Photo: Bret Kelley
Will Power (Team Penske, Chevrolet) won pole for a wet start to the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park. James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport, Honda) started next to him in P2, his second straight front row start. Andretti teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified third, with Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, Honda) lining up fourth.
After a nearly 3-hr rain delay race control opened pit lane. With a wet start declared, all teams were required to start on wet tires, the race also switching to a timed format (1 hr, 40 min) due to remaining daylight.
Power, Hinchcliffe, and Hunter-Reay held their positions through the first lap, with Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevy) moving up a spot to fourth. The caution came out before completion of the lap, following spins by Takuma Sato (AJ Foyt Racing, Honda) and others.
Hunter-Reay took second from Hinchcliffe when the race restarted. Power retained the lead, the only driver to lead all five IndyCar races held at Barber. Power went off in Turn 5 with 1:17 left and a 4-sec lead, Hunter-Reay assuming the lead, Power returning to the track in second, and Hinchcliffe still running third.
Mihail Aleshin (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Honda) spun in Turn 5 after contact from behind by Sebastian Bourdais (KVSH Racing, Chevy), bringing out the second caution at 1:09. Most of the field pitted to take dry tires. Oriol Servia (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Honda) stayed out, having already taken drys and gasoline under green. Bourdais was penalized.
Hunter-Reay beat Power out of the pits, with Dixon coming out third; all three lining up behind Sebastian Saavedra (KVAFS Racing, Chevy) who stayed out on wets. Carlos Munoz (Andretti HVM, Honda) left the track and collided with a barrier trying to get temperature into the tires under caution. Juan Pablo Montoya (Penske Motorsports, Chevy) left the track with 58 min left during the first lap under green, bringing out caution #3.
Less than 1 lap under green again, rookie Carlos Huertas (Dale Coyne Racing, Honda) spun to bring out another caution. Hunter-Reay passed Saavedra for the lead with just under 45 min to go. When Saavedra hit the pits Hunter-Reay’s Andretti teammate Marco Andretti moved into second, followed by Power.
Hunter-Reay and Power both pitted with 26:30 to go, their final stop of the race. Andretti came in one lap later. Hunter-Reay increased his gap on Andretti in the process. The running order with 23 min left was Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Dixon, the last of whom out-pitted Power. Hunter-Reay’s lead was more than 6.5 sec with 13 min to go.
Aleshin brought out the race’s fifth caution inside 6 min. The race finished under the yellow with a final running order of Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Dixon, Siimon Pagenaud (Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing, Honda), and Power. It was the first 1-2 for Andretti Autosport since Iowa last year (Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay) and the second consecutive win for Hunter-Reay at Barber.
The win moved Hunter-Reay into second in the points standings, 18 behind Power. Andretti had his best finish since Iowa in 2012. Pagenaud’s P4 placed him in the Top 5 for all three races of the season.