Monday, April 16, 2012

Notes From The Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix

It started crazily, got even crazier, but in the end, the conclusion was eerily familiar.

On a weekend where the chaos of all Chevys (and 3 Lotus cars) serving 10-spot grid penalties made for one of the most jumbled fields ever, Will Power still found a way to win, despite an absolute show from a hard-charging Simon Pagenaud. I'm still not entirely sure how he did it, but that's probably why I'm a portly Hoosier blogger and he's Will Power. The Pride of Toowoomba managed to get it done Sunday, and it was as if the penalty had never existed. After so much griping over the Chevy engine change, it seemed to have remarkably little impact on Chevy's fortunes overall.

Long Beach remains, well, Long Beach. Every video clip, photo, and tweet just seemed to exude excitement. Along that line, just because the race had a few slower portions, overall, multiple strategies, the uncertainties of the field, a dose of chaos, cars that are proving to look and sound really great, and some phenomenal drivers made this another superb event.

Here's a few thoughts on the rest of this past weekend's action at the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix:

Pags' Party: I seriously thought Simon Pagenaud was going to catch Will Power on the last lap. I think if EJ Viso isn't right there between them, Pags and Will are neck-and-neck at the finish. Pags was a rock star this weekend, and will turn a lot of heads with his great run at the end to finish as runner-up.

Yeah, Power's Pretty Good: Look, we can't discount how good Will Power is, and how amazing Penske Racing performs week in and week out. Complain if you want, but recognize he and the Penske team are just plain awesome. Congrats to him on another win, but like many of you, I sort of wish Pags had just a bit more at the end. I felt he deserved that one, but there is no "deserve" in racing. Will Power didn't have a cakewalk these past two races, but he's won them all the sa,e

Engine Bragging Rights: There's no way around it: Chevy still winning this race and grabbing 7/10 top spots is an embarrassment to Honda. Still, it's Honda; they'll be ok, eventually. Right now, though, it's a Chevy world. In other news, Lotus had its worst weekend yet, with their top 2 drivers finishing 3 laps down. They have a lot of work to do before Sao Paulo, but clearly their lack of power hurt them big time on Long Beach's long straight.

Ganassi Suffers: Scott Dixon's car broke. Graham Rahal's day ended with a crash. After a very good run, Charlie Kimball ran into trouble and finished in the pits. Dario Franchitti started P1, but faded to midpack very early. This was one of the worst race weekends in memory for Chip's crew.

Yellow Submarine: Within a five minute period Sunday, Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti crashed out, Kat Legge went into the tires, Alex Tagliani pitted with issues, and Mike Conway stopped on track with a gear issue. Good..Grief! 5 minute later, Scott Dixon's car gave up on him. For a good 15 minutes of the broadcast, it seemed like we couldn't get away from those yellow flags. There were problems all over, I guess.
Pags served notice to expect big things this year.
(Credit: Eric Schwarzkopf. Courtesy
Used with permission.)

Mazda Road to Indy Update: The battle for the Indy Lights championship is even more muddled, as now Sebastian Saavedra, Tristan Vautier, and Esteban Guerrieri have all won Lights races this season. Now, they'll have over a month off before competing in the Firestone Freedom 100. We'll have to see who comes out of there with the upper hand. If Gustavo Yacaman wants to make the Lights championship a four-driver race, he needs to start winning some races.

Other Notes: Make sure to check out the updated engine power rankings. Not good for Lotus, it goes without saying...the knock against Takuma Sato has always been he's fast, but can't finish races. That knock will now continue...Congrats to James Hinchcliffe on his first career IICS podium (P3) after a series of P4s...Tony Kanaan must have gone all stealthy, like some sort of Brazilian ninja, in his run to P4. He was rarely mentioned, but kept moving up....If only Josef Newgarden's attempted pass on Lap 1 had worked as well as this YouTube video. He will be a star, and soon...EJ Viso seemed to have some regression Sunday, serving a drive-through penalty and getting on more than a few bad sides. Let's hope we see more of the Viso we saw at St. Pete...The "Pope of Long Beach" gave a tremendous, rambling invocation, and I wish they would have brought him into the  broadcast booth. The national anthem (interrupted by the flyover) was horrific...Ed Carpenter (P14) finished ahead of Dario Franchitti yesterday. ECR is rough on the twisties, but sometime steady, measured progress and staying out of trouble gets you where you need to be...I cannot tell you how much help a subscription to is on a chaotic race weekend like the one we just had.

Last Driver Standing Update: This week, we bid adieu to our friend Mike Knapp of 15 Days In May, whose hopes were dashed with Scott Dixon's mechanical issues.Only 5 bloggers remain, and remember, they can't pick the same driver twice during the contest! Next up: Week 4 at Sao Paolo!

Last Driver Standing Week 3 Picks

Chris Sheridan, IndySoup: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Eric Hall, anotherindycarblog: Tony Kanaan

Kent M., Racing Mania: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Mike Knapp, 15 Days In May: Scott Dixon

Paul Dalbey, MoreFront Wing: James Hinchcliffe

Zachary Houghton, IndyCar AdvocateRyan Hunter-Reay

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