IndyCars En Route To Barber
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., will play host to its inaugural IndyCar Series road-race in April 2010, marking the Indy Racing League’s latest foray into the heart of stock-car country.
The “Indy Grand Prix of Alabama” will be run the weekend of April 9-11, 2010, giving the venue added value as one of the lead-in races to the series’ crown-jewel, the 94th Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.
The IRL has staged two test sessions on the 2.38-mile Barber Motorsports Park layout, most recently on March 21-23, 2009. Along with suggestions for improvements, the track received generally favorable reviews from a number of IndyCar’s star drivers.
Representatives from Zoom Motorsports, Barber Motorsports Park and the IRL – sanctioning body for the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights – began discussing a partnership in 2007. In March, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Birmingham Mayor Larry P. Langford stepped-up the politicking for a race date in person during the open test. Langford later took a high-speed ride in a Honda Odyssey minivan driven by Scott Dixon, the reigning series champion. IRL officials credited lobbying efforts by the State of Alabama, City of Birmingham, Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau and Zoom Motorsports for securing BMP’s addition to the 2010 schedule.
“We are thrilled to bring the speed and excitement of the IndyCar Series to Barber Motorsports Park, the greater Birmingham area and the State of Alabama,” Terry Angstadt, president, commercial division for the IRL, said in announcing a three-year partnership. “Zoom Motorsports and Barber Motorsports Park have already been outstanding hosts of two previous IndyCar Series tests. The nearly two-year pursuit to bring IndyCar Series racing to Birmingham only reinforces the professionalism and planning put into this by our newest scheduling partner.”
Billed as “Alabama’s Home for Motorsports Action,” Barber Motorsports Park opened in 2003 as the largest philanthropic project in state history, with more than $70 million in private funds contributed. The 2.38-mile circuit is 45-feet wide, features 17 turns and 80 feet of elevation changes.
“The Barber Motorsports Park is the finest road track in North America and deserves an event of this caliber and prestige,” said Gene Hallman, president of Zoom Motorsports, the track’s exclusive promoter. “This will be the only IndyCar Series race in the deep South, meaning it is a great tourist draw for the region. Plus, having the automotive world focus on our state enables us to highlight our growing automotive industry.”
Still, open-wheel racing has proven a tough sell in the South, traditional stronghold of NASCAR’s popular Sprint Cup Series. The IRL dropped the 1.333-mile Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn., from its schedule after the 2008 season, ending an eight-year partnership. Richmond (Va.) International Raceway is in the midst of a nine-year run on the schedule, more than doubling the IRL’s previous efforts at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., and Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Lowe’s 1.5-mile quadoval played host to the IRL in 1997-98 and the sister 1.54-mile AMS facility was the site of events from 1998-2001.
The current 17-race IndyCar schedule includes seven events run on either natural-terrain or street courses.
Barber Motorsports Park’s 2009 schedule runs from Jan. 24 to Nov. 21-22, and is dominated by “private events.” Highlight of the professional schedule was the Porsche 250 Grand American Road Racing Series event July 17-19. BMP also played host to the Honda Superbike Classic-AMA Superbike Championship May 1-3. The track will be the site of SCCA Regional competition from Sept. 4-6 and the WERA Nationals from Sept. 11-13.
Fittingly, the track also is home to the 144,000 square-foot Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, featuring over 1,000 vintage and modern motorcycles as well as a collection of Lotus and assorted race cars. Approximately 500 motorcycles from 1904 to present are on display at any time. Bikes from 17 countries and over 125 different manufacturers are included.
Tickets to the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be available in September. Daily capacity at the track during race weekend will be limited to 30,000 fans. Individuals interested in purchasing tickets can pre-register by visiting www.barbermotorsports.com; pre-registration will be available for both grandstand and general admission seating.
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment