IndyCar Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama preview, predictions

Helio Castroneves on course in qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Photo Credit: Bret Kelley/Courtesy of IndyCar
Helio Castroneves on course in qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Photo Credit: Bret Kelley/Courtesy of IndyCar /

Will Team Penske return to the top of IndyCar at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama? We preview and predict Round 3 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

The Verizon IndyCar Series arrives at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday for the 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, and there’s a lot to look forward to in the third race if you’re an open-wheel enthusiast.

Team Penske’s Will Power won yet another pole position in Saturday qualifying, but almost more important is that he brought two of his teammates with him. Long Beach pole sitter Helio Castroneves starts second at Barber, while defending series champion Simon Pagenaud has his best qualifying position of 2017 in third. Pagenaud is just three points behind James Hinchcliffe in the current championship battle, so even an average day for him could really screw up the present title picture.

But the field for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is front-loaded with veterans. Between Power, Castroneves, Pagenaud, fourth place Scott Dixon and fifth place Ryan Hunter-Reay, there are seven Verizon IndyCar Series championships and five Indianapolis 500 victories.

These are the best that the sport has to offer, and they’re all going to be battling it out right up front on Sunday, on a track that’s caused problems before. (Remember this from last year? Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.)


Weather might play a factor in Sunday’s race. Accuweather forecasts the temperature in Leeds, Alabama to be 66 degrees on Sunday afternoon, with a 52 percent chance of rain and a whopping 94 percent cloud cover.


  • Penske up front: The starting grid for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama looks a lot like what the 2016 IndyCar season resembled. Team Penske has three of its four cars in the Top 3 and the other one isn’t far behind. Will Penske dominate this race again and make it back to back victories for their team in Alabama?
  • RHR’s redemption tour: Ryan Hunter-Reay had victory snatched away from him in Long Beach when his speedy No. 28 DHL Honda suffered engine problems and just stopped moving. Hunter-Reay rolls off fifth on Sunday, so could he take advantage of that good start to get the victory he could already have?
  • Veach’s debut: Rookie Zach Veach makes his Verizon IndyCar Series debut at Barber, as JR Hildebrand broke his hand in a late-race collision at Long Beach. Veach will start near the end of the field (19th) but it’ll be interesting to see how he does in his first race, especially since many fans have eyed him for a full-time ride one of these days.


All of the precedent going into the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama rests with Team Penske. Will Power is a two-time race winner with multiple pole positions under his belt, and Simon Pagenaud is the defending race winner. Both could use victories to advance their positions in the title hunt, especially Power, who’s currently sitting 19th after a bad day at Long Beach.

Yet Honda drivers have won both of the first two races, and there’s a trio of good ones right on the heels of Penske: Dixon, Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe. Dixon has never won at Barber, but RHR has two wins (2013 and 2014).

We’re going to take Ryan Hunter-Reay to nab Andretti Autosport its first win of the season and get his first win of the year, with Will Power on his heels and taking a big step forward in the big picture. Simon Pagenaud will come in third and complicate the championship picture, making it more fun for all of us.

Next: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama qualifying results

The 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama takes place Sunday, April 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET. The race will be nationally televised on NBCSN. For the latest IndyCar news throughout the weekend follow the Motor Sports category at FanSided here.