IRL headlines

1.      Rahal sets date with Barber's "Lady in the Lake"

2.      Garcia hopes to make his mark at Barber

3.      A softer Firestone Firehawk for Barber road course

4.      Honda drivers visit with associates in Lincoln

5.      Of note

1. Rahal sets date with Barber's "Lady in the Lake": Visitors to Barber Motorsports can't miss the newest addition to the scenic facility's artwork collection: the Lady in the Lake just past the Fan Zone on the right-hand side.

It joins other whimsical sculptures, such as metal ants toting a motorcyclist outside the first turns and the giant spider and young brood that overlook the hairpin.

Graham Rahal said he'll swim out and kiss the Lady in the Lake and have the post-race victory celebration at Rusty's BBQ in Leeds -- his favorite dining spot in Alabama -- that evening should he win the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 1.

Rahal, the driver of the No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, greeted Birmingham Mayor William Bell and grade-school students, who watched as City Council member Valerie Abbott enjoyed a ride in the Indy Racing Experience street-legal two-seater during Rahal's visit to Birmingham City Hall.

Rahal thanked the city for its support of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, saying that the race weekend at Barber Motorsports Park is an excellent time/place for youth to experience their first IndyCar race as children 12 and under are free with a ticketed adult.

Rahal will make his third start in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Practice gets underway on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course on March 30.

2. Garcia hopes to make his mark at Barber: Juan Pablo Garcia has raced part-time in three different Firestone Indy Lights seasons with three different teams. This season, he's looking to make a bigger splash in the series with his full-time ride with Jeffrey Mark Motorsports.

After a seventh-place finish at the season opener in St. Petersburg, Garcia turns to Barber Motorsport Park for Round 2 of the schedule on April 1.

The Mexico City native raced in the first four events of 2011 with Jensen MotorSport. He signed with Jeffrey Mark Motorsport on March 6 as the full-season driver for the new owner.

"I am very happy to be back in the series for my first full season," Garcia said. "Even though I had the opportunity to test my car before the season, I know it's going to be a tough season. But with the help of Jeffrey Mark Motorsport and Bryan Herta Autosport, I know we will improve with each race."

Garcia's best finish last season was eighth at Barber Motorsport Park. As one of the series returners, he is contending with a tough class of rookies that have already stated their case from results in St. Petersburg. Tristan Vautier, the 2011 Star Mazda presented by Goodyear champion, ran away with the pole and the win in his debut Firestone Indy Lights race, while Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate and fellow rookie Oliver Webb finished fourth.

For the March 30-April 1 event, Firestone Indy Lights will again share the track with the IZOD IndyCar Series, the Star Mazda Championship, GRAND-AM Rolex Series and Continental Sports Car Challenge.

Five drivers entered in the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Alabama have won a race before in the series, and nine of the 16 entered are rookies. The race will be televised on NBC Sports Network on April 5 at 5 p.m. (ET).

3. A softer Firestone Firehawk for Barber road course: Firestone Racing engineers have selected primary and alternate tire specifications that are new for Barber Motorsports Park.

The compounds are softer (less durable) than their 2011 counterparts and were tested in November at the track. The construction has changed slightly compared to 2011 and has been designed to improve grip.

"After winning in St. Pete, Helio Castroneves was very complimentary of the direction Firestone Racing engineers have taken for 2012, noting that tires played a key role in his victory," Firestone Racing executive director Al Speyer said. "Both the primary and alternate specification Firestone tires proved to be consistent and durable in the first round, and we expect to see the same level of performance at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend."

Of note: In 2011, Will Power put 31 laps (74 miles) on a used set of alternate Firestone Racing tires en route to leading all 90 laps for a dominant victory.

4. Honda drivers visit with associates in Lincoln: Honda drivers Scott Dixon, James Jakes, Charlie Kimball and Takuma Sato visited the Honda Manufacturing of Alabama auto assembly plant in nearby Lincoln, Ala., on March 29.

HMA has the capacity to build up to 300,000 Honda cars and trucks annually.

5. Of note: The third Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg 5K Run, Walk 'N Wheelathon on March 23 raised almost $38,000 through the support of more than 700 event participants. All proceeds will benefit the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation and All Children's Hospital. … KV Racing Technology general manager Mark Johnson said the team has taken measures to rectify the battery issue that knocked out Tony Kanaan after only 21 laps of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. … The 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 souvenir program is a Gold SABRE award finalist. ... Will Power, who set an IZOD IndyCar Series track qualifying record, had the fastest race lap on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street course at 1 minute, 2.7575 seconds on Lap 4 of 100.