WE’RE COMING

LBGP Podium

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.”

Scott Dixon

Helio Castroneves

Juan Pablo Montoya

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.”

Dixon leading Castroneves

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.

OFFICIAL RESULTS
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

Scott Dixon

Professional Photos of Scott Dixon courtesy of Chevrolet Racing.

DIXON WINS LBGP

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon.No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet won the Verizon IndyCar Series feature race at the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. His Margin of Victory over pole sitter Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet was 2.2221 seconds. It was his first win at Long Beach and thirty-sixth in IndyCar. This puts Dixon fifth on the all-time list. Team Owner Chip Ganassi garnered his ninty-eighth victory. Dixon jumped 11 spots in the standings, and is now fourth – unofficially.

Third and fourth were two more drivers in the Penske Posse – Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet. They had a fierce race, with Pagenaud trying every which way to pass the wide Montoya. Pagenaud said he didn’t expect his teammate to give him any break.

Fifth was Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Sixth and seventh were Sebastien Bourdais/No.11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet and Josef Newgarden/No.67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet – the top two drivers not with one of The Big Three Teams. Bourdais made the second biggest move of the race, coming from ninth to sixth.

The top seven drivers were Chevrolets, with eight of the top ten sporting the bow tie emblem. Marco Andretti/No.25 Snapple and teammate Carlos Munoz/No.26 AndrettiTV Cinsay were the top Hondas in eighth and ninth. Tenth was Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

The lead was swapped several times, mostly among Chevrolet drivers. The lone Honda driver to lead, during pit stop cycling, was Jack Hawksworth/No.41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing.

Gaby Chaves was the top Rookie, finishing sixteenth.

There was one full-course caution, for a wing being knocked off Chaves car by Hawksworth. Hawksworth continued, but Chaves had to pit.

There was a record crowd in brilliant Long Beach warm and sunny weather, with sea breezes.

Unofficially, Montoya continues to lead the points, with Castroneves three points behind.

The Media Center TV monitor gave out three laps from the end, depriving the assemblage the drama and glory of the finish and Victory Circle. One savvy journo had the NBCSN app through his local cable company and was able to watch what the rest could not.

Eighteen of the 23 starters finished on the lead lap.

MORE TO FOLLOW.

DIXON WINS LBGP

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon.No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet won the Verizon IndyCar Series feature race at the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. His Margin of Victory over pole sitter Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet was 2.2221 seconds. It was his first win at Long Beach and thirty-sixth in IndyCar. This puts Dixon fifth on the all-time list. Team Owner Chip Ganassi garnered his ninty-eighth victory. Dixon jumped 11 spots in the standings, and is now fourth – unofficially.

Third and fourth were two more drivers in the Penske Posse – Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet. They had a fierce race, with Pagenaud trying every which way to pass the wide Montoya. Pagenaud said he didn’t expect his teammate to give him any break.

Fifth was Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Sixth and seventh were Sebastien Bourdais/No.11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet and Josef Newgarden/No.67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet – the top two drivers not with one of The Big Three Teams. Bourdais made the second biggest move of the race, coming from ninth to sixth.

The top seven drivers were Chevrolets, with eight of the top ten sporting the bow tie emblem. Marco Andretti/No.25 Snapple and teammate Carlos Munoz/No.26 AndrettiTV Cinsay were the top Hondas in eighth and ninth. Tenth was Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

The lead was swapped several times, mostly among Chevrolet drivers. The lone Honda driver to lead, during pit stop cycling, was Jack Hawksworth/No.41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing.

Gaby Chaves was the top Rookie, finishing sixteenth.

There was one full-course caution, for a wing being knocked off Chaves car by Hawksworth. Hawksworth continued, but Chaves had to pit.

There was a record crowd in brilliant Long Beach warm and sunny weather, with sea breezes.

Unofficially, Montoya continues to lead the points, with Castroneves three points behind.

The Media Center TV monitor gave out three laps from the end, depriving the assemblage the drama and glory of the finish and Victory Circle. One savvy journo had the NBCSN app through his local cable company and was able to watch what the rest could not.

Eighteen of the 23 starters finished on the lead lap.

UNSUNG HEROES

TURN 12

There are more than 300 SCCA volunteer race marshals and officials working the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Many of them have worked many of these events dating back to the F5000 and F1 days – an annual trek. They come from SCCA Regions up and down the West Coast, from across the country, and from abroad. Such is the lure of The Beach. They all pay their own way, buy their uniforms, and work long hours in a variety of specialties. Their day starts before sunrise four days in a row, and with the late night Drifting Demonstrations, some work until 10pm. All for the love of the sport.

Thank you one and all!

Bill Galey

SCCA Marshals

SCCA Pit Lane Marshals

Fire Safety Marshal

Peter West Ambulance Marshal

Pit Lane Marshals

Cal Club Tow Truck

FIRESTONE FEMALES

Susie Jensen

Cara Adams & Lisa Boggs

Cara Adams

Firestone Tires has been involved with indy car racing for the past 21 years, and 14 years of those as the Official Tire with the series now known as the Verizon IndyCar Series. It is also the Official Tire of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Three females work with Firestone Racing in top key positions: Cara Adams, Senior Project Engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports; Susie Jensen, who works as a Tire Technician for Performance Tire Service Company – a contractor of Bridgestone Tire; and Lisa Boggs, Director of Bridgestone Americas Motorsports.

All three females say that the Bridgestone team as a whole are absolutely accepting of a female in their midst, working along side with them. There have been females all along at the Firestone Bridgestone company, even on the technical side.

It is unique in motorsports as a whole and IndyCar in particular to have females working on the engineering/technical level. For a long time Adams was the only female in IndyCar working on that level. “It has one advantage in that you look different so people remember you better.”

Cara Adams started with Firestone Racing in 2008 and before that she worked as an engineer in Tire Dynamics at Firestone. Adams knew she wanted to work in racing. “Shortly after I started there, I found the manager in Racing and let him know I was very interested in racing. I asked him what his ideal engineer looked like. Then I went out and got text books and studied hard.” Adam’s said her goal was to do so well that he would have no choice but to hire her. It worked.

Cara Adams

Back at the office, Adams’ main role is tire development. She designs tire construction and her lead project is super speedway/oval tracks. When she’s at the track, she works with the teams to ensure they have all the tire data that they need. In Pit Lane, when they come in for a Pit Stop, Adams check tire temperature and gather other data. In general she works with all the teams, but on occasion she spends time with an individual team. After the session Adams and Jensen will talk with the teams and the engineers, to get their feedback which is helpful to maintain the Firestone quality. Adams said “We’re constantly evolving our product, making sure we have the best quality product.”

Susie Jensen

Susie Jensen is currently a Tire Technician with Firestone, having been in this role for the past ten years. Before that she worked with CART and ChampCar in Logistics. In her current role, Jensen is assigned to specific cars for the weekend, working on the cold side of the wall. All the data she collects is proprietary to that team, such as tire temperature, measurements, probes, etc. This information is shared with the Bridgestone engineers who work with all the teams. Jensen absolutely loves her job and gets on well with all the guys. She’s just one of them.

The tire data Jensen gathers is extrapolated and analyzed by Adams.

Adams said “We actually have great relationships with the teams where we have non-disclosure agreements. We all work together well. They share data freely about their specific car – about what is going on in the Pit Lane; but we would never share specific data between teams.”

Both Adams and Jensen wear fire suits during the race, as required in the Pit Lane, but they don’t go over the wall, so aren’t required to wear helmets. Adams said “Our role is more monitoring, making sure the tires are ready, right pressure, that the tires look reasonable.”

Lisa Boggs

Lisa Boggs has been with Bridgestone the past two years. She has been in motorsports for nearly 20 years, starting with Marlboro, Roger Penske and Al Unser Jr. in IndyCar. Boggs collaborates with everyone on the Bridgestone team, as well as IndyCar. She has no engineering background, so her resume includes a lot of marketing and communications in motorsports in general and specifically in IndyCar. This brings a different perspective to the Director role. Boggs works with Dale Harrigle, Bridgestone Americas Motorsports Chief Engineer and Manager of Race Tire Development, as well as Adams and her crew “to make sure we’re doing everything we need to do for the competition standpoint as well as the business and marketing standpoint. I’m just the one who’s making sure everyone gets what he/she needs.

Firestone Tire Display

This weekend Firestone has its street course tires, the same compounds as last year, with a Prime specification and an Alternate specification, aka Option. Those are known as Reds. These tires are used at all the street courses, such as Toronto, St Petersburg, anywhere where there is a temporary street circuit. Street courses are a bit different as they tend to be a little bit bumpy, and have surface changes between concrete and asphalt. A race tire is needed which can handle those conditions.

“What we do in the Verizon IndyCar Series is to meet the overall objectives of the Bridgestone brand, to ensure that we’re working with the teams and competition to bring the best product for the best racing. One of the fan things is the tire display in front of the Bridgestone tire compound, with the Long Beach street tires and story boards explaining their differences and similarities. And the point is made that these street tires, with all their engineering and testing, can be purchased at a local dealership, with a coupon from the Bridgestone booth in Fan Village.

SCENE SEEN

Josef Newgarden

Sunday morning warm-up for the Verizon IndyCar Series at the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is not just about who goes what speed during the half-hour session, but also running checks, practicing pit stops, and seeing and being seen.

Josef Newgarden/No.67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet was the fastest driver on course, at 1:07.8940. Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet was second. Pagenaud hit the wall which brought out the Red Flag and the clock ran out the session. Just before, Newgarden brushed the wall. Both cars are fixable.

Gaby Chaves was third and the top Rookie, driving No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda.

Pole sitter Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet was ninth.

Conor Daly/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda ran twentieth overall. This was only his third session in the car this weekend. When he was tapped Saturday morning to fill the seat vacated by an injured Rocky Moran, Jr.

Sarah Fisher

Arrow Corvette

Sam Schmidt

With Daly not driving the IndyCar Experience two-seater IndyCar, this left an opening, which was filled by IndyCar team co-owner, Sarah Fisher. She has driven the two-seater cars in the past, which give VIP rides. Driving the other two-seaters are Mario Andretti and Zak Veach.

Having a ride of another nature, IndyCar co-owner, Sam Schmidt, drove a special Arrow Corvette in the Mother’s Exotic Car Parade.

The weather just got better as the morning came along. Blue cloudless skies, warm and sunny with a moderate breeze. It’s said that it has never rained on the Long Beach Grand Prix – the Sunday race.

Sage Karem

Sage Karem

Takumo Sato

Bobby Rahal

Ed Carpenter

Tony George

GOOD MORNING LONG BEACH! JONES WINS LIGHTS RACE

EJ Viso

The day started early Sunday at the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, with the first race for the SPEED Energy Off-Road Series. This is the series which started at Long Beach two years ago and has continued to grow. This year the series was invited to run at the Clipsal V8 race in Adelaide, Australia and proved so popular the series has already been invited back for the 2016 Clipsal. One of the occasional drivers in the series is EJ Viso, who is enjoying the truck series but would really like to get back into the Verizon Indy Car Series.

The weather continues to be sunny, warm with clear blue skies and a breeze to temper the heat. Couldn’t have been better had the Chamber of Commerce ordered it.

Sunday is a good people-watching day – to see and be seen. Scene Seen.

Gordon Kirby & Katie Brennan

Kevin Kalkhoven

Robin Miller & Beaux Barfield

Bob Varsha

Mike Hull

Mark Miles

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire Series was the next race Sunday morning – this time starting at 8:30am PDT, earlier than ever before. The packed LBGP schedule has something going every single moment.

Jack Harvey/No.42 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports had the Indy Lights pole after a hard fight with several other contenders, swapping the lead lap after lap. Harvey’s time was 1:12.0405/98.345 mph. Others pushing him were Rookie Spencer Pigot/No.12 Juncos Racing; Rookie Ed Jones/No.11 Carlin, making its first foray into American motorsports; Kyle Kaiser/No.18 Juncos Racing; and Rookie Max Chilton/No.14 Carlin.

The top five on the grid were Harvey, Pigot, Kaiser, Jones and Rookie Felix Serrales/No.4 Belardi Auto Racing.

The race didn’t get off to the best start. Two cars hit in the first turn Kaiser and Harvey hit. Neither car finished. Then Juan Piedrahita/No.5 Belardi Auto Racing spun bringing out the first full course yellow. Not to be outdone, Jones spun a series of neat doughnuts before continuing – and then worked back up to first place. Scott Anderson/No.77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/Curb-Agajanian spun and continued while running fifth. Another full course yellow came out when Piedrahita and Harvey drove off into the Turn 11 tire walls. they had to be towed and were out.The race was scheduled for 45 laps or one hour.

Jones won the race which ended being timed, with 42 laps of the scheduled 45. Second through fifth were Pigot, Serralles, Rookie RC Enerson/No.7Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian; and Chilton. Nine of the 12 starters finished the race. Matthew Brabham/No.83 Andretti Autosport DNF with mechanical problems.

The Verizon Indy Car Series has its thirty-minute warm up mid-morning, which will be followed by the Mothers Exotic Car Parade, and another SPEED Truck race.

After the noon break all the pomp, circumstance and pre-race festivities begin for the IndyCars. That race is 80 laps or two hours. But the day won’t be over. There will then be a Drifting Demonstration and the Pirelli World Challenge Race. Something for everyone, and there seems like a lot of everyones are filling the grandstands and on the ground all around the circuit.

HELIO – DANCING WITH A STAR

Castroneves Wins Long Beach Pole

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet set a new qualifying record Saturday afternoon – for the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix and for the Verizon IndyCar Series, turning a time of 1:06.6294/106.331mph, to score the Verizon P1 Award. The weather was vintage Long Beach – sunny, blue and 72 – and a track temperature of 119 degrees Farenheit.

Castroneves’ Penske teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was second fastest, and a third Penske driver, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet was fifth.

Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing was third, followed by the lone Honda in the top Six – Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Honda. Sixth fastest was the only non-Big Three driver, Josef Newgarden/No.67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet.

Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda was the top Rookie, in seventeenth place.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Scott Dixon

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Simon Pagenaud

Josef Newgarden

Gabby Chaves

The fourth Penske driver, Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet had a disappointing time in the penultimate qualifying segment for the top 12 drivers. As he was readying to go out for a fast lap with a minute+ remaining, the Red Flag was thrown for Stefano Coletti/No.4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet. The Rookie spun and hit the wall, spreading debris on course. The clock kept running and time ran out for Power, who was expected to be a top pole position contender.

Power was obviously sad but philosophical rather than bitter, as might be expected. He will discuss strategy with his team Saturday night. “We have plenty of red tires for Sunday’s race.”

Helio Castroneves

This is Castroneves’ first pole at Long Beach since 2001… not 1986 as joked by RHR. And, it is his 42nd career open wheel pole position, making him fourth on the all-time list. The record he broke was set ten years ago, by Sebastien Bourdais with a time of 1:06.886, and he won that race. The current 1.986-mile, 11-turn configuration has been in place since 2000.

The two oldest, most veteran drivers are starting side by side on the front row, an observation not unnoticed by the two. They are now only separated by nine points in the Drivers’ Standings – JPM has 84 points, and now with the Bonus Point for pole position, Castroneves is at 75 points.

Montoya, almost 40, was Champion in 1999, while Castroneves, 40, has been runner-up four times. The two joked about each other, with back and forth banter. Castroneves called Montoya Gordito and so it went – size and age didn’t matter, JPM’s edge on downforce, etc. There definitely is levity and chemistry among the Penske Posse.

The times started falling early on in the first of four separate qualifying sessions. Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet set a new track record in the first session, of 1:06.7442. That time held until Castroneves went faster in the Firestone Fast Six session, small consolation to the ebullient Brazilian, who barely missed out making it into the last session.

Castroneves said “For us we keep pushing. The guys changed a lot overnight and we started today like the beginning of the weekend. With Roger as strategist, we’re spot on. The track is pretty much the same, but the cars are different. So we’re a second faster this year. Those are the difficult challenges we all have now.” He said he missed his ‘rabit ears’ part of the aero kit which IndyCar mandated removed for this weekend “It affected us. But, we gotta dance according to the music.”

“We’ve got a ton of power” said JPM, speaking of his new Chevrolet aero kit. “We spent two days trying to figure it out, and then just put it back the way we started and things were good. Welcome to motor racing.”

Dixon said “We seemed to do really good on the black (primary) tires. With the time difference with the red tires (alternate/option) but we just didn’t find it. Long Beach is always a tough one and strategy is definitely going to be top of the mind.”

RHR said “It’s great to be back in Long Beach. That was pressure-packed. This is another step forward with this new Honda aero package, and I think it’s obvious you can see it. We’re making steps and I think we just keep chipping away at it and we’ll be able to close that gap (to the Penske team.)

Pagenaud is less verbose and more reticent than his Penske Pals. “We’ve been fast in every practice. Team Penske did a great job. Overall, it’s been a good weekend so far. Hope it stays that way tomorrow.”

Newgarden, the new kid on the block at 24+, said “We had a pretty disastrous practice one here, we tried something different that didn’t work. We recovered really well as a group, got ourselves some speed again. Finally got into the (Firestone) Fast Six, we’re happy about that. We’re still tweaking our tire strategy to get better and catch Penske. Gotta keep developing, and it won’t be a Penske runaway. It will be a dogfight at the end of the season.”

In the first Qualifying session, four drivers received action from IndyCar. Fastest driver Kanaan and Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’ Shake Honda were given a warning for “Qualifying Interference.” James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda and Conor Daly/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda had their fastest qualifying laps eliminated for “Driving too fast in a local yellow zone.”

Kanaan will start seventh, Rahal starts eighth, Hinchcliffe will be thirteenth on the grid, and Rookie Conor Daly – in only his second session in the car this weekend – starts twenty-first. He got the call from team owner Dale Coyne while he was at breakfast Saturday morning in the Honda tent, minutes before the morning practice session. Daly ended up borrowing a car seat from Marco Andretti/No.25 Snapple Honda.

The IndyCar live telecast begins at 1pm PDT/4pm EDT. The broadcast team includes play-by-play with Brian Till, along with analysts (indy drivers) Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit Reporters are Kevin Lee, Robin Miller, Marty Snider and Kelly Stavast. Paul Page will call the race on the IMS Radio Network, with (former indy driver) Davey Hamilton as analyst.

Castroneves Wins Long Beach Verizon P1 Award

Castroneves car and Castroneves Award photos courtesy of Chevrolet Racing.

SIMON SAYS AND DALY REPLACES MORAN

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental was the latest Team Penske driver to top the charts, Saturday morning in the third/final practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series at the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Frenchman’s fastest lap was 1:07.0304. Six drivers best the fastest Friday time of 1:07.5485, set by Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske.

Second and third were also Penske drivers – Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet; and Power. Fourth and fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; and new this season and with Ganassi, Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Roger Penske

Penske Truck Rental sign

Simon Pagenaud

Again, Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’ Shake Honda was the top Honda in sixth place, up one position from Friday.

Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda was the fastest Rookie, in fourteenth position.

All of the 23 IndyCar drivers were faster Saturday than Friday. Fifteen drivers were in the 1:07’s, and all the remaining drivers, save Francesco Dracone/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing, were in the 1:08’s.

Conor Daly & Dale Coyne

The big news Saturday morning was young open wheeler Conor Daly replacing Rocky Moran, Jr in the No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. It couldn’t have been better scripted. Daly was tapped literally 45 minutes before the 10am PDT session, when it was learned that Moran’s sore left hand was actually a fractured thumb, in a cast, leaving Moran unable to drive.

Moran had a brush with Carlos Munoz/No.26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda Friday afternoon in Turn One, and Moran hit the wall. He held onto the steering wheel and the left hand was sore all night. Saturday morning it wasn’t any better. Moran had another x-ray, which showed a crack. Moran will now be in a cast for six weeks.

For Moran to race would require gripping the steering wheel, which could pull out the joint and the hand would never be the same.

Rocky Moran's broken left hand

Rocky Moran & Dale Coyne

Conor Daly in car

Conor Daly's helmet

Daly left his hotel Saturday morning for the track to drive the IndyCar two-seater car as he has done this weekend. It was there in the IndyCar compound he was asked to drive the No.18 Honda. Daly is wearing his GP2 driver’s suit and the helmet he wore for Schmidt Peterson Racing.

Team Owner, Dale Coyne, said it was close to time for IndyCar practice when he had to find a new driver. It was an easy choice for him, with Daly available and track knowledgable – this weekend and in the past.

Derek Daly

Daly’s father, Derek Daly, said he didn’t know about it until after his son got in the car.

IndyCar qualifying starts Saturday at 2pm PDT and will be televised live on NBCSN.

RIVETING RUNS

Ricky Taylor

The Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase Round Three qualifying session was riveting, especially the last few laps of the Prototype category.

In the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Series Prototype class, young Ricky Taylor/No.10 Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet and veteran/multi-time champion, Scott Pruett/No. 01 Ford swapped fastest laps four times. Both times Pruett bested Taylor’s top lap; and the kid came back and beat Pruett at his own game. It was drama. It was theater.

Taylor prevailed and took the pole with a lap of 1:14.790/94.729 mph – a new track record, ahead of Pruett’s 1:1:048. It was Taylor’s eleventh pole position. He shares driving duties with his younger brother, Jordan, and they race for their father, sports car champion Wayne Taylor.

Third in Prototypes was Christian Fittipaldi/No.5 Action Express Chevrolet at 1:15.274.

Taylor said “Track position is so important. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a pole. We were really quick and I was fastest in the final practice before qualifying by a little bit.”

The top six Prototype qualifiers were faster than last year’s pole sitter.

Bill Auberlen

In the hotly contested GTLM class, wily and admittedly old Bill Auberlen/No.25 BMW Z4 GTE took the pole at 1:17.268 – also a track record. Second and third were John Edwards/No.24 BMW Z4 GTE at 1:17.516 and Giancarlo Fisichella/No.62 Ferrari F458 Italia at 17.709. Auberlen admitted to being 46 years old and racing against youngsters barely out of diapers – in their twenties. Driving like he stole it, Auberlen was described as “dirt-tracking his car around several corners, running right on the edge.”

Fisichella really pulled it out of the hat. He hit a tire wall during the last moments of the final practice session right before qualifying.

Fifteen of the seventeen entries were out in qualifying.

The TUDOR series won’t have any warm-up, which means the next time the 17 cars are on track will be for Saturday’s race at 4:05pm PDT.

The Pirelli World Challenge Series has the largest field of the Grand Prix weekend – forty cars, spread through two classes – GT (32) and GTC (8).

Veteran and champion driver, Peter Cunningham/No.42 RealTime/Acura Motorsports/HPD/Acura TLX-GT was the fastest overall and GT driver, at 1:20.274/82.257mph. This was better than the existing track record of 1:20.386/88.134 mph set last year by Johnny O’Connell in a Cadillac CTS-V.R.

Also besting his last year’s record lap was Johnny O’ again in the Cadillac.

Colin Thompson/No.11 Porsche of Bucks County/PenVal/Porsche 911 GT3 CUP was the fastest GTC driver, at 1:23.926/84.417 mph, in thirty-third overall. No records were broken in this class.

PWC qualifies first thing Saturday morning and then has the rest of day off and also much of Sunday. Its “Roar by the Shore presented by Replay XD” race will run at 4:30pm PDT Sunday, after the IndyCar race and Drifting Demonstration.

Jim Michaelian

Everyone loves coming to the Long Beach race, for a variety of reasons. Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – History; Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’ Shake Honda – People; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet – Events. Rahal said he was impressed by the numbers he saw, and hearing that sales were good. He hoped for a crowd even bigger than last year’s good crowd.

Taylor said ““Long Beach is a really special event. It’s only our second year here and there’s already a crowd like I’ve never seen before. It’s a really cool atmosphere. Everyone wants to be on pole and win here.”

Auberlen said “You can feel the energy here. This is my home track. For me, this place is my crown jewel, racing in front of my friends and family. This is the 41st Grand Prix of Long Beach, and I was here for the first one, watching as a kid.”

All music to the ears of Jim Michaelian, President of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach.