more than its share of memories. In the latest edition of Rewind, we’ll take a look back at the 2018 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Newgarden survives chaos for Barber repeat
After winning the series championship in his first season with Team Penske, Josef Newgarden began his second year with INDYCAR’s most successful organization with more accolades.
By the series’ return to Barber Motorsports Park, site of his first win in 2015 and maiden triumph with Penske two years later, the Hendersonville, Tennessee native returned to his de facto home track.
Following a dominant performance at Long Beach a week earlier, Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi earned the points lead for the first time in his three-year career after three podium finishes to begin his year.
Looking to usurp the points lead from Rossi, Newgarden was fastest in second practice and led all three rounds of qualifying en route to his third career pole, posting a best lap of 1m07.4413 (122.773 mph).
Despite an off-track excursion to open the weekend, the set up to the 90-lap race was promising for the No. 1 entry.
Following a massive downpour, the complexion of the race would change dramatically. Newgarden was able to pull away from teammate Will Power on the single-file start.
By Lap 12, the rain wreaked havoc on the event. After contact from Ed Jones, Charlie Kimball’s front wing was knocked off. In Turn 6, the No. 23 Carlin Racing entry stalled, prompting the first caution of the afternoon.
After the Lap 16 restart, Power spun on the front straightaway and made contact with the inside wall.
With the precipitation not letting up, INDYCAR halted the race after 10 additional laps under caution.
Unable to navigate the standing water and other aspects of the rain-soaked course, the race would be postponed until the following day.
Less than 24 hours later, clearer skies welcomed the grid as the previously scheduled 90-lap event was truncated to a 75-minute run.
Upon the Lap 26 restart, Newgarden would take off and continue his dominant performance. In dry conditions, the caution flag would not fly on Monday.
Only two pit stops, which handed the lead to Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s Sebastien Bourdais, stopped Newgarden en route to a runaway triumph.
The St. Petersburg winner nearly worked a switch to slick tires to a podium before ending the day fourth as rain bookended the second portion of the race.
After reaching the allowed time, Newgarden took the checkered flag after leading 73 of 82 laps. The No. 2 entry beat Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay by 9.961 seconds.
With the victory, he eclipsed Hunter-Reay and Power as the winningest driver in the track’s history. Further back, Newgarden’s teammate survived a dustup with Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves to finish ninth,
With two victories in four races, Newgarden looked primed to repeat as series champion. Unfortunately, a lack of consistency would leave hm fifth in points.
By 2019, the earned a second championship. That was also the last time Newgarden earned a Top Five at Barber. In his last two starts at the venue, he has finished 23rd and 14th.
Despite returning to the track, Power would finish 21st, completing 53 of 82 laps. The month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would be a welcome sight for the 2014 series champion.
After a third win at the INDYCAR Grand Prix, Power earned his first Indianapolis 500, thereby making him the first driver to sweep both May races in the five years of the event.
Joining Newgarden on the podium, Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe would earn their last victories to date in 2018.
After a shocking DNQ at the Indianapolis 500, Hinchcliffe would earn a second victory at Iowa Speedway in July. To cap off the season, Hunter-Reay won the race at Sonoma, INDYCAR’s last trip to the California road course.
By the end of 2021, both drivers stepped away from a full-time ride. Hinchcliffe is a driver analyst for NBC while Hunter-Reay joins Dreyer and Reinbold next month for his 15th Indianapolis 500.
Header Image By Bret Kelley/INDYCAR