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Notes & Quotes: The Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix

 Drivers Santino Ferrucci and Sting Ray Robb shared their thoughts on this weekend's NTT INDYCAR Series race at Barber Motorsports Park, the picturesque 17-turn, 2.38-mile (3.83 km) road course outside of Birmingham, Alabama which has been referred to as the "Augusta National of Motorsports."


Santino Ferrucci, in the No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet, will be making his third start at Barber Motorsports Park. In his first appearance as a rookie, he qualified 10th and finished 15th for Dale Coyne Racing in 2019. Last year, a mechanical issue resulted in his not qualifying so he started last (27th) and finished 20th. This season he finished 11th at St. Petersburg and 21st in Long Beach; he is currently 13th in the NTT INDYCAR Series driver standings.


Thoughts on Barber Motorsports Park?

SF: "The track is just very unique on its own, super elevated, very blind, very quick, a lot of the big braking zones, which was familiar to me as I was coming back from Europe so I did quite well. And we had a test day there so I could understand the dynamics of the track. Last year we didn't qualify because we had a mechanical issue. So, that kind of prevented us from doing anything. It's very difficult to progress in the season now unless you qualify very well." 

You tested at Barber this year, how did it go?

SF: "I want to say Turn 1 -- and Turn 2 is quite difficult. Because turn one is completely blind on turn in and it's very high speed, and then it's followed up by turn two which is very long pull and it's very difficult to get the speed right because if you under push, you lose a lot of time. And if you over push, you risk spinning and going off the track. So it's just a very challenging corner to get the timing right."


What were the benefits from testing in March?

SF: "The test was very helpful from a procedural standpoint. Because most of the engineering staff is still quite new and we didn't have much testing before St. Pete, so it was very helpful to kind of get to work through a couple of issues that we saw. Then going from the Barber test into Thermal and then testing at Indy, was helpful because we were able to keep learning. So it was really good to have that succession of tests on the road courses."


What is your favorite sculpture on the track?

SF: "I'd probably say the hanging girl from the bridge near Turn 9. Once you see it in a race car, you can't unsee it, it kinda freaks you out."


Have you been to the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum?

SF: "No, I haven't been, but I'm going to try and make it over this year though."


Ferrucci Fast Facts: Age 25...Born in Woodbury, CT...Lives in Dallas, Texas...Married Renay Moore in January...Began racing karts at age 5, moved to cars in 2013...Competed in Formula 2000, British Formula 3, GP3 finishing third at Spa Francorchamps as a rookie, was development driver for Haas F1 team for three years (2016-2018), moved to Formula 2 in 2018...made his INDYCAR debut in Detroit in 2018...moved to NTT INDYCAR Series fulltime in 2019 finishing 13th in standings for Dale Coyne and won Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after finishing seventh...13th in standings again with fourth place finish in the 500...drove part-time in 2021-22 but maintained top-10 streak in Indy 500 with finishes of sixth (RLL Racing) and 10th (Dreyer Reinbold Racing)...Scored career-best finish to date with his 3rd place finish in the 2023 Indianapolis 500 to continue his string of consecutive top-10 finishes in the 500...Competed part-time in NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021-22.


Sting Ray Robb, in the No. 41 Chevrolet, will be making his second start at Barber Motorsport Park. As a rookie driving for Dale Coyne Racing, he qualified 23rd but dropped out after 36 laps with a mechanical issue. In Indy Lights, his best start and finish at Barber was third in 2022 driving for Andretti Global. This season he had a mechanical issue at St. Petersburg so he didn't finish and was credited with 26th; at Long Beach, he placed 18th and finished on the lead lap; he is currently 25th in the driver standings.

Your thoughts on Barber Motorsports Park?

SRR: "Barber is one of my favorite tracks, even though it is quite different from any other track we go to. The elevation changes, varying radius corners, and track surface make it a great place to drive. There are some unique corners like the uphill section at Turns 12 and 13, that make the track physically challenging. It is high grip, fast, and hilly." 

What is the most challenging aspect of the track?

SRR: "I would say that the Turn 8, 9, 10 section. It's always faster than you think it should be, and you actually have to use the curbs to launch the car in the right way to create rotation down the hill." 


What benefits did you see from testing there in March?

SRR: "We were able to designate a philosophy of setup that both cars can chase after on the race weekend. We did have a few residual issues from St. Pete that slowed our running and the weather conditions were quite a bit different from what the race weekend will be. This all means that we will have to adapt to what the track gives us during the weekend with limited track time and knowledge."


Where is your favorite eatery in that area and why?  

 SRR: "Birmingham has a lot of really good places to eat! Normally I would recommend a dinner spot but, there is a great biscuit place not too far from the track. It's called Alabama Biscuit Co. and there are some good breakfast items there! Plus, they have a tea that is very good."


At the track, which sculpture/art object do you like the most & why?

SRR: "You're going to make me pick only ONE? There is a lot to look at and it is all quite interesting. I think the little turtles that are hidden at various points of the facility are fun. They're slightly hidden and you probably wouldn't even notice that they're sculptures until you look closely."


Have you been to the museum? If so, what impressed you the most?

SRR: "Oh, yes. The entire museum impressed me. There are so many motorcycles and cars that it is almost too much to see in one day. The cool thing is too, that they are all impressive. Each one has a story. It's a cool place to be reminded of why we love motorsports." 


Sting Ray Fast Facts: Age 22...Grew up in Payette, ID...Lives in Indianapolis...Engaged to Molly Mitchell...Began racing karts at age 5 winning several national titles over the next 10 years. His transition to cars began at the Skip Barber Karts to Cars Shootout where he won the Bryan Herta Scholarship which put him on the Road to Indy and into the NTT INDYCAR Series at age 21. In his rookie season, he scored a career best finish of 12th in the season finale in Monterey, Calif. A devout Christian, Robb will be active as a spokesman for his sponsor this season. Off track, Robb enjoys mountain biking, skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, rock-climbing, golf, tennis, pickleball and basketball.


Sting Ray made a stop at another museum enroute to Barber. He visited the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky Wednesday. He took a guided tour of the museum and met members of the museum's board. If he checked out the store, he probably found a few favorite things to purchase, notably the "1969 Stingray Putting It Down" tee-shirt.


Past Performance at Barber: AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is fourth in 2012 with Mike Conway and its best finish is fifth with Sebastien Bourdais in 2021.


Peacock Streaming and NBC Broadcast Information: NBC's Peacock will stream Friday’s practice from 3:40 - 4:55 p.m. and Saturday’s practice from 12:15 – 1:15 p.m. Qualifying will be streamed live on Peacock on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Peacock will stream the 30-minute warmup Sunday at 10:15 a.m. followed by The Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix which will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 1 p.m. and will be streamed on Peacock and INDYCAR Live. All times are Eastern.


Radio Broadcast Information: The Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix and all NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying sessions air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation 218 and SiriusXM NBC Sports Audio 85, and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.


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