Dramatic debut in Alabama for Jordan King

It was a dramatic third round of the Verizon IndyCar Series for Jordan King as rain plagued the weekend’s race and the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama had to be contested over two days. After eventually being completed on Monday, Jordan ended the tumultuous weekend with a 14th place finish.

Following disappointing results at St. Petersburg and Long Beach, despite promising performances, Jordan King was eager to convert his strong displays into points as the series headed to Birmingham, Alabama, for the first road course race of the season at Barber Motorsport Park.

Jordan’s weekend started with practice sessions on Friday and, after Ed Carpenter Racing’s test was cut short due to poor weather earlier in the year, the team and Jordan had a busy schedule ahead as they searched to find the perfect setup in the car.

The first practice saw Jordan end the session up in 7th place with a 1:08.366 lap time and in the day’s afternoon session he finished in 17th place. After just running the black stickered Firestone tyres, Jordan’s qualifying pace was yet to be truly seen as the team concentrated on race pace on Friday.

“This morning was really good and we made some good progress. For this afternoon’s session, we changed a couple of things to see if they helped. We’re keeping the tradition though of not getting a lap time on reds, between traffic and red flags and yellows! We are further down than I think we should be. We should be quite a bit quicker, probably seven or eight tenths faster than what we were. We’re not a million miles away. We just need a few more small improvements to get me a bit more comfortable with the car.”

Saturday started with the final practice session of the weekend and for Jordan, it was a mixed session. Posting a 1:08.006 lap time, Jordan ended the session in 8th place but his practice came to a dramatic end as he went off course entering Turn 2. The car sped through the gravel and made moderate contact with the wall, damaging the front wing and suspension on the left front corner of the car.

The No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka crew worked to complete repairs and Jordan’s car was ready for the qualifying session, where Jordan searched to make it out of round one of qualifying for the third race in a row.  Starting on a set of black Firestone Firehawk tires, Jordan made a stop after three laps for a set of sticker red tires and set the 10th fastest lap, a 1:08.399. Since only the top six advance to Round 2, Jordan’s lap secured him a 19th place start for Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

“I feel like we had the potential to be in the Top 10 and challenge to get through to the Fast 6. It’s a bit annoying in that sense, but the circuit changed a lot so the car was quite a bit different. It was difficult to get the lap time out of the car this afternoon when this morning we seemed to show good promise. I am quite disappointed for obvious reasons, but it’s just one of those things!”

On Sunday, as anticipated, rain arrived prior to the pre-race ceremonies at Barber Motorsports Park. By the time the race started, heavy rain was falling and the race was declared a wet start, requiring all competitors to start on wet condition Firestone Firehawk tires. After one lap under caution, the green flag flew on Lap 2. Jordan, an expert in wet weather driving, wasted no time in moving up through the field. In the first lap alone, he gained four positions as other drivers struggled heavily with negotiating the torrential rain.

When the stopped car of Charlie Kimball brought out the first yellow on Lap 12, King was already up to 13th and on the Lap 17 restart, Will Power spun and made contact with the wall. From there, driver visibility was too compromised and a red flag condition began. With the rain not letting up and driver safety at the forefront of the organisers’ minds, officials decided to suspend the race until Monday, where Jordan would restart the race eight positions to the better in 11th place.

The race resumed just after the noon hour on Monday with 23 laps completed and approximately 75 minutes remaining. Now a dry start, Jordan again got off to a blistering start and passed two cars before Turn 2 and moved into the Top 10.

By the fourth green flag lap, King began battling technical issues. A suspected after effect of Sunday’s rain, the timing stand for the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka engineering staff was left briefly without telemetry, while King lost all information on the dash of his steering wheel. While the timing stand came back up quickly, King did not regain information on his dash until the latter portion of the race. He fell to 12th while nursing the issue but avoided an unscheduled stop and managed to not to pit until his first scheduled stop.

With the field on split strategies, Jordan cycled toward the Top 10 and, as strategies played out, moved all the way up to the sixth position prior to pitting on Lap 67. With the combination of his strategy and a dry race track, Jordan was looking at the potential of securing his first Top 10 finish of the season.

However, heavy rain came to the 2.3-mile permanent road course for the second day in a row. Hoping for a late race caution that would have the event end under yellow, King stayed on slicks as long as possible. King had to pit for wet weather tyres on the 75th of the 82 laps completed in the two-hour time limit. The late forced pitstop meant that Jordan slipped out of the top-ten and eventually finished the race in 14th.

“Today, I had a really good restart. I did exactly what I wanted to do, I wanted to dispatch a couple of cars quite quickly. I managed to get past both Ed (Jones) and Scott (Dixon) before Turn 2, so that was really good actually. That gave me good track position and we were then in the Top 5.”

“Unfortunately, the rain yesterday may have caused an electrical problem that took quite a while to clear. Once we got going, it was then alright. Our strategy was then compromised with the rain and we were caught out. Overall slightly annoying, we really would have been fine for a Top 5 finish quite comfortably I think.”

Jordan will be back on track for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 12.