Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet finally won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, after eight other tries. He’s not quite 35 years old and reckons “The best is yet to come.” He won the 2009 Indy Lights race at Long Beach, but said no one took notice of that. “All in all, this is huge. Long Beach, I finally get to crack this one and I’m really happy. Firestone did a fantastic job. We even started on used (alternate) reds for the opening stint and were able to maintain pace. They are always good and we were able to maintain and look after them. For this weekend, our car was just dynamite on the (primary) blacks.”
Fifth place finisher, Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was asked about the battle of the titans – Ganassi vs Penske. He said “Look out, We’re Coming.”
Dixon was relatively calm and relaxed after his win. Runner-up Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet was even more quite and reserved than usual, sharp contrast to his usual ebullient self. He did get jollied up by a mischievous and puckish Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, who finished third. He poked fun at his Penske teammate every chance he got. Clearly being back in the game is agreeing with JPM.
Castroneves was held longer in the pits by his chief mechanic Travis Law, to avoid contact with Kanaan, who was just pitting. Castroneves went out on cold tires, and Dixon was six-tenths of a second ahead of exiting Castroneves entering Turn One.
“The guys did a great job in the pits, and especially the incident between me and Ganassi. It was just perfect. It was better to be safe than sorry, but it was a great job overall for Team Penske … At the end of the day, second place is not bad.”
Montoya, in his more serious moments, said “Our Verizon Chevy was strong all day. We hung in there the entire race and everyone did a good job. I had a really good run on Helio at the start. He made a move on me and I had to check up, which lost me one spot to (Scott) Dixon. We ran strong all day and ended with another podium, which is great for the points battle. Two podiums in three races is a bit different start than we had last year and that is something I’m very proud of.”
Montoya and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet had quite a close, exciting battle. Montoya said “To be honest with you, I was surprised my tires were going off and not his. But mine went off and I saw him coming if so I just had not to make a mistake, make sure I come out of the last corner (well). He was a little quicker down the straight so just pay attention how close he was and use the button, stuff like that. He was never really that close. He got close, maybe his nose to my rear tires, but that was about it. He never got next to me or anything.”
Simon said he wasn’t going easy on JPM because he was a teammate. “I tried everything. It’s Juan Pablo Montoya, too. It’s not like they give you much room to pass. It is what it is. You’re fighting two of the top guys, you know? Helio and Juan Pablo. So, I don’t expect them to give me any room. It was a good race out there today, a lot of fun. I just wish I could’ve made my way past Helio there. That would have changed the whole complexion of the race. It was a good fight.”
Four drivers led, with Dixon leading twice for the most laps – 44, more than half the race. Pole sitter Castroneves led twice, for 31 laps. Cycling through pits stops put two other drivers up front – Jack Hawksworth/No.41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda for four laps and Sebastien Bourdais/No.11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet for one lap.
With ten laps to go, race leader Dixon turned the fastest race lead lap of 102.877mph/1:08.8670.
Despite the Long Beach 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit being a sometimes problematic course, there was only one full-course caution – for four laps to retrieve the wing from Rookie Gaby Chaves/No.93 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda, which landed in Turn Nine when Hawksworth and Chaves hit. The last time the LBGP race was caution free was in 1989.
The race ran for 80 laps-1:37:35.2353.
Rookie Stefano Coletti/No.4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet finished last, with 69 of the 80 laps completed, as he had to pit with problems. However, he did turn the race’s fastest lap of 104.040 mph/1:08.0969 on Lap 56.
The biggest mover of the race was Rookie Conor Daly, who started 21st and finished 17th on the lead lap. Prior to the race, Daly had about an hour in the car, in a borrowed ill-fitting car seat. He had approximately 35 minutes in Saturday morning practice, ten minutes in qualifying and about half an hour in Sunday morning warm-up.
Daly doesn’t know what this weekend’s ride will mean in terms of a ride for the Indianapolis 500 next month. Sunday morning Dale Coyne told me much the same. He plans on having three cars, but is still working on details.
The next round for the Verizon IndyCar Series Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, 26 April 2015. After that comes the Merry Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course and the Indianapolis 500.
1. (3) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 80, Running
2. (1) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 80, Running
3. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 80, Running
4. (5) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 80, Running
5. (7) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 80, Running
6. (9) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 80, Running
7. (6) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 80, Running
8. (10) Marco Andretti, Honda, 80, Running
9. (12) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 80, Running
10. (11) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 80, Running
11. (8) Graham Rahal, Honda, 80, Running
12. (13) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 80, Running
13. (4) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 80, Running
14. (16) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 80, Running
15. (15) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 80, Running
16. (17) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 80, Running
17. (21) Conor Daly, Honda, 80, Running
18. (20) Takuma Sato, Honda, 80, Running
19. (19) James Jakes, Honda, 80, Running
20. (18) Will Power, Chevrolet, 79, Running
21. (22) Francesco Dracone, Honda, 78, Running
22. (14) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 77, Running
23. (23) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 69, Running
UNOFFICIAL DRIVERS’ POINTS
1-Juan Pablo Montoya – 119
2-Helio Castroneves – 116
3-Tony Kanaan – 93
4-Scott Dixon – 87
5-James Hinchcliffe – 83
6-Will Power – 80
7-Simon Pagenaud – 73
8-Josef Newgarden – 66
9-Sebastien Bourdais – 66
10-Graham Rahal – 62
Professional Photos of Scott Dixon courtesy of Chevrolet Racing.