The NTT IndyCar Series raced at Barber Motorsports Park for the 2022 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday, May 1, 2022. Pato O’Ward finished first, followed by Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay. Full results are available here.
The 2022 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is an example of an NTT IndyCar Series race in which the results do not tell the full story. While Team Penske’s domination of the 2022 season was broken by Arrow McLaren SP getting into Victory Lane, the most impressive drives took place throughout the field.
With just one significant caution at Barber Motorsports Park and having avoided the potential threat of rain, Sunday’s race was down to the drivers testing their mettle, and several of them showed promising form. These are the facts to focus on coming out of the Grand Prix of Alabama and while looking ahead to the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
A redefined Will Power?
For years, Will Power was known as one of the NTT IndyCar Series’ most passionate and emotional drivers. In more recent times, the No. 12 Team Penske pilot and IndyCar champion has leveled out, and he’s particularly been Zen in 2022. NBC Sports’ broadcast team specifically called out Power’s temperament on Sunday, quoting Power himself as saying he was working on his mental game. He’s done an excellent job, because he had the best drive of the weekend, going from 19th up to fourth.
The best IndyCar drivers—of which Power is certainly one—know that speed isn’t everything. Strategy is just as important, particularly when you don’t have the fastest car on the day. Learning how to take what the track gives you is its own skill, and that’s exactly what Power did at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. He moved through the field with surgical precision. He didn’t push trying to gain a position and end up costing himself, or complain about not being in immediate contention. He’s in contention where it counts, which is gunning for his second NTT IndyCar Series championship.
Alexander Rossi may have found his form
Alexander Rossi came home ninth on Sunday, notching his second consecutive Top 10 finish in 2022. There has to be some measure of disappointment since the Andretti Autosport driver qualified in the Fast 6, but two races in the Top 10 when he started the season back in the 20s is a marked improvement. Much has been made of how this is a contract year for Rossi, but that feels less relevant than just wanting him back in the game.
A few years ago he was a sure contender every race weekend and it’s been disappointing not to see that pan out. IndyCar fans know how competitive Rossi can be and how hard he pushes himself, so seeing him finally get the payoff for that is its own reward. A lot of what’s befallen him has had nothing to do with him, so now he’s got a result to be proud of. And if he can continue this momentum, watch out, because Rossi has already shown how he can challenge anyone when he has the right car.
Rinus VeeKay should have won, but he’s still a winner
Rinus VeeKay has now experienced the prototypical NTT IndyCar Series heartache: capture the pole, dominate a majority of the race, and then watch the victory slip away. One bold move from O’Ward coming out of the pits dropped the Ed Carpenter Racing driver from first place to ultimately third. While it’s obviously disappointing, it’s not abnormal; other drivers have experienced it before (see: Colton Herta) and others will experience it in the future.
The important thing for VeeKay and ECR now is to focus on the overall picture. While they may not have won, a podium finish is nothing to sneeze at. Third is also VeeKay’s best finish of the 2022 season. He’s always shown a certain amount of raw speed; he’s just needed a little more seasoning to make things work. Barber is an example of VeeKay continuing to progress. If he can continue to meld being quick with being smart, he can keep running up front, and it would be great to see ECR mix things up with the larger teams this season.
The NTT IndyCar Series continues May 14, 2022 with the GMR Grand Prix from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Race coverage airs at 12:00 p.m. PT/3:00 p.m. ET on NBC and streams on Peacock.
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