By Steve Wittich
All the season opener information you need
Barber Motorsports Park is set to host the 35th Indy Lights season opener. The season opener on the park-like 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course in Alabama brings to an end a pair of lengthy season-opening streaks.
The 17 previous Indy Lights seasons going back to 2003 got underway in Florida. That run of races in the ‘Sunshine State’ includes the last 11 season openers held on the Streets of St. Petersburg.
The Birmingham, Ala track is the eighth different circuit to hold the first Indy Lights race of the season. Saturday’s race will be the first time the state of Alabama has played host to the season opener.
The pair of races at Barber Motorsports Park marks only the second time a season-opening race has happened on a natural terrain road course. In 2001, Derek Higgins started on the pole and led all 35-laps on the way to the top step of the podium at Parque Fundora in Monterey, Mexico.
Twenty different teams have won the season-opening Indy Lights race of the season. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with drivers Travis Gregg, Jack Hawksworth, Alex Lloyd, Josef Newgarden, Tristan Vautier, and J.K. Vernay visited the first victory lane of the season six times, the most of any team.
Andretti Autosport and Carlin both have a pair of wins in the first race of an Indy Lights season, the only active teams to win the first race.
Three drivers, Sandy Brody (1993), Mario Dominguez (1999), and Phil Giebler (2004), scored their solitary career win in the first race of the season.
Over 75% of first race winners win at least another race during the season.
The average finishing position of the series champion in the season opener is 3.1.
Does a driver need to win the season-opening race to win a championship?
Definitely, not. 38.2% (13 of 34) of the Indy Lights champions won the first race of the season and the series title.
Mike Groff won his first of four races during the 1989 season in the season opener at Phoenix International Raceway.
The last driver to win the season opener in the same season as the championship was Pato O’Ward, who won the first race of the 2018 season in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Does a driver need to finish on the podium in the season-opening race to win the title?
No, but it certainly helps. 79.4% (27 of 34) eventual Indy Lights champions stood on the podium in the season opener.
The most current Indy Lights champion that did not finish on the podium was the 2017 champion Kyle Kaiser, who finished the first race of the season in St. Petersburg, Fla. in sixth place.
Only Jon Beekhuis, the 1988 champion, registered a Did Not Finish (DNF) in the season-opening race.
The average championship finish of the first Indy Lights winner of the season is 4.7. If you exclude season-opening winners that did not contest an entire season, the average finish falls to 3.2.
Only twice, Shigeaki Hattori in 1998 and Mario Dominguez in 1999, has the winner of the season opener that contested every race that season, finished outside of the top ten in points.
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires at Barber Motorsports Park
The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series made their first appearances on the highly manicured grounds of Barber Motorsports Park in 2010, the same year that big brothers, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, first visited Alabama.
In the nine years that followed that first race won by J.K. Vernay (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports), the checkered flag has fallen on 14-races, including doubleheaders the last five times at Barber Motorsports Park.
Indy Lights winners at Barber Motorsports Park
|2018 Race #2||Patricio O’Ward||Andretti Autosport|
|2018 Race #1||Patricio O’Ward||Andretti Autosport|
|2017 Race #2||Colton Herta||Andretti Steinbrenner Racing|
|2017 Race #1||Nico Jamin||Andretti Autosport|
|2016 Race #2||Santi Urrutia||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
|2016 Race #1||Ed Jones||Carlin|
|2015 Race #2||Spencer Pigot||Juncos Racing|
|2015 Race #1||Spencer Pigot||Juncos Racing|
|2014 Race #2||Gabby Chaves||Belardi Auto Racing|
|2014 Race #1||Zach Veach||Andretti Autosport|
|2013||Carlos Munoz||Andretti Autosport|
|2012||Sebastien Saavedra||Andretti Autosport|
|2011||Victor Garcia||Team Moore|
|2010||JK Vernay||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports|
The current Indy Lights track records at Barber Motorsports Park are:
- Qualifying: 72.3865 seconds set on April 24, 2015, by Spencer Pigot (Juncos Racing)
- Race: 73.8312 seconds set on April 25, 2015, by Sean Rayhall (8-Star Motorsports)
Barber Motorsports Park quick hitters
- None of the current Indy Lights drivers have Road To Indy wins at Barber Motorsports Park.
- The pole-sitter won the first nine Indy Lights races at Barber Motorsports Park but has only won two of the last five.
- Twice – Santi Urrutia (2016 Race #2) and Nico Jamin (2017 Race #1) – the Indy Lights winner has started on the inside of the second row, the lowest an Indy Lights winner at Barber Motorsports Park has begun.
- The average starting position of all winners at Barber Motorsports Park is 1.4, and in the IL-15 era, it’s 1.6.
- Two of the five doubleheaders have had the same winner; Spencer Pigot in 2015 and Pato O’Ward in 2018. Both drivers went on to win the season-long championship.
- Andretti Autosport leads all teams with eight wins at Barber Motorsports Park, including the last four races in 2017 and 2018. Those eight wins come from drivers Colton Herta (2017 Race #2 & 2018 Race #1), Nico Jamin (2017 Race #1), Carlos Munoz (2013), Pato O’Ward (2018 Race #2), Sebastian Saavedra (2012), and Zach Veach (2014 Race #1)
- The pole-sitter has never finished worse than second at Barber Motorsports Park.
- As a team, Andretti Autosport has six starts from the pole at Barber Motorsports Park, the most of any team. Colton Herta (2017 Race #2 & 2018 Race #1), Carlos Munoz (2013), Pato O’Ward (2018 Race #2), Sebastian Saavedra (2012), and Zach Veach (2014 Race #1) are the Andretti Autosport drivers that have started on the inside of the front row at Barber Motorsports Park.
- Andretti Autosport leads all teams with 15 podium visits at Barber Motorsports Park. The Indianapolis, Ind.-based team also leads that category in the IL-15 era that began in 2015.
Indy Lights team podiums at Barber Motorsports Park
|RANK||TEAM||TOTAL – ALL||TOTAL – IL-15|
|2||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||11||4|
|5||Belardi Auto Racing||4||2|
|6||Bryan Herta Autosport||1||–|
|7||02 Racing Technology||1||–|
- Six different drivers – Colton Herta, Nico Jamin, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz, Pato O’Ward, and Zach Veach – have combined to lead 233 laps for Andretti Autosport at Barber Motorsports Park, the most of any team.
- Five of the 14 Indy Lights races at Barber Motorsports Park have gone caution-free. Five have had a single caution. Two have had a pair of cautions. The race in 2011 is the only race to have three cautions.
- Only three of the past Indy Lights races at Barber Motorsports Park have had a first lap caution. The average lap that the first caution occurs is Lap 6.
- Two races – 2012 and 2014 Race #2 – have seen the checkered and yellow flags displayed simultaneously from the starters stand.
- In 2017 Race #2, winner Colton Herta crossed the finish line 9.147 seconds ahead of second-place Kyle Kaiser, the most significant margin of victory at Barber Motorsports Park.
- Victor Garcia (Team Moore) beat Stefan Wilson (Andretti Autosport) to the checkered flag by a scant 0.313 seconds in 2011, the closest Indy Lights margin of victory at Barber Motorsports Park.