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Grand Prix of Alabama

Victory Lane is a festive area for winners and their teams. Photos by Albert Hicks
Victory Lane is a festive area for winners and their teams. Photo by Albert Hicks

Grand Prix of Alabama roars into Barber Motorsports Park

By David Haynes

Some of the best drivers and fastest race cars in the world are heading to Alabama for the seventh running of the Honda IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday, April 24, at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham.

The racetrack, located near Leeds east of Birmingham, has 17 turns and 80 feet in elevation changes over its 2.38-mile length. Its tight turns through uphill and downhill sections, as well as the track’s relatively narrow 45-foot-wide ribbon of asphalt, guarantee fans exciting racing action as drivers must take full advantage of their race cars’ extreme power as well as their passing skills to be successful here.

The weekend at Barber will host a slate of 11 races over three days, beginning Friday, April 22, and concluding with the Sunday, April 24, Grand Prix of Alabama, a 90-lap race that is the first major event for Barber’s 2016 racing season.

The Barber race will be the fourth stop in a 16-race season for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series, which is anchored by the historic 100th running of its namesake Indianapolis 500 May 29, renowned as one of the premiere events in all of motorsports.

A full weekend of racing

The IndyCar Series showcases the fastest cars and the most versatile drivers in the world. The series began March 13 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and wraps up Sept. 18 at Sonoma Raceway in California, where the Series Champion points leader will be awarded the Astor Cup Trophy.

Races in this unique series are held on a variety of tracks, including closed circuits like the Barber track, oval speedways, permanent road and temporary street courses. These race car engines output up to 700 horsepower, rev up to an ear-piercing 12,000 RPM and are among the fastest race cars in the world, capable of speeds up to 250 mph.

In addition to Sunday’s main event IndyCar Series race at Barber, the weekend of racing will also include Indy Lights, USF2000 and World Challenge Sports Car Series races on Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s racing will begin with the Legacy IndyLights race just before the IndyCar Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

In between watching the world-class auto racing, fans attending the Grand Prix of Alabama weekend can take advantage of a variety of other entertainment in the “Fan Zone” area, including a wine festival, ferris wheel, IndyCar autograph sessions, “Kid Zone” inflatable slides and other family-oriented activities. There will also be a wide array of food and souvenir vendors all weekend.

The Grand Prix of Alabama weekend has historically drawn the most fans each year of any event at Barber Motorsports Park, which is also home to the largest motorcycle collection in the world at the adjacent Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.

Last year’s Grand Prix of Alabama weekend attendance was approximately 80,000 and generated an estimated $33 million for the Birmingham economy, making it one of the area’s premiere events in terms of economic impact.

The entire Barber Motorsports Park campus covers 830 acres of landscaped and groomed grounds and is recognized internationally as an iconic, state-of-the-art motorsports destination. Other major events this year include the Barber Historics (vintage sports cars) in May; SuperBike Challenge (motorcycle racing) in June; and the Barber Vintage Festival (vintage motorcycles) in October. The facility also plays host to more than 100 smaller private events each year, and its track facilities are used by manufacturers to test new motorcycles and high-performance cars. It is also home to a Porsche Sport Driving School.

Last year a new pedestrian bridge opened that allows spectators to walk from the 4-story-high museum across to the racetrack infield. The unique bridge has a glass bottom floor, allowing users to view the racetrack beneath their feet (though typically not during a race).

The museum itself – which displays vintage motorcycles and sports cars – had 144,000 square feet of display space when it opened in spring 2003. A major new addition now under construction will add another 77,000 square feet. The Barber motorcycle collection includes more than 1,400 vintage motorcycles, each of which is in running/operating condition, and of these approximately 700 are on display at any one time.

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For the upcoming Grand Prix of Alabama events, ticket prices range from a $15 general admission ticket for Friday only to $69 for a general admission ticket to all three days’ events. Sunday general admission ticket is $39. Children 15 years old or younger may attend for free if accompanied by a ticketed adult.

On-site parking is free Friday and Saturday, but parking within the motorsports park campus on Sunday requires a $25 premium parking pass ($10 for motorcycles). Spectators who choose to park for free off-site Sunday can access free shuttle rides to the race sites.

Other ticketing options include VIP packages that allow access to restricted areas and museum passes, and garage access passes for prices ranging from $50 to $175. Children accompanied by a ticketed adult will have free access to the garage area, where they are encouraged to bring their autograph pens. Camping, food and drink service passes are also available in various other packages priced up to $435.

For additional information, race schedules or to purchase tickets, visit the Barber Motorsports website at https://www.barbermotorsports.com/higpa-home.php.