Alabama heat at Barber requires IndyCar drivers to ‘man up’

Josef Newgarden says drivers have to 'man up' this weekend.

You might have noticed that it's hot outside this weekend in Birmingham.

The IndyCar drivers running in Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama practice Friday at Barber Motorsports Park noticed it as well.

Following his second-fastest practice runs of the day, Sebastien Bourdais noted how different the conditions were compared to when he and other drivers were at Barber in March for testing.

"We come here and test for two days and it's drizzling and it's British weather in the 50s, no wind and the track is awesome. The car feels great and it's super fast," he said. "Then we come back and the track is 125 degrees, and it's gusty."

"You're like, 'Is this the same car?' I think it's very difficult to anticipate what might happen," he said.

Ryan Briscoe agreed, saying that the heat presents new challenges for teams as they prepare for qualifying on Saturday.

"It's a lot hotter, so the track is a lot more slippery," Briscoe said. "We've definitely got some challenges and some work to do overnight, but I think we'll have a fast car tomorrow (Saturday)."

Takuma Sato said the heat affects the car in very specific ways, and the pre-season road test couldn't help prepare for it.

"The conditions are quite a bit different from the open test," he said. "It's a lot warmer, so the tire grip is acting differently. We have to work pretty hard tonight."

Josef Newgarden had the third-best combined practice times on Friday, and said the heat doesn't just affect the car; it also affect the driver.

"You've got to be hydrated and you know, you've really got to man up in this type of race," he said. "Even if you get worn out, you got to fight through all the way to the end."

The drivers will need to get used to the heat quickly, as Alabama's highest-predicted temperatures of the season are set for Saturday and Sunday.

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