Track Talk: Race 3 Preview - Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Still have a Fernando Alonso hangover? Don’t worry, I have something that can help. Round three of the 2017 IndyCar season is this weekend, and in this week’s TrackTalk we preview the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.

Zach Veach to sub for JR Hildebrand: Six-time Indy Lights winner, Zach Veach, will make his IndyCar series debut at Barber when he fills in for the injured JR Hildebrand, at Ed Carpenter Racing. Hildebrand broke his hand in a late race incident with Mikhail Aleshin at Long Beach. It’s the first time this season we’ll have two rookies in a race, and it may not be the last, as Veach will also attempt to qualify for the Indy 500 with AJ Foyt Racing.

Can Sebastien Bourdais continue his podium streak? A win and a second place victory have kept Sebastien Bourdais in the points lead. He’s the only driver to podium every race. Can keep it up? Barber hasn’t exactly been kind to the four-time champion. He has a best finish of 8th, twice. Not very impressive until you consider that one of those finishes was with an underpowered Lotus engine.

Speaking of streaks: This season Simon Pagenaud has made it a habit of qualifying poorly, and then racing his way into the top five. Qualifying in the top 10 might be all he needs to score his first win of the season.

Looking for a favorite driver? Put your money on Will Power or Ryan Hunter-Reay. They are the only repeat Barber winners, with both of their two wins coming back-to-back.

Not sold on Power or Hunter-Reay? There’s a good chance the winner will come from either Andretti Autosport or Team Penske. Outside of Ed Carpenter Racing, no other team has won at Barber. The driver who broke the Andretti Autosport/Team Penske domination? Josef Newgarden, who happens to now drive for Team Penske.

Keep your eye on the pole winner: Every Barber pole position winner has won the (Barber) IndyCar race at last once. This includes Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, and Simon Pagenaud. Josef Newgarden is the only race winner not to have won the pole for a Barber IndyCar race.

Want a peek at the future? Don’t miss the Indy Lights race: Interesting fact- nine different drivers have won the Barber Indy Lights race, and six of those drivers have found their way to IndyCar at some point. Members of that group include: Sebastian Saavedra, Carlos Munoz, Gabby Chavez, Spencer Pigot, and, after Sunday, Ed Jones and Zach Veach.

Victor Genova is the host of the Media People Podcast and a freelance racing writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @VicGenova