The start should have told us this would be an interesting race. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach presented one of the best races in its 34 year Indycar history. In the end, another small team won, the large teams had various issues, and Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais increased his point lead. Do not adjust your screen. That last statement is correct. The race breakdown:
What happened to pole sitter Helio Castroneves at the green? He usually gets a good jump when he’s on pole for a race, but it appeared he was surprised they threw the green flag and was sixth going into the first turn. I can’t remember the last time the pole winner didn’t lead a lap. His day got worse with two speeding penalties on his last pit stop.
I knew trouble was coming when I saw Charlie Kimball and Will Power side by side going into turn 4. Kimball seems to be involved whenever there’s a crash lately. I keep going back and forth on who was at fault, but I think Will should have backed off knowing who he was next to. He would have passed him later. Kimball this season has taken out Graham Rahal early at St. Pete and now Will Power at Long Beach. Last year at Watkins Glen, Kimball clashed with both drivers, ending their day.
The early yellow changed strategies. Five laps were added to the race distance to make this a three stop race and allow the drivers to race without saving fuel. The first lap caution effectively ended that idea. Some teams opted to stick with three stops, others went with two. James Hinchcliffe only stopped twice and won. Ryan Hunter-Reay also \ made only two stops and was in position for a runner-up spot when electrical issues with six laps to go took him out of the race. More on the Andretti team woes in a minute.
Simon Pagenaud had the drive of the day. Forced to start last because of a qualifying penalty, the defending series champion drove to a fifth place finish. Passing people in the pits doesn’t account for all the position improvements. He found his way around cars on the track.
The podium was Hinchcliffe, Bourdais, and Josef Newgarden, getting his first podium as a Team Penske driver. Bourdais now has a win and a second place in the young season. He needs to extend his lead some more at Barber with two ovals coming up after the Alabama race.
All four Andretti cars failed to finish. Marco Andretti had an engine failure; Takuma Sato, Alexander Rossi, and Ryan Hunter-Reay all had electrical failures. Electronic issues seem to plague this team a lot. Last year at Pocono Hunter-Reay was on his way to victory when a power hiccup caused a momentary stall on the backstretch.
This is the first time since 2013 that neither a Penske nor a Ganassi car won the first two races of the season, and the first time since 2008 that an Andretti, Penske, or Ganassi hasn’t won either of the first two.
Honda still waiting to win a road course pole. It may happen at Barber.
Zach Veach will drive car 40 for A. J. Foyt in the Indianapolis 500.
Jack Harvey secured a ride for the 500 with Andretti Autosport in car 50.
The car count for the Indianapolis 500 is now 29.
Greatest 33 Non-Winners
I’ll be back later this week with an update on the project. If you’re doing a grid, please send them to me by April 30.