Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing
Simon Pagenaud/No.22 PPG Automotive Finishes Team Penske Chevrolet won the Verizon IndyCar Series race Sunday afternoon at the 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, by a Margin of 0.3032 seconds ahead of Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – the closest IndyCar finish in Long Beach history. The race was caution free, and all 21 cars were running at the finish. The race ran 126.96.36.19935. Average speed 100.592 mph.
The weather was picture perfect, light ocean breezes, clear blue skies, 80 degrees F and track temperature at 121 F.
Pagenaud said “2006 was my first American race right here. So, a lot of memories, you know? But, this one, holding (Scott) Dixon, that’s a lot of work. As you saw, the pit sequence just won it; was just awesome. I don’t know what to say. The PPG car is actually good luck for me. Every time I’m driving this car I get good results.”
The race was noteworthy more for the many records and interesting statistics than from the racing. And then there was the post-race conference.
It wasn’t the most exciting IndyCar race, proving the drivers right when they said it’s difficult to pass on street courses, especially Long Beach. Basically, two passing zones exist – Turn One by the Fountain, and Turn 11 known as the Queen’s Hairpin, leading to the long straight on Shoreline Drive. All the lead changes occurred during Pit Stops. With no cautions, fuel strategy took precedence. And that gave the TV broadcast more air to fill.
There was more drama in the post-race media conference.
There were a total of 51 passes recorded by IndyCar data, which doesn’t breakdown how or where they happened. There were six lead changes among four drivers, all resulting from pit stops: polesitter Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet-twice for 47 laps; Pagenaud-twice for 28 laps; Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet-twice for three laps; and Dixon-once for two laps.
It was Pagenaud’s fifth career victory, his first for Team Penske, and the 179th win for Team Penske-and all four Team Penske cars made the top ten. The Frenchman’s last win was in Houston in 2014.
The last all-green flag IndyCar race was Mid-Ohio in 2013. This is the fourth caution-free race in the history of Long Beach, and that last one was in April 1989. The last IndyCar full-field finish was at Texas in June 2011.
Finishing third and fourth in the 80-lap race were Team Penske Chevrolet teammates, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California and Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Team Penske.
Finishing fifth and top Honda was Takuma Sato/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt.
Josef Newgarden’s Chevrolet
Sixth through tenth were Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Sebastien Bourdais/No.11 California Baptist University-KVSH Chevrolet, and Josef Newgarden/No.21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.
There were no penalties assessed during the race.
Pagenaud was issued an Official Warning by the IndyCar Stewards, for cutting over the yellow Pit Lane line when exiting onto the race track – characterized as some TV pundits as a block on the approaching car of Dixon. The move had been under review. Pagenaud’s actions were deemed “an infraction per Rule 188.8.131.52. “Lane Usage” of the INDYCAR Penalty Guidelines. Mike Hull, Managing Director of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, spoke to the point in a TV interview at the time – “The drivers were told in the Drivers’ Meeting that an exit must be between the lines or a penalty issued.”
Carlos Munoz/No.26 Andretti Autosports Honda was also issued the same Official Warning.
An incident in Turn One between Sato, who had been chasing Montoya, went Under Review. No action taken.
After the race much time in the post-race media conference was spent discussing the Pit Lane Usage. All three podium drivers were asked, the INDYCAR moderator weighed in with the actual wording and INDYCAR issued a statement.
“Simon Pagenaud’s actions during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach were deemed an infraction per Rule 184.108.40.206 “Lane Usage” of the INDYCAR Penalty Guidelines: “Failing to follow designated procedures entering or exiting the pit area, including the proper use of the acceleration and deceleration lanes. The penalty for this infraction ranges from a warning (minimum), putting the driver to the back of the field (mid) and drive-through or stop and go/hold (maximum). INDYCAR Stewards determined Pagenaud’s actions were not deemed severe enough to warrant a harsher penalty than the warning that was issued.”
Pagenaud said “You know, going into the race, I know the rule book, so I know that that line, I know you can take risks. I know you can get on the limit. It’s just racing at the end of the day, and quite frankly, like I said, another inch to the right wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the race.”
Castroneves said “I will not go into that. I don’t know. I don’t remember to be honest what they said. But certainly in practice we have to look — what we’ve got to do. I don’t recall.I will not go into that. In practice we have to look. I don’t recall. Do you guys have a question for me or not, because I’m not going to be discussing about the rules.”
Dixon said “Rules are rules and I just hate it when they get changed. This one is always clear. You could not put more than two wheels over the line and I thought we were clear on that. Obviously that scenario was a lot closer than we anticipated, and then when we got to Turn 1, it appeared that Simon turned a little early and crossed the line that you’re not meant to cross. But it is what it is, so second place today.”
Other quotable quotes.
Castroneves said “I had Push To Pass at the end, but couldn’t use it to save fuel.”
Roger Penske said, referring to Sunday’s sixth victory at Long Beach – “Now we’re tied with Ganassi – six each. Now we’re even.”
Chip Ganassi said “It was obviously a questionable call. I like the NASCAR rule – there’s a camera there. They’ve got a new group of Stewards up in the booth, and they have a difficult job. I’ll have a discussion and probably learn something I didn’t know.”
Sato said “It was nearly side by side at the finish line. We had a difficult passing session. I saved Push To Pass for the end.” He ended up with a left hand blister from all the driving action.
There was a lot of talk about the race being too short, the need for more pit stops and/or cautions, etc.
Graham Rahal/No.15 PennGrade Oil Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda 17th and finished 15th. “I made some mistakes today. We coasted across the finish line with no fuel. We need to make some changes (in the race) – make it longer, more pit stops, more action for the fans, not just cruising around. We needed a yellow flag.”
Hinchcliffe agreed with Rahal about the races. He said “Let’s go racing – longer racing, three pit stops, more action.”
Kanaan said “The race was a bit boring with no cautions. They (the fans) deserve a little bit better. It was a bit of a fuel race near the end to save gas. Maybe extend the race a little bit.”
The crowds have been stout. The good weather no doubt enhanced the viewer excitement along with it having the last-ever Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Jim Michaelian, President of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, will never give out actual attendance figures, but he hasn’t stopped smiling all weekend. After the race, he said it was a good weekend … a great weekend. Michaelian was a hands-on overseer all weekend, as he whizzed around the track – when he wasn’t strolling here and there, checking and observing. The ubiquitous TV remotes spoke of crowds reaching 180,000 for the weekend, and upwards of 80,000 on race day.
VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES Race Results
POS DRIVER MANUFACTURER LAPS
1 Simon Pagenaud Chevrolet 80
2 Scott Dixon Chevrolet 80
3 Helio Castroneves Chevrolet 80
4 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 80
5 Takuma Sato Honda 80
6 Tony Kanaan Chevrolet 80
7 Will Power Chevrolet 80
8 James Hinchcliffe Honda 80
9 Sebastien Bourdais Chevrolet 80
10 Josef Newgarden Chevrolet 80
11 Charlie Kimball Chevrolet 80
12 Carlos Munoz Honda 80
13 Conor Daly (R) Honda 80
14 Max Chilton (R) Chevrolet 80
15 Graham Rahal Honda 80
16 Mikhail Aleshin Honda 80
17 Luca Filippi Honda 80
18 Ryan Hunter-Reay Honda 80
19 Marco Andretti Honda 79
20 Alexander Rossi (R) Honda 79
21 Jack Hawksworth Honda 77
UNOFFICIAL VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES STANDINGS
POS DRIVER PTS
1 PAGENAUD, Simon 134
2 DIXON, Scott 120
3 MONTOYA, Juan Pablo 108
4 CASTRONEVES, Helio 92
5 KANAAN, Tony 82
6 SATO, Takuma 73
7 HUNTER-REAY, Ryan 68
8 POWER, Will 62
9 RAHAL, Graham 59
10 KIMBALL, Charlie 58
UNOFFICIAL SUNOCO ROOKIE STANDINGS
POS DRIVER PTS
1 Max Chilton 55
2 Conor Daly 49
3 Alexander Rossi 44
4 Spencer Pigot 16