The IZOD IndyCar series headed out west to the city streets of Long Beach this weekend. The Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix is the most prestigous street course race in America and one that every driver has on the checklist of must wins. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power were the odds on favorites after qualifying on the front row, but some late race drama ensured that Mike Conway would take his first career win in the IICS at this historic venue. Instead of giving a lap by lap rendition of the event, lets take a look at some of the key stories from the race.
Starts and Restarts:
Love them or hate them, the double file restarts were going to be an issue this weekend as the layout for Long Beach does not really allow for cars to get two by two before the starting stripe. The start for both the Firestone Indy Lights race and the IICS race were ugly. The first start of the FIL was actually waved off. The second go at it did not look much better but I think Tony Cotman realized that Long Beach was not going ot offer the pretty starts he was hoping for (standing starts anyone?). The IICS started on the first go, but it too was hideous to say the least. Going forward, we need to look at a standing start for at least Long Beach. You are never going to get a two by two start given the hairpin.
The restarts were much the same issue. Only about the first three rows of cars would get lined up properly and the rest would be a gaggle of sorts that would offer some cars very interesting runs going down into T1. The restarts would take what was a boring run of the mill Long beach race and certainly spice things up towards the end however. This is when the action would really happen.
The Pit entrance and pit road itself are very tight quaters for the race cars. This would present problems and even end in disaster for Sebastien Bourdais and Marco Andretti. As Marco was exiting his pit box, he pull right into the Dale Coyne/Boy Scouts entry of Sebastien Bourdais. Both cars would tangle and hit the pit road wall, causing singnificant damage to both cars. Bourdais was obviously very upset after the incident and had no problem venting his emotions to Marco. A silly mistake that was easily avoidable. Marco would take full responsibility for the incident as he really could not blame anyone but himself.
Another pit road incident involving Graham Rahal and Vitor Meira would occur behind the original incident. Rahal would move quickly into his Ganassi pit box where he would strike one of his crew. The crew member suffered no injury thankfully. It would appear that even the team members are in the thick of the on track battle (physically) when the cars get onto that very narrow pit straight.
Crashing, crashing, and more crashing! Long Beach is close quaters warfare and the second half of the race seen plenty of sidepod smashing fun. Most of the folks watching the race knew it was only a matter of time before E.J. Viso would hit something. Nothing against E.J., it is just the way it has been so far this season. Viso would not yield his position to Danica Patrick, going wheel to wheel with the Andretti Autosport driver. Viso would try and force the issue and turn into Patrick. Danica held her line and Viso bounced off of her car and right into the wall. Another terrible run for E.J. and the KV Racing crew.
Another incident would take the second KV machine out of the fold. Graham Rahal would find his way into this incident when he cut Takuma Sato’s tire. Sato would spin into the wall and Charlie Kimball as well as Raphael Matos would complete the crash. Forgettable race for all the competitors and really a forgettable season for all those involved. I think i speak for a few people when I say we expected a lot more out of both Kimball and Rahal. Both have been a disappointment three races in.
Team Penske suffered a catastrophic meltdown on the lap 67 restart as Helio Castroneves and Will Power would eliminate each other from contention. Castroneves would get a run into turn 1 as Power battled to keep Ryan Hunter Reay at bay. Castroneves would lock up the brakes and plow right into the back of teammate Power. Oriol servia would be involved as well but would make no contact and continue to his 6th place finish. Castroneves was very upset with the incident and apologized to his teammate. This is the second time in three races that Helio has went into the back of a fellow competitor as he punted Marco at the start of St. Pete in a very similar fashion at race start. Will Power was not very happy either as he said on the Vs. coverage the hit was blatant and could not understand it. It was Ryan Briscoe who would deliver for Roger as he finished second position. Briscoe led most of the race after a gutsy call got him from 12th to the lead. The Aussie would fit his car with black tires at the start and make the change to reds. The rest of the field went red to black and Briscoe took full advantage.
The winner of the race Mike Conway did not have it all easy. A problem on pit road had Conway fall from the top three down to around 18th. A smart clean race teamed with a very fast race car allowed Conway to get back into the top three. A power move on Ryan Briscoe for the win was all it took as Conway absolutely checked out opening a huge gap on the rest of the field. A great comeback win for Mike as he was stuck with a backup car following last weekends accident at Barber Motorsports Park. Should we be surprised that Conway won though? The guy took a GP2 car around Monaco and won there. Regardless, Conway was able to make a significant statement this weekend that he will be a threat on street courses for sure this year.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Mike Conway Andretti 85 laps
2. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 6.3203s
3. Dario Franchitti Ganassi + 6.7163s
4. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas + 9.1705s
5. Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt + 16.0177s
6. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas + 16.8966s
7. Danica Patrick Andretti + 17.5016s
8. Tony Kanaan KV + 18.9655s
9. Vitor Meira Foyt + 19.4723s
10. Will Power Penske + 19.8909s
11. Raphael Matos AFS + 20.4660s
12. Helio Castroneves Penske + 20.7784s
13. Graham Rahal Ganassi + 21.3464s
14. Sebastian Saavedra Conquest + 23.1137s
15. James Jakes Dale Coyne + 24.5926s
16. Paul Tracy Dragon + 1m03.7578s
17. JR Hildebrand Panther + 1m10.9001s
18. Scott Dixon Ganassi + 1 lap
19. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold + 2 laps
20. Simona de Silvestro HVM + 3 laps
21. Takuma Sato KV + 4 laps
Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 78 laps
Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 72 laps
Charlie Kimball Ganassi 66 laps
EJ Viso KV 59 laps
Marco Andretti Andretti 37 laps
Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne 27 laps