IRL: Barron's break-through?

IRL: Barron's break-through?

It might not have been a win in the Bombardier 500K held on Texas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile banked oval last Saturday night, but the results posted by Alex Barron, who came from 22nd and last place on the grid to take third at the end of 200 laps...

It might not have been a win in the Bombardier 500K held on Texas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile banked oval last Saturday night, but the results posted by Alex Barron, who came from 22nd and last place on the grid to take third at the end of 200 laps was an exemplary show of driving and team talent.

Alex Barron.
Photo by Earl Ma.
Barron, who had a ring gear let go just after he took the green flags to qualify his #51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet on Thursday night was relegated to the last starting spot after failing to post a speed in time trials. "It put an eight-inch hole in the bell-housing" as he tried to ratchet the car up for two laps, an uncommon mechanical failure in today's Indy Racing League IndyCar Series.

Californian Barron, with his quiet confidence is in his first year driving for the volatile Eddie Cheever, yet claims the team owner and he have no differences of opinion. "Yeah, Eddie's had quite a few drivers in the past and I don't understand his relationships with them. I do know this," Barron attests, "Eddie always works hard and he seems to always point the team in the direct direction. All of our communication has bred progress for the team."

Alex Barron has come up through the ranks in a similar fashion to 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner Buddy Rice; they drove for the same Toyota Atlantic squad (Lynx Racing) and Rice preceded Barron as lead driver for Red Bull Cheever Racing.

Both Barron and Rice have had to resort to lying in wait for rides in the IRL, either through accident attrition or change of priorities; these American drivers now have fully funded and competitive rides for the balance of the season.

"We're still trying to develop the things we have here," Barron notes. "We didn't have enough to catch and pass the Andretti Green Racing drivers [Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti] on Saturday night, but our car got stronger as the race went on. We knew," Barron says, "that we had a really good car in traffic last weekend.

"It was a shame we ended up having to practice with the first group because the second group was [almost always] faster. It's a shame we lacked that qualifying time; it made us have to work harder."

Alex Barron is hoping his third place finish in Texas will translate into a better second half of the season - even though only five of 16 events have been run to date. "It's been pretty rocky and Texas was a long weekend for everybody. There were some guys, mid-race or so, that were hard to get around but we ended up in the right place at the right time later on."

It's tough for a proud team like Cheever's to have to start from the very rear of the field, particularly when Barron's rookie teammate Ed Carpenter was punching up the field in his twin #52 Red Bull machine. "It was tough for our team to start dead last, but a part failed and that was beyond our control," Barron recalls. "It's hard to dig out and keep pushing forward, especially for Eddie."

Alex feels sure his engine manufacturer Chevrolet will keep developing its 3-liter power mill to combat the exceptional results put up by Honda Performance Development and Ilmor Engineering in the first five races of the season.

"We know Chevy is doing a great deal of development right now and we're expecting gains in the near future. We can catch up with Honda if we work hard and we have good communication between the Chevrolet engineers and teams."

Barron is also confident his hard-luck teammate Carpenter, who qualified seventh in Texas is bound for better days. "Overall, Ed has done an outstanding job. He was quicker than me which put him in the second, faster practice group" last weekend. "Ed has a new engineer in Iain Watt and he was just clipped from behind in that race. It was like Russian roulette. I'm just glad nobody got hurt."

Barron and the balance of IndyCar Series drivers and teams head to The Milwaukee Mile for two days of open testing, starting tomorrow, in preparation for their first visit to the 101-year-old facility. "It's a pretty bumpy track and I just hope the weather holds," Barron says as skies spout rain here in Indianapolis.

"Setup is key for that race because the track is so flat. There's lots of ways to set up for Milwaukee. I think we all want to go there because of its history and because a good car can make up positions on a flat track like that. Mostly, though, the history of the place" makes Milwaukee a must-go trip for the Indy cars.

But before he can conquer The Milwaukee Mile in July 25th competition, Barron must master Richmond International Raceway, the 3/4-mile bullring that's been resurfaced since the IRL's last visit in June of 2003. With teams testing below 16 seconds for the June 26th night race, the SunTrust Indy Challenge should be an interesting fight.

"I understand they got the bumps out. The track must be extremely quick now," Barron relates. Does he feel apprehension about the quick speeds at RIR? "No, it'll be more exciting for all of us. Things happen so fast that we'll need two lines to run at Richmond. You don't want to lift on that track."

Alex Barron holds 8th-place points as the IRL heads for Richmond and race #6 in the 16-event campaign. "So much is out of your control. I'm a firm believer in keeping your head down and, sooner or later you'll get there."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Alex Barron , Buddy Rice , Ed Carpenter