Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Preview and Writer's Prediction Pool

Ryan WordenFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2010

SPARTA, KY - AUGUST 01:  Ryan Briscoe, driver of the #6 Team Penske Dallara Honda celebrates by spraying champagne over second placed Ed Carpenter after winning the IRL IndyCar Series Meijer Indy 300 on August 1, 2009 at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)
Darrell Ingham/Getty Images

The 2010 IndycarSeries rolls into unfamiliar territory this weekend, as the teams prepare for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. The race will be run at Barber Motorsports Park, live from Birmingham, AL. This will be the first official trip to the track for the series, and the first run in the American South traditionally known as NASCAR country.

The Barber track will feature 16 turns over 2.3 miles. It is difficult to know how the track will react, since cars have only run three different practice sessions on the course, however there is some concern over a lack of passing areas.

The main action appears like it will take place at the end of the front stretch going into turn one. Turns five, seven, and 11 will also be interesting to watch and see if there is enough room for the Honda powered Indycars to make their moves.

Will Power won the first two races of the 2010 season, and cannot be counted out on any of the road or street circuits this season.  Three drivers are tied for second place in the series, including Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dario Franchiti, and Justin Wilson.  The field is more competitive this year than any in recent memory, as several drivers have a shot at seeing victory lane this year.

The race will air live on Versus at 3 pm on Sunday in HD, with Bob Jenkins hosting.  You can watch qualifying live on Indycar.com at 10:15 am or you can watch the Versus hourlong recap of qualifying at 6 pm.

Onto the writers' picks/pool.  The rain delayed Grand Prix of St. Pete saw almost everyone scoring some points.

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Christopher and I are tied with 13 points (we both picked Power to win).
James comes in next with 11 points, having two on the podium and the darkhorse.
Chad picked one correctly on the podium and has three points.
Steve came close, but ended up with 0 points.

And without much further ado, here are the picks this week.  Please note, that I do not have Steve's picks back yet, so check back for those.

Chad Smith:

Race Winner: Tony Kanaan
Andretti Autosport hasn't seen victory lane ina  long time, and with TK finally having a talented teammate (Hunter-Reay) they should be able to share information and help each other run near the front.

Second: Justin Wilson
Wilson has run in the top five in both races this season, and he definitely knows his way in street/road courses.  I think Wilson can content for the pole, and could lead a lot of laps on Sunday.

Third: Will Power
Power will continue his hot streak, but this time he will let someone else hold the trophy.

Dark Horse: Raphael Matos
In his second year, Matos has really run well and demonstrated that he belongs in the series.  Look for him to run up front.

First to Crash: Milka Duno
I am really just playing the odds with this one.

James Broomhead

My picks

First: Ryan Briscoe
Second: Will Power
Third: Justin Wilson

Another new track, albeit one just about everyone has tested on, should serve as a great leveller—who ever can get to grips with the track first, and qualifying well on the tight track will have the box seat for the race. That should push the better drivers—Briscoe, Power, Wilson, etc—in the series to the fore, with maybe an occasional interloper getting in with some quirky strategy.

Dark Horse : Takuma Sato

Sato has been a bit of a dart without feathers in the two previous races, but Barber is as close to the kind of tracks he should be familiar with as the Indycar Series gets. If he’s got his head round the car he could be a challenger, or at least finish as there are fewer walls to crash into.

First to Crash : Mario Moraes

Another man who has started 2010 with plenty of damage (though his St. Pete demise was not entirely of his doing) Moraes is likley to start in the mid pack, where all the early contact tends to be. Many may not last too long, but Moraes will be one of them.

Christopher Leone

Win : Will Power. He paced the field in Barber testing, he’s won the past two races, come on. I don’t even feel the need to explain this one. Think Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR.

Place : Justin Wilson. Mark my words, if he keeps up what he’s been doing—and there’s no reason to think he won’t—J.Wil is going to be contending with Penske and Ganassi for the championship. Let’s hope so. Amazingly, somehow Dreyer and Reinbold hasn’t won a race since their debut event back in 2000. It’s about time. They deserve it.

Show : Alex Tagliani. FAZZT has lived up to its name thus far on the street courses, and Tags is a big reason why. If he can put the car up front in qualifying as he has been, he should stay there for much of the race.

This team has far exceeded everybody’s expectations so far, and they’re a sentimental favorite to all of us ex-Champ Car fans (team manager Rob Edwards worked at Walker Racing, and their second driver at Indy will be Bruno Junqueira).

Dark Horse : Takuma Sato. He deserves a break after the St. Petersburg incident. Maybe this time the crew will let him pit when he says the front wing is failing. Sato was surprisingly fast at preseason testing as well.

First to Crash : Milka Duno. I was right last time, wasn’t I? She didn’t even make it to green last time before spinning out. Sadly, it looks like we only score points for terminal damage in this thing. Alas.

Ryan Worden

Winner: Will Power

OK...so I am sorry for this pick.  He has basically dominated every road course so far this season... so this is a chicken pick, but he's dominated every road course!  If Will Power doesn't finish on the podium it will most likely be because a car finished its race on top of him.

Place: Marco Andretti

I cannot believe I actually wrote that name down.  But Marco has found some speed the past two weeks.  Andretti Autosport is making some real progress on the road courses with the help of Ryan Hunter-Reay and I think the youngest Andretti may be the beneficiary.

Show: Scott Dixon

Target Chip Ganassi has not been on the podium yet... and we are going into the third race.  Chip has got to be getting anxious (especially with his NASCAR team doing well) and might personally carry this car to the finish line on his shoulders.  Aside from that Dixon is a smart driver who knows he needs a good finish.

Dark Horse: Hideki Mutoh

Mutoh will look to show he can be fast with his new Newman Haas Lanigan team, and this road course may be the perfect setting.  Other drivers might be faster or more skilled, but Hideki is a calculating driver who will not take big risks.  On a tight track, that could mean he avoids the wrecks and winds up with a nice finish.

First to Crash : Takuma Sato

Well, he wasa the first to crash in both of the first two races, time for a three peat.  Sato is fast, no one is questioning that.  However, there are some questions about whether or not he can finish a race.  He has only completed 354 turns in the series so far, and will have to turn 1,440 times just to finish this one.

Quick recap on the scoring.  Any correct podium choice results in three points.  The correct first place pick is an additional 10 points, second place is an additional six points, and third place is an additional three.  If your dark horse finishes in the top five or if you have the first to crash that is five points. 

And crashing does mean terminal failure as a result of collision with something.  So Milka spinning on the pace lap and then parking on the 12th does not quite count.  Good luck to all and prepare for a great race!

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