Sometimes referred to as America's Monaco, the Izod IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach typically means sun, surf, stargazing and sensational street racing action in one weekend-long party. The 2010 edition looked to be no exception as the weather was beautiful and there were plenty of stars in attendance. Some were competing in the weekend's well-known Pro/Celebrity race while others were competing or managing in other series, and others were just there as fans.
Going into this, the fourth round of the 2010 IndyCar Series, Will Power was coming off his first loss of the season in Alabama and looking to regain his invincible status. Several other drivers were glad to see Power falter, giving them some hope that they could claw their way back into contention. After all, the season is far from over. After the first practice session, however, Power was once again on top. The question would be whether or not he could stay there through qualifying and in Sunday's featured event.
Follow the jump to see if Power could make it three-for-four in Long Beach or whether Alabama-winner Helio Castroneves could continue his winning ways, or if maybe, just maybe, somebody else could step up and beat these Penske boys.
Photos by Frank Filipponio and Andre Ravinowich/Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
The second practice session of the Long Beach Grand Prix showed that you didn't have to have Penske written on your car to post the fastest times. Of course, Andretti is another big-budget squad, so if anybody could catch Roger's racers, it was likely to be Michael's minions. That's why it didn't come as too much of a surprise to see Ryan Hunter-Reay atop the sheets after practice two. Practice three, though, showed that it had been just a brief Power outage. When time expired on the session, Will was once again back in front.
Qualifying session one, group one saw Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), teammate Dario Franchitti, Andretti Autosport's Tony Kanaan, Alex Tagliani (FAZZT Race Team), Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Marco Andretti advancing. Rookie Simona De Silvestro barely missed out, clocking a best time just .0128 seconds behind Marco. As quick as group one's times were, they were bested by five of the six drivers in group two, including – who else, but – Will Power (Team Penske), Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport), Justin Wilson (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing), Helio Castroneves (Team Penske) and Hideki Mutoh (Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing). Only sixth place Dan Wheldon (Panther Racing) would have finished behind Dixon.
Round two looked like déjà vu all over again as Power repeated by going out and posting the fastest lap. Behind him in the group advancing to the Firestone Fast Six were Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Justin Wilson and Ryan Briscoe. That's three Penske cars, two Andrettis and a D&R for those keeping score at home. The scariest part for the rest of the field was that Power hadn't used any of his red line tires yet. As the variable ride control system on the Penske cars has really been making a difference so far this season, a rules clarification was issued by the series pointing out that that setup is available to all teams. It will likely only be a matter of time before everybody else gets theirs developed and installed, with the Penske team showing such speed with it in place.
At the start of the final qualifying session, Helio was on top, followed by Briscoe and Power. With about six minutes left though, Power shot to the lead once again. Nobody would catch him as Will earned his third straight Peak Performance Pole Position. It was hard to imagine anybody would be able to catch him on race day, either, as he had finished second in last year's race, following a win in 2008.
When the green flag fell on race day, everybody was on their overtake buttons down the long front straight towards Turn 1. Hunter-Reay and Kanaan each made up some spots, but thankfully there was no attrition during the aggressive start. Will Power seemed to have gotten the best launch and safely held the lead, with Ryan Hunter-Reay close behind. Justin Wilson (below left), Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves (below right) rounded out the top five.
At the quarter-distance mark, amazingly there had been no yellow flags, an anomaly at a street circuit. With its concrete-walled canyons making passing difficult and dangerous, plus changing road surfaces making traction an uncertainty, street circuits usually produce more yellows than any other type of course, but the 36th running of the GPLB was thusfar incident-free. Check that...Will Power had an uncharacteristic slip-up coming out of the hairpin, accidentally engaging the pitlane speed limiter, and allowing Ryan Hunter-Reay past at a rather alarming rate. The bumpy streets and complicated fuel mapping strategies of the teams make that type of error more likely on a street course, but this was rather shocking coming from Power.
Danica Patrick (above) was one of the first to stop, bringing everybody's pit strategies into question. By lap 27, it was the leader's turn to stop as well, Ryan making a quick return to the track and coming out in ninth. Kanaan and Dixon were in on the next lap, followed one lap later by Power. The race almost saw its first yellow around the same time as Takuma Sato slammed the door a bit too tightly on Alex Lloyd (below left) going into Turn 6. The "rookie" managed to avoid the wall and resumed racing after a second or two.
After the majority of the racers had made their first stops, Ryan Hunter-Reay was again out front, followed by Justin Wilson, Will Power, Tony Kanaan, Briscoe, Dixon, Castroneves, Tagliani, Moraes and Wheldon down to tenth spot. Mario Moraes (above right) was the big surprise here, as the 21-year-old is the youngest full-time driver in the series, and he had taken five months off leading to the season opener in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The driver had already taken his KV Racing Team Dallara to ninth from 15th and there was plenty of race left to run.
On lap 53, there was a small shunt between Justin Wilson and Alex Lloyd, who had earlier been involved in the incident with Takuma Sato. It was a similar situation here, where Wilson looked to be overly eager to stay with Ryan Hunter-Reay as the two tried to get around the slower Lloyd. Ryan pulled it off smoothly at Turn 6, but Justin was a bit too impatient at 7 and he got rightfully clipped trying to dive beneath Lloyd. Wilson lost half of his front wing in the melee and had to pit the next time around.
Still no yellow, though, so the race was really coming down to who was best able to manage their tire and fuel strategies. Dixon inherited the lead briefly when Hunter-Reay pitted from the lead, but gave it back on the next lap when he too stopped for the final time. Not even a lap later, the race was finally under yellow. Graham Rahal (above left) racing for the Sarah Fisher Racing team, got into it with Mario Romancini (above right). Rahal walked over to let Mario know whose fault he thought the accident was. While speeding down to Turn 1, Rahal was clearly ahead, but the hard-charging Romancini tried to dive under him at the last second and there was just nowhere to go. The two ended up in the tires, Rahal's large rear wing some twenty feet away in the middle of the road.
Not that it was any consolation to Rahal or Romancini, but the timing of that yellow worked well for Power and Wilson, who were immediately able to close the gap to Hunter-Reay. When they went back to green with 20 laps to go, the Team Izod car sprinted ahead once again, though, lapped traffic breaking any momentum Wilson or Power had built up in their bid to catch him. Wilson did manage to get past Power in textbook fashion, slipstreaming him down the front straight and poking out just in time to get past into Turn 1. A similar pass occurred not too long after, when a bit of girl-on-girl action saw Danica Patrick slip past Simona De Silvestro for 16th.
When the opportunity presented itself, Takuma Sato moved off line slightly, allowing Wilson, Power and eventually Kanaan past, the three now on a tear to catch Ryan. It didn't make much of a difference in the end, as Ryan drove smoothly and quickly and most importantly, error-free to the checkered flag. It was the first win for the Andretti team since Richmond in 2008, a string of 28 races without a victory.
The single caution tied a series record for street courses. The victory finally broke Team Penske's winning streak. Ryan Hunter-Reay got an appreciative bearhug from team owner Michael Andretti in the winner's circle along with a slap on the back from teammate Tony Kanaan, the newest member of the team showing the vets how it's done. It was Ryan's second win in the series, an emotional one for him, dedicated to his recently deceased mother.
Behind Hunter-Reay in the finishing order it was Wilson, Power, Dixon, Kanaan, Moraes, Castroneves, Briscoe, Wheldon, Conway, Meira, Franchitti, Mutoh, Andretti, Viso, Patrick, De Silvestro, Sato, Lloyd, Matos, Tagliani, Rahal, Romancini, Baguette and Duno. Showing how competitive the series is this year, there were six different teams represented in the top 10. While the win was well-deserved by Hunter-Reay, the star of the show was probably Moraes, who moved up to sixth from his fifteenth-place starting position, passing several championship contenders and holding them at bay in the closing laps.
With his third-place finish, pole sitter Will Power keeps the championship points lead as the series heads to the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway on May 1. Power's lead stands at 42 points over teammate Helio Castroneves (130 pts.), Hunter-Reay in third (129) and Wilson in fourth (125).
|Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Sunday, April, 18, 2010
|Pos||Driver||Team||No.||C/E/T||Start||Laps||Total Time||Laps Led||Status||Points|
|1||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||37||D/H/F||2||85||01:47:12.5404||64||Running||52|
|2||Justin Wilson||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||22||D/H/F||3||85||01:47:18.1435||0||Running||40|
|3||Will Power||Team Penske||12||D/H/F||1||85||01:47:21.1268||19||Running||36|
|4||Scott Dixon||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||9||D/H/F||8||85||01:47:23.1691||2||Running||32|
|5||Tony Kanaan||Andretti Autosport||11||D/H/F||6||85||01:47:24.3136||0||Running||30|
|6||Mario Moraes||KV Racing Technology||32||D/H/F||15||85||01:47:29.0575||0||Running||28|
|7||Helio Castroneves||Team Penske||3||D/H/F||4||85||01:47:29.4332||0||Running||26|
|8||Ryan Briscoe||Team Penske||6||D/H/F||5||85||01:47:30.7618||0||Running||24|
|9||Dan Wheldon||Panther Racing||4||D/H/F||10||85||01:47:31.9979||0||Running||22|
|10||Mike Conway||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||24||D/H/F||16||85||01:47:32.4711||0||Running||20|
|11||Vitor Meira||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||14||D/H/F||14||85||01:47:39.9409||0||Running||19|
|12||Dario Franchitti||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||10||D/H/F||12||85||01:47:40.6756||0||Running||18|
|13||Hideki Mutoh||Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing||06||D/H/F||11||85||01:47:41.1441||0||Running||17|
|14||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||26||D/H/F||9||85||01:47:42.5524||0||Running||16|
|15||E.J. Viso||KV Racing Technology||8||D/H/F||17||85||01:47:44.1586||0||Running||15|
|16||Danica Patrick||Andretti Autosport||7||D/H/F||20||85||01:47:44.7208||0||Running||14|
|17||Simona De Silvestro||Team Stargate Worlds/HVM||78||D/H/F||13||85||01:47:45.7056||0||Running||13|
|18||Takuma Sato||KV Racing Technology||5||D/H/F||19||84||01:47:35.4188||0||Running||12|
|19||Alex Lloyd||Dale Coyne Racing||19||D/H/F||21||84||01:47:39.2751||0||Running||12|
|20||Raphael Matos||Luczo Dragon Racing de Ferran Motorsports||2||D/H/F||18||84||01:47:58.3828||0||Running||12|
|21||Alex Tagliani||FAZZT Race Team||77||D/H/F||7||65||01:23:29.2735||0||Mechanical||12|
|22||Graham Rahal||Sarah Fisher Racing||67||D/H/F||22||58||01:12:06.4185||0||Contact||12|
|23||Mario Romancini||Conquest Racing||34||D/H/F||23||58||01:12:06.8319||0||Contact||12|
|24||Bertrand Baguette||Conquest Racing||36||D/H/F||24||45||00:55:48.1787||0||Mechanical||12|
|25||Milka Duno||Dale Coyne Racing||18||D/H/F||25||10||00:14:04.0687||0||Handling||10|