By Patrick Stephan, TrackSide Online
Well, the weather forecast for race day is dismal, that's the bad news. The good news is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Americas First, drew a record crowd on Saturday. And hopefully many of those 34,240 fans venture back to the track Sunday to fight the weather, and to watch the driver's fight a track that has already bitten many of them just in practice and qualifying - and that was in the dry!
If it does rain and we get a very rare rain race in the Verizon IndyCar Series, then I'm going to pick driver's with a lot of experience in those conditions - even if they may not have any familiarity with driving an Indy car in the wet.
For that reason, my first pick was Alexander Rossi, who did all of his pre-INDYCAR training on the Formula 1 ladder in Europe. Surely he got to do a lot of racing in the rain in those years, and he's leading the points in 2018, so I feel like picking Rossi is "going with the hot hand."
My next pick is a guy experienced in a wide variety automobiles and conditions, and that is Simon Pagenaud. He gets a bit of a nod also because he's with Team Penske and they should be among the best prepared for what could be a fairly unusual challenge. I almost took the other French driver, Sebastien Bourdais, but as angry as he is after Long Beach, I think going with the more sedate Pagenaud was the better decision - this week!
IF it wasn't going to rain, I probably would have taken Bourdais as his aggression could be an asset in the dry at Barber. I'm just a little concerned he may not be "careful" tomorrow in the wet, but dang his was a tough decision - putting either of these driver's on your team should be a positive.
My third pick went to another of the interesting stories of 2018 and that is Robert Wickens. He has exceeded expectations in nearly every situation this season, and I expect the same if the race runs in the rain. Plus, he's got a bunch of DTM experience racing touring cars in the wet, and that should prove very valuable on Sunday.
Finally, I had to round out my team with one of the less expensive drivers, so I again went for a "Euro" trained shoe. Nothing against my North American friends, but we just don't race in the rain that much here - whereas a lot of the British driver's in particular get to (or have to) run in the wet on a pretty regular basis. Especially on their way up the racing ladder.
For that reason, I am gambling on Jordan King as my final pick. Not much to really go on statistically, but King's first GP2 win in 2016 came during a wet race at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Styria, Austria.
My concern for King (and well, EVERYONE) is that crazy things happen during wet races, and if we have one, it's really a roll of the dice. Getting taken out by a competitor or three happens a lot in the rain, so survival ability is probably going to determine the finishing order as much as outright speed - but oh should it be fun to watch!