For the second time in the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season, the battle for the win was down between third-year drivers in the league, Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean. This time, both stayed on-course and fought through the final laps, taking a 1-2 finish at the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix. McLaughlin was able to overtake Grosjean’s polesitting Andretti Autosport car after a mistake entering turn five, and pulled away in the closing laps.
McLaughlin’s fourth win in the IndyCar Series came passing a defensless Grosjean, who had burned through 100 seconds of his push to pass boost in the final stint. The two once again made close ovetakes on one-another in the pit stop shuffling Sunday from Barber Motorsports Park, making just slight contact but continuing on.
The biggest storyline of the afternoon from Birmingham, Alabama was the pit stop strategies in play and fuel saving needed to maximize a two-stop strategy. Grosjean, Pato O’Ward, Alex Palou and Christian Lundgaard all comitted to two-stops while McLaughlin and his Team Penske teammates opted to pit three times. Strategies were blown-up mid-race by a full course caution being deployed for a stranded Sting Ray Robb, whose No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda stalled on-course after a check engine light illuminated on the rookie’s steering wheel.
INDYCAR Race Control left the green flag out for several seconds, keeping pit lane’s entry open and allowing several cars to take service before the safety car was deployed. When the pace car was brought in front of the field, the field restarted behind Grosjean who had evaporated a 20-second gap to his three-stopping rivals.
Grosjean sits on his sixth podium in the NTT IndyCar Series as a result of the performance, but once again is one position shy of breaking through for victory. It’s the second straight runner-up finish for the Swiss-born Frenchman.
Will Power fought from an 11th-place starting grid position and fought to a podium finish with his three-stop cycles on-track. In the final five laps, McLaughlin was warned about the speed in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet as Power was shadowing Grosjean, with the No. 3 team slightly fearful of their teammate’s long-run pace. Power set the fastest lap of the race but wasn’t able to get past either cars.
Marcus Ericsson entered the Barber weekend leading the series standings. Last month’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner struggled to make it inside the top-10 throughout this weekend, qualifying 13th. The reigning Indianapolis 500 champion crossed underneath the checkered flag in 10th-place with his Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. The Swedish driver remains first in the standings, dropping his advantage from 15 to just 3 points over Patricio O’Ward.
Ganassi’s part-time rookie driver of Marcus Armstrong gained the most positions on the day after a big struggle in qualifications day Saturday. The former Formula 2 star finished 11th after a 26th-place qualifying effort.
Josef Newgarden looked to be a strong competitor to his Bus Bro of McLaughlin on Sunday, however, slight contact from a spinning Felix Rosenqvist on the opening lap in turn two, derailed the Tennesee driver’s day. Newgarden, a two-time series champion and three-time Indy Alabama GP victor, called the car evil from that point on. His No. 2 PPG Paints Penske team was unable to cite the cause of the gremlins with the Dallara, first thinking it was a punctured tire. Newgarden finished the day in 15th.
Rosenqvist recovered from his spin and plummet through the field to finish 9th.
The win for 29-year-old Scott McLaughlin makes him the fourth different winner in four IndyCar races thus far this year. He’s moved five positions in the standings and ranks fourth in the series, 11 points back of Ericsson.
The NTT IndyCar Series is moving into the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The first on-track activity is the GMR Grand Prix on the Speedway’s Road Course, May 13th at 3:30pm Eastern on NBC and Peacock before setting up the biggest race in the world next month.
Race Results – 2023 Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix Results
90 Laps / 207 Miles (333km)
1 – (3) Scott McLaughlin / 4th Career IndyCar Victory
2 – (28) Romain Grosjean / 5th Runner-Up IndyCar Finish
3 – (12) Will Power / 95th Career IndyCar Podium
4 – (5) Pato O’Ward
5 – (10) Alex Palou
6 – (45) Christian Lundgaard
7 – (9) Scott Dixon
8 – (7) Alexander Rossi
9 – (6) Felix Rosenqvist
10 – (8) Marcus Ericsson
11 – (11) Marcus Armstrong [R]
12 – (27) Kyle Kirkwood
13 – (77) Callum Ilott
14 – (26) Colton Herta
15 – (2) Josef Newgarden
16 – (21) Rinus VeeKay
17 – (15) Graham Rahal
18 – (60) Simon Pagenaud
19 – (18) David Malukas
20 – (14) Santino Ferrucci
21 – (06) Helio Castroneves
22 – (55) Benjamin Pedersen [R]
23 – (29) Devlin DeFrancesco
24 – (30) Jack Harvey
25 – (20) Conor Daly
26 – (78) Agustin Canapino [R]
27 – (51) Sting Ray Robb [R] / Mechanical, 36 Laps