DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing won the 35th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, leading twice for 51 laps. He turned the fastest leading lap of 1:11.8852/98.557 mph on Lap 70 of the 85-lap race. The crowd which saw Franchitti win was larger than last year. Overall the attendance was 175,000 for all three days, up from 170,000 last year.
Franchitti said “I finished second here twice to Ganassi cars, and I learned the secret and won. I had fun on my little holiday for a while (referencing his run at NASCAR) but I’m so glad to be back racing IndyCars.”
Team Owner CHIP GANASSI said “This place is good to us.”
Pole Sitter WILL POWER/No.12 Team Penske finished second after leading the first sixteen laps. During an on track incident, Power – who had no telemetry and faulty communications – heard a partial conversation saying ‘full course yellow’ and he slowed … only to be passed by two cars, as the incident hadn’t brought out the caution. The team had to resort to the old fashioned pit board.
It was a bittersweet finish for the Aussie. Power had been hired as a substitute driver for HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Team Penske, while the Brazilian was involved with his Federal tax evasion and conspiracy court case. Power drove the car in pre-season testing and in the first race at St. Pete, finishing sixth. Friday Castroneves was acquitted of his tax evasion charges and Power turned over the No.3 car to Castroneves Saturday, and drove a third Penske car, No.12. Power will also race it at the Indianapolis 500. Other than that, Power has no ride. Team Owner, ROGER PENSKE, would like to run Power in a third car, but sponsorship is the issue.
Power has been gracious all weekend. “It was tough today. But it’s a great finish, considering all that’s been going on this weekend, switching cars and crews after Helio was able to run. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to run with Team Penske so far”. He said we might see him at Kansas…on the sidelines.
Third finisher was TONY KANAAN/No.11 Andretti Green Racing. His AGR teammate, DANICA PATRICK/No.7 AGR charged from twenty-second to finish fourth, and DAN WHELDON/No.4 Panther Racing was fifth. This is the second race in a row with four different teams having drivers in the top five. Three of the AGR cars were in the top six, with MARCO ANDRETTI/No.26 AGR finishing sixth.
Castroneves finished seventh and was ecstatic. He had been sore Sunday morning after using muscles he hadn’t used in several months, but sunny Sunday afternoon he was feeling no pain, flashing those pearly whites in his trademark smile.
The top Rookie was RAPHAEL MATOS/No.2 Luczo Dragon Racing, in eighth place.
Seven drivers swapped the lead six times: Power, Matos, Kanaan, Andretti, Franchitti, and Castroneves.
RYAN BRISCOE/No.6 Team Penske turned the fastest time of 1:11.2582/99.434 mph on Lap 83. He finished thirteenth.
All the cautions were for contact. No one was injured, but four of the involved cars retired.
It was Franchitti’s ninth IRL victory, first on a street course, and the twenty-fifth for the Ganassi team.
Franchitti leads the points with 84, followed by Power with 69, Briscoe-67, Kanaan-65, and RYAN HUNTER-REAY/No.21 Vision Racing-59, Wheldon-46, Andretti-45, GRAHAM RAHAL/No.2 Newman Haas Lanigan Racing-45, and Patrick-44.
Franchitti said after the race that the Long Beach weekend felt like the good old days of the LBGP. “The stands are getting bigger again, and the fans are loving it, we’re loving being here. The teams and drivers are loving being back. To have that unified series and everything together, it’s cool.”
JIM MICHAELIAN, President of the Grand Prix of Long Beach Association, said that the grandstands were added to look like years before, in hopes the drivers would notice as they went around the track. Obviously, it worked.
The next IndyCar race is next weekend at Kansas Speedway.
1 DARIO FRANCHITTI/Target Chip Ganassi Racing
2 WILL POWER/Team Penske
3 TONY KANAAN/Andretti Green Racing
4 DANICA PATRICK/Andretti Green Racing
5 DAN WHELDON/Panther Racing
6 MARCO ANDRETTI/Andretti Green Racing
7 HELIO CASTRONEVES/Team Penske
8 *RAPHAEL MATOS/Luczo Dragon Racing
9 *ROBERT DOORNBOS/Newman Haas Lanigan Racing
10 ALEX TAGLIANI/Conquest Racing
11 RYAN HUNTER-REAY/Vision Racing
12 GRAHAM RAHAL/Newman Haas Lanigan Racing
13 RYAN BRISCOE/Team Penske
14 VITOR MEIRA/A.J. Foyt Racing
15 SCOTT DIXON/Target Chip Ganassi Racing
16 DARREN MANNING/Dreyer & Reinbold
17 STANTON BARRETT/Team 3G
18 ED CARPENTER/Vision Racing
19 MARIO MORAES/KV Racing Technology
20 HIDEKI MUTOH/Andretti Green Racing
21 *MIKE CONWAY/Dreyer & Reinbold
22 JUSTIN WILSON/Dale Coyne Racing
23 E.J. VISO/HVM Racing