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IndyCar season opener at Barber moved to April 18 and will be shown on NBC

IndyCar Barber opener NBC

BIRMINGHAM, AL - APRIL 27: Will Power of Australia and #12 Verizon Team Pensky during the Honda Indy Car Grand Prix of Alabama on April 27, 2014 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Ryan Hunter-Reay of #28 Andretti Autosport won his second in a row at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series announced Friday morning that its 2021 season opener at Barber Motorsports Park will be moved back a week to April 18 and broadcast on NBC.

The second race of the 2021 season, the rescheduled Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersbug, also will be shown on NBC.

The St. Pete race traditionally opens the season but was moved to April 25 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With the new 2021 schedule, IndyCar will open the season with four races in 15 days, including a May 1-2 weekend doublehader at Texas Motor Speedway.

The 2021 season had been scheduled to begin March 7 in St. Petersburg. Barber becomes the third race of 2021 to be moved because of the pandemic. Last month, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was moved from April 18 to Sept. 26 as the new season finale.

IndyCar held its 2020 season finale in St. Pete on Oct. 25 after postponing the race two days before it had been scheduled to open the season.

Here’s the release from IndyCar:

INDYCAR officials have announced the NTT IndyCar SERIES season opener at Barber Motorsports Park has been rescheduled from Sunday, April 11 to Sunday, April 18.

The move results in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst being featured on NBC network television. A record nine events will air on NBC this season.

It’s the first time the 2.38-mile road course will host the opener for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. A return to the popular Birmingham, Alabama, track leads an opening stretch of four races in 15 days with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (April 25) and a doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway (May 1-2) to follow. NBC will air the first two races of the new season and six of the first eight from April to June.

“The schedule changes we’ve had, while partially prompted by ongoing pandemic conditions, give us a powerful start to the 2021 season,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “With six of our first eight races on network television and all in a more compact timeline, it’s an enormous opportunity to drive even more momentum as we deliver our exciting brand of racing to our fans.”

Barber Motorsports Park became an instant hit among INDYCAR drivers when the series first tested on the fast and undulating circuit in 2007. A fan favorite, as well, this year marks the 11th time the series will race there, a tradition that started in 2010. Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden is the winningest driver at Barber, with three wins. Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato is the most recent winner.

“Zoom Motorsports and Barber Motorsports Park jumped at the opportunity to have our event showcased on NBC network television” said Gene Hallman, CEO of Zoom Motorsports. “We are proud of the tremendous support that INDYCAR receives annually here in the heart of the deep south. The facility and museum are world class and we look forward to highlighting George Barber’s vision in what has become a bucket list destination for all race fans.”

An updated listing of green flag times for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule will
be announced at a later date.