Barber Motorsports Park – Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.71
Barber Motorsports Park 6040 Barber Motorsports Pkwy Leeds, AL 35094
Year Opened: 2003
This is Racing’s Augusta
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is one of the hidden gems of the racing world. Nestled in the mountains of northern Alabama, just east of Birmingham, is Barber Motorsports Park, a premiere racetrack that rivals any other in the country. Who would have known that a track in the middle of the Deep South not called Talladega would provide fans with one of the best racing experiences in the world of sports?
Food & Beverage 5
Soul food and good old-fashioned, homemade cooking is what makes Barber Motorsports Park so brilliant when it comes to feeding the masses. Even if you just want a burger or a hot dog, the price is very manageable (a big, juicy cheeseburger is $6.50). But if you really want to enjoy the local culture’s cuisine, several of the vendors in the fan zone and around the facility provide you with some of the best smoked barbecue in the world.
When visiting Alabama, barbecue must be one of the staples of your diet, plain and simple. Even the drivers are known to stop by to grab a bite to eat, which is a true testament to how good the food is. There are also food and drink vendors all over the track, so fans are never too far from their next meal.
Alabama in the spring is absolutely beautiful. The track is a natural terrain road course, meaning the track follows the rolls and undulations of the mountains upon which the facility was built. Additionally, the foliage around the track is mesmerizing. The trees are tall, old, and majestic, and the wind blowing through them provides a true bonding with nature feeling. The roses, azaleas, and wildflowers blossom on the hills and fill the air with the scent of clean, fresh, floral greatness. What does this have to do with racing? It puts you in a state of relaxation while watching a race that makes IndyCar even more enjoyable than it already was.
Roses in Bloom at Barber Motorsports Park, Photo by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
The area around the track has changed drastically of late; literally next door is one of the coolest Bass Pro Shops there is (everyone has to drive along a mile-long nature preserve just to get to the store entrance). The venue is several miles away from Birmingham, and the only hotel next to the track is a new Hampton Inn.
However, just across the highway is a giant outlet mall that includes a drive-in movie theater. In addition, down the highway just a few exits away lie several chain restaurants (Hooters, Five Guys, Olive Garden, and more), and more hotels. Not far away is the Birmingham Airport, with a nearby Holiday Inn that has a free airport shuttle and room rates in the low $100s, even during race weekend.
For sightseers, Talladega National Forest is only an hour drive away, while The Vulcan remains a popular tourist spot that offers a panoramic view of Birmingham.
In the heart of Alabama, you may never expect to find a herd of hard-core IndyCar and sportscar racing fans. Indeed, Barber Motorsports Park is full of fans who are seriously knowledgeable and who are loud and rowdy in support of their favorite drivers. Outside of Indianapolis, Barber Motorsports Park may be home to some of the best IndyCar fans there are. Perhaps this was easy to predict when the simple fact that a pre-season test at the track in 2009 drew a near-capacity crowd.
Barber Motorsports Park also allows fans to post their tweets and Instagram photos with the race’s official hashtag for display on the big screens around the property, offering fans a chance to interact like few other sports can. The best part? This is one of the most family-friendly race parks there is, so fans can bring their whole families to the track – Southern hospitality at its best.
Parking at Barber Motorsports Park is brilliant. There are numerous parking lots all over the property, and none of them are far from the track. Getting to the actual track is easy as well, as the main highway has an exit ramp that is less than a mile from the park’s entrance.
Getting around the actual course itself is simple. While the track is large, it is easy to walk around. Seating is also easy, as the main grandstand on the backstretch allows views of all four straightaways and several corners. Or for a more picturesque view, there are several locations in which you can pitch a giant foldable party tent and bring some folding chairs and a cooler to watch the race from the hillside.
And as if the relaxing atmosphere couldn’t get any more relaxing, it still does – the track offers fans a free tram service that circles the course, allowing you to view the racing action from anywhere on the track. To get to the track itself, there are now various billboards and signs all over the local highways telling you which exit to use, and what direction to turn to get there.
A new feature that opened in 2016 is a beautifully located flat, easy-to-navigate handicapped accessible pathway, which travels through the forest to a lookout point where fans using wheelchairs can watch the race, while also being in the comfort of the trees. This pathway is conveniently located across the street from the handicapped parking area.
Return on Investment 5
No bones about it, Barber Motorsports Park is a brilliant race track to visit; the price paid for admission is well worth the action on the track and the atmosphere around the speedway. The fans are top notch, the food is among the best that a sports fan’s money can buy, and it is difficult to imagine a better facility in which to watch an IndyCar Series or sportscar race.
Barber Motorsports Park is chock full of extras. First and biggest is the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Billed as one of the largest motorsports museums in the country, this museum shows you some of racing history’s best machines from the past. The museum is currently in the stages of an expansion as well to make it even bigger. And as if the museum itself wasn’t enough, during race weekends the museum staff opens the first floor to the fans, one of only three times a year this is done. Why is this so monumental? The first floor is the restoration floor – who can pass up a chance to see the beautiful vintage race cars and motorcycles being restored to their former glory?
Another bonus is the great fan zones around the track – TNT fireworks sponsors the best viewing location in the park, the hillside under the trees on the backstretch. Additionally, the track puts on a great fan activity area where fans can meet drivers and get autographs from IndyCar and IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge drivers, while taking part in contests to win racing-related prizes. If you have a race ticket, you can easily upgrade it to include paddock access, which gets you up close and personal to the action in the garages.
If you enjoy camping, you can stay on site with a hillside spot right behind the paddock, which offers some brilliant views of the track from a few spots. Perhaps the biggest extra, however, are the random sculptures scattered throughout Barber Motorsports Park. A giant metal spider on the infield, a zombie trying to swim out of a lake, metal sunflowers, tigers by the scoring tower, a Native American chief on the mountainside, giant ants carrying away a motorcycle, Greek Gods, and more pepper the park’s property, making for a neat hide-and-seek adventure.
If you are looking for a great way to enjoy racing, be it IndyCar Series, motorcycles, or sportscar racing, Barber Motorsports Park is a wonderful track in which to view some of the best racing in America. Add to that a vintage museum that showcases the coolest machines in racing history, and you have a great location in which to watch sports.