Round three of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season takes us to the beautiful Barber Motorsports Park, site of IndyCar preseason testing and the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. The series hasn't actually raced here before, so all we have to go off of in picking the race is those preseason testing results, momentum from the season's first two races, and this weekend's practice and qualifying charts.
They all scream one name: Will Power.
The Aussie has paced the field all year, with no sign of stopping now. Power has a chance to become the first driver to win the first three races of an open-wheel season under Indy Racing League sanctioning if he can win from the pole at Barber. The last time anybody achieved such a feat in another series came in 2006, when Sebastien Bourdais did it in Champ Car.
But despite our throwing our hands up in the air and conceding the win to Power before the race even starts, plenty of other drivers and teams in the field will have a say in the finish. In Firestone Fast Six qualifying, five teams were represented (Team Penske being the only one with two cars in the top six). Among the biggest surprises was Mike Conway, one of last year's backmarkers, who earned his first career front row start. He was among the top five in every qualifying session in which he took part, and had the fifth fastest time in warm up.
Another driver looking to surprise will be Takuma Sato, starting sixth. Sato was generally fast during preseason testing, and kept his car towards the front of the pack in qualifying. Sato was second in his group in the first session and fifth in the second session.
There are five rookies in the field, with Sato the highest-qualifying of them all. The lowest will be Bertrand Baguette, starting last due to his time being the slowest in his initial qualifying group. Baguette, however, contributes to one of the tightest IndyCar fields in years, as his lap is only about 1.3 seconds off of Conway's lap in P2. (Power, of course, is half a second faster than everybody.)
In Firestone Indy Lights, don't be surprised if J.K. Vernay wins his second consecutive race in two career starts. Vernay, who won in his debut two weeks ago at St. Petersburg, scored the pole position at Barber as well.