The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is back through Sunday at the world-famous Barber Motorsports Park.
Since 2010, the yearly IndyCar Series race has featured some of the fastest drivers in the world and had an estimated economic impact of $30 million on the Greater Birmingham area. Tens of thousands gather each year to enjoy the event and multitude of activities surrounding it.
Returning to the track, driver Graham Rahal, son of the legendary Bobby Rahal, three-time IndyCar champion and winner of the 1986 Indianapolis 500—is a rising legend in his own right.
"Alabama has always been a great venue for me. Of all the races that I go to, that's one I've always felt most at ease with," began Rahal. "The last couple years, being runner-up two times in a row and finishing fourth a couple years before that; I just feel like it's a place where we've always had a lot of success. It's just a great event—and a great atmosphere. It's a family atmosphere. It's a lot of fun. My sister is actually here from Houston. It's one of those races that I enjoy the most of the entire year. Being in Birmingham and the venue itself that Mr. Barber built, it's hard to beat that in any sport."
The 28-year-old driver already has almost a decade of experience on his IndyCar resume. During his debut in the 2008 season, he became the youngest race winner in IndyCar history. He has gone on to win the historic 24 Hours At Daytona and holds a number of racing records for his accomplishments. He remains the youngest Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) champion in history.
"I try to keep a pretty level head. Because when you get in the car and you get racing, number one you need that, and number two, you never know what's going to happen," explained Rahal. "Within a couple of corners, what you had envisioned for yourself and for your race, could make a complete u-turn. You have to be calm, fluid, and ready for anything."
At this year's race, Rahal is sharing the track with an impressive lineup, including Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, Will Power, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dancing with the Stars runner-up James Hinchcliffe and defending champion Simon Pagenaud.
"Probably my favorite aspect of racing, like any sport, is the competition. I'm such a competitive person that that mono y mono sort of battle on the track is addicting," said Rahal. "You never want to lose; once you get in that position behind the wheel, you're going to give it everything that you possible can."
Rahal hit his stride in 2015 with two wins and eight top-five finishes—including the Indianapolis 500. Despite a series of setbacks, he finished the 2016 season with one win and another eight top-five finishes to his name.
"I've had some great battles over the years, especially at Barber, that track seems to highlight that sort of competitive skill. And I just love it, I absolutely love it," stated Rahal.
Featured races this weekend include the Verizon IndyCar Series, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda, IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and Global MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich.
"Barber is different than going to a football game or going to any other sporting event—even other races. It's not just sitting in the grandstands," continued Rahal. "Come with your family. Sit on the hillside. Get the freedom to walk around, freedom to watch and see the cars from as many different places on the track as you'd like. Mr. Barber just built a bridge that goes over the track. To see the speed at which the cars go under that bridge is very impressive."
A number of additional attractions are at the event as well, including stunt shows, wine tastings, autograph sessions, a ferris wheel and a kids zone with inflatables.
"You have the (Barber Vintage Motorsports) Museum; you have so many different things for kids and families to enjoy. It has that tailgating, Southern feel to it, which I think we all love," concluded Rahal. "It's just really good, quality time that you get with your family and friends to come out and watch some great racing."
Tickets are still available online or at the main gate. For additional information on the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama April 21-23 at Barber Motorsports Park, visit www.BarberRacingEvents.com, call (205) 298-9040 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.