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Callum Ilott Heads Into Barber with Strong Momentum

Following a strong start to the weekend, eyes are on rookie Callum Ilott at Barber (Photo: Riley Thompson | TPF).

This year’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama weekend has wild moments.

From off course frenzies to accidents involving several competitors, one man and team has been able to wow people — Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott.

Rolling off 11th, Ilott, driver of the No. 77 Racing for Children Chevrolet, has been superb. Cracking the top-10 in the practice sheets earlier this weekend, he topped the charts during Saturday’s final practice.

The Juncos organization aren’t strangers with pulling surprises in the NTT INDYCAR Series. Look no further than the Last Row Shootout for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 when Kyle Kaiser bumped Fernando Alonso out of the 33-car field.

Three years later, the team is the lone, full-time single-car operation.

During Friday’s press conference, Ilott’s explained how it’s been a complete 180 in terms of how he’s been able to navigate around the popular Alabama road course.

“When we got to test here three weeks ago, I couldn’t turn,” said Ilott after going eighth quickest in opening practice.

“It was quite a shock how physical it is here. I think I was reminded afterwards that others have suffered the same fate when they first come here.

“We sorted that out, made it drivable. We’ve ironed a few things out. It’s good. It’s an up-and-down circuit. Lovely artwork around. If you like that sort of stuff, it’s a great place to come.”

Ilott storming around the Alabama road circuit (Photo: Riley Thompson | TPF).

Following his surprising result, being atop the practice charts, Ilott hopes he can carry the momentum during the race, something he hasn’t been able to do in the young season with tires playing a pivotal role.

After three races, the 23-year-old ranks 22nd in points after crashing out at Long Beach nearly a month ago.

“Pace is good,” said Ilott after final practice. “We’ve learned a few things I have to say. Obviously, P1 is good but it’s just warmup. Let’s see but pace is good, which is better than normal.”

Ilott added that the biggest challenges will be which Firestone compounds will they go and the biggest unknown of them all — fuel economy.

“This one is more of a fuel game than a tire game,” Ilott commented. “Hopefully, we don’t get caught out. But yeah, good day in the office.

“If I look back at the other races, we really struggled on the red (compounds). The pace is good on the reds. I need to help preserve themselves. If we can manage the fuel and stay calm with that, that should help the tires a bit.

“But yeah, it’s one of those things where it feels good. It felt good the last couple of races and then I get on the reds, it’s not there. I think everyone’s happy. Again, we’re in a really good position (for the race). P1 in the warmup shows that we got good pace.”

Live race coverage of the 90-lap event commences at 1:00 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock. Rinus VeeKay will lead the 26-car field to the green flag.

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