Today’s question: Who do you think will win the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix this Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park (3 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE; 2:30 p.m. ET INDYCAR Radio Network).
Curt Cavin: The competitiveness of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is evident in the unpredictability of the races. Through three events, three veteran followers of this sport have failed to anticipate that week’s winner, and in only two cases have we selected a driver who has won a race this season (Joey Barnes picked Kyle Kirkwood to win St. Petersburg – he won Long Beach – and I picked Josef Newgarden, the Texas winner, to win Long Beach.) Bottom line: This prognostication is maddening, especially when three races have produced three different winners, including a first-time winner in Kirkwood. This week, a new challenge is before us. Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou have been the stars of the past two Barber Motorsports Park races, so it’s natural to lean their way. Either is a solid pick, but I’ll go with Palou, who is off to a strong start this season. He won Barber in 2021 and finished second last year.
Joey Barnes: I’ve been leaning toward thinking Palou as the pick for this week, but duplicating Curt’s choice is no fun. It was really the Rinus VeeKay show last year, who was poised for victory until a late fade to finish third. The No. 21 Bitnile.com Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing has a strong record of pace at Barber Motorsports Park as Josef Newgarden won there for the outfit in 2015, while Spencer Pigot made the Firestone Fast Six in 2019. I provide all these stats to say that it would be refreshing to see VeeKay get some redemption, but the performance of Chevrolet at Long Beach (Will Power finished sixth to lead the Bowtie brigade) has me worried as the only outlier on pace was Newgarden. For that reason, and to go away from Curt’s choice, I’ll go with Palou’s teammate Scott Dixon, who somehow has never won at the picturesque natural terrain road course despite carrying a 3.5 average finish courtesy of nine podiums in 12 starts, and with only two finishes outside the top five, with the worst being 10th.
Paul Kelly: It sure seems like Pato O’Ward is due after two runner-up finishes in the first three races of the season, doesn’t it? Still, I’m going with another driver who feels overdue for a win, as he has just one victory since the start of the 2022 season despite capturing the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ ultimate prize last year – reigning series champion Will Power. DJ Willy P won in consecutive years at the “Augusta National of motorsports” in 2011 and 2012. He also has won four poles there, in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017. I know all that success came six or more years ago and in cars with different aero configurations than the current INDYCAR SERIES machine. But success is success, and Power knows how to qualify fast and win at the fast, flowing circuit. Power is a quiet ninth in the standings after finishes of seventh at St. Petesrburg, 16th at Texas and sixth at Long Beach. He gets his title defense back on track and bump-starts the drive into the vital Month of May with his third career Barber victory Sunday.