BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Max Chilton hit the quarter-century mark today at Barber Motorsports Park. He’s more than willing to wait on a present if it means a strong finish in Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Driver of the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Chilton’s birthday plans included a walk of the scenic 2.3-mile permanent road course this evening, followed by dinner with family. Now 25, the native of Reigate, England, and former Formula One driver believes the experience he gained at Barber a year ago – when he collected his first podium finish in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires – will be of benefit when he returns this weekend in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
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Chilton is one of 21 drivers set to take the course when practice begins Friday. Championship points leader Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske is the man everyone is chasing, fresh off his win in the April 17 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach following a pair of second-place finishes to start the 2016 season.
Chilton leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings and is 13th overall. He believes his previous track time at Barber gives him a leg up. In Indy Lights, the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development series ladder, he finished fifth and third in the 2015 doubleheader weekend. Chilton also tested in an Indy car with most of the other drivers before this season got under way.
“My first time here last year, I came here testing (in Lights) and I loved it,” Chilton said. “It reminds me of an English circuit – very undulating, blind corners, fast, every corner’s different. When we came here for the (Indy Lights) race, we (finished) on the podium, which I was really happy with.
“(With prior experience on the track,) it just gives you a bigger depth of understanding,” he added. “It’s like coming through the ranks when I was doing British F3, GP2. When you’ve already raced a track in a car which is still heavily reliant on downforce, it gives you more of an understanding what to expect.
“Each track you go to has little tricks that you need to learn and you can’t learn that necessarily in the first weekend you go there. You learn that throughout a process of coming here. I’ve now been here three separate times and there’s stuff I think I have learned which are good little time savers. Hopefully we can carry that into the weekend. As it’s my birthday weekend, I want to give it an extra push.”
This weekend’s event marks the seventh for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Barber Motorsports Park, which has become a favorite among fans and competitors alike. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (2013, 2014) and Team Penske’s Will Power (2011, 2012) are each two-time winners. Helio Castroneves won for Penske in 2010 and Josef Newgarden claimed his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series victory for what is now Ed Carpenter Racing a year ago. All four previous winners are entered this weekend.
Scott Dixon, the reigning series champion who is second in points this year, 14 behind Pagenaud after three races, has finished on the Barber podium six times but never won. He placed second four straight times and has been third each of the past two races here.
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama fast facts:
• Race 4 of 16 in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. This is the seventh Verizon IndyCar Series race on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course dating to 2010.
• Race distance: 90 laps/207 miles.
• Track record: Scott Dixon in Round 1 of knockout qualifying, April 6, 2013 (1 minute, 6.7750 seconds/123.999 mph).
• Tickets and event information: www.barbermotorsports.com
• Twitter: @BarberMotorPark, #HIGPA; @IndyCar, #IndyCar
• TV: NBCSN will televise the race live Sunday, beginning at 3 p.m. ET. It will also telecast the first practice session live at noon ET Friday and Verizon P1 Award qualifying live at 4 p.m. ET Saturday. All NBCSN telecasts are also available on the NBC Sports Live Extra app. Rick Allen is the lead announcer, with Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy the booth analysts. Pit reporters are Katie Hargitt, Kevin Lee, Robin Miller and Marty Snider.
• Radio: The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network is led by chief announcer Mark Jaynes, with booth analyst Davey Hamilton. Turn reporters are Jake Query and Nick Yeoman, with Dave Furst, Rob Howden and Michael Young reporting from the pits. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209,, and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Qualifying broadcasts are available on Sirius 212, XM 209, , and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Practice sessions are on IndyCar.com, and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
• Video streaming: The second practice Friday (4-5:15 p.m. ET), Saturday practice (noon-12:45 p.m. ET) and Sunday morning warmup (11:30 a.m.-noon ET) will stream live at RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Live timing and scoring for all weekend sessions is available at the same site.
• Fantasy league: The #INDYRIVALS Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone allows fans to become a team manager by fielding a four-driver lineup for each Verizon IndyCar Series race, with a stockpile of prizes on the line each week. Sign up today at.