McLaughlin bests Grosjean late, wins thrilling Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber
FiredUp Network Sports Writer
Sunday, April 30, 2023
Photo credit: IndyCar.com
BARBER, AL – When it was announced that Firestone was going to bring a softer compound tire to Barber for 2023, a race that was historically known for having a variety of strategy was bound to have that much more.
And that, it did.
With most cars either running a two-stop, fuel and tire-saving strategy, or a three-stop flat-out strategy, there was overtaking everywhere, and you never truly knew who was going to come out on top.
But following a caution just past the halfway mark of the race, the ball fell into the court of the three-stoppers. With drivers from that group, including Scott McLaughlin and Will Power having pitted just before, they effectively gained back all their lost time for free.
Following their last stops on Lap 60 and 63, Scott McLaughlin lost the lead after an incredible overtake from Romain Grosjean heading into Turn 17, before Grosjean locked up at Turn 4 on Lap 72 to hand McLaughlin the win.
“I called it a happy driver strategy (the three-stop strategy),” McLaughlin said. “So proud of this No.3 team to make that great strategy work…I’m glad to finally get a win here.”
While still leading the race, Grosjean was notified by his team that his Push To Pass - which he still had plenty of - was no longer working. After leading nearly three quarters of the race, the former F1 driver fell to McLaughlin’s pressure to finish second.
“It hurts,” said Grosjean. “The three-stop (strategy) never wins in Barber, but for today. We had an incredible car, gave it 100%, but got unlucky with that yellow…We got good points today, our day will come…I wish I used more of it (push to pass) before it was gone.”
Struggling in the closing stages, Grosjean nearly fell to third at the hands of McLaughlin’s charging teammate Will Power. He too was on the three-stop strategy, and cut down a six-second deficit in the final stint to just under a second come the end of the race. Barber was the Aussie’s first podium of the season, and his third top ten in four races.
“An extremely good day,” Power said. “We were super fast when we got clear air. It’s a shame we couldn’t start further up…We’re on another championship run, we just gotta keep at it. I’m enjoying it a lot.”
Seeing Grosjean and McLaughlin fighting for the lead of the race coming out of the pits gave fans flashbacks to the season-opener in St. Petersburg, when the pair collided heading into Turn 4 on cold tires and crashed out of the race. Thankfully for them, the racing was fair, clean, and hard as ever this time around.
17 seconds behind the leading trio at the flag was Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward in fourth, and Chip Ganassi’s Alex Palou in fifth. Christian Lundgaard somewhat disappointingly finished in sixth, after a monster first half of the race that saw him brilliantly overtake Scott Dixon into Turn 17 was put to a halt after the Stingray Robb caution ruined his two-stop strategy.
Dixon finished seventh, followed by the McLaren duo of Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist in eighth and ninth. Marcus Ericsson, who led the championship heading into Barber, rounded out the top ten, while hometown-favourite Josef Newgarden ended the day in a lowly 15th, after contact with Rosenqvist damaged his right-rear suspension.
Next up for IndyCar is the famed “Month of May,” which sees the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis go ahead on May. 13, before the biggest race of the year, the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May. 28.