I must say that the 40th running of the Long Beach Grand Prix made for some pretty good theater-the racing was hard fought throughout the field and there were enough incidents to begin inciting the rivalry (or downright hatred) that makes racing so much fun. You know it’s really bad when Justin Wilson, probably the coolest, most polite driver in the paddock, loses it and goes off on Scott Dixon after Dixon shoved Wilson into the wall late in the race. Or how about Simon Pagenaud blasting Will Power for Power hitting him in the race. Pagenaud recovered after minor damage was repaired to finish 5th but Wilson, who was attempting a pass on Dixon and was squeezed into the wall, was out on the spot. Wilson knew that Dixon’s move probably cost him the race since Dixon was in trouble with his fuel and couldn’t finish the race with the fuel he had in his tank, whereas Wilson was good to go on both fuel and tires. Sad that Wilson could not have bagged the win for Dale Coyne’s little team, but you can count on Wilson contending again, maybe not at every race but certainly at most of them.
You certainly have to give Mike Conway and the Ed Carpenter Racing a tip of the hat for winning at Long Beach. During the off-season, Carpenter had made the courageous decision to replace himself in the cockpit of the Fuzzy’s Vodka entry for all the street and road course races with Conway, leaving Ed to focus on the ovals. Since Conway has stated that he will never drive on an oval again and Carpenter is never going to be a force on the road and street courses, it is a sensible decision but one that had to have been tough for Carpenter to make as a driver-but not so much as a team owner! The result is that neither driver is going to contend for the driver’s championship but they clearly are going to be a force to be reckoned with throughout the season. Look for more wins from this team as the 2014 season goes on.
And finally, I just had to save the best for last. Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay got together in turn 4 towards the end of the race. Hunter-Reay had pitted a couple of laps prior to Newgarden, who inherited the lead while Hunter-Reay was getting his car serviced. Newgarden eventually pitted, and when he came out, he was still in the lead, but only barely with Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe and Power all nose to tail and looking for a way around Newgarden, who was dealing with getting his cold tires up to temperature and the correct operating pressures. Some wheelspin on Newgarden’s car on the exit of Turn 3 gave Hunter-Reay a glimmer of hope of getting a pass done prior to the upcoming Turn 4, so he dived to the inside of Newgarden’s car only to run out of room, resulting in the left front tire of Hunter Reay hitting the right rear tire of Newgarden’s car. Predictably, massive carnage ensued with Newgarden, Hunter Reay, Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato, Tony Kannan and Jack Hawksworth being taken out on the spot. Somehow Power managed to avoid the wreckage, but only just. Interestingly, both Hunter-Reay and Newgarden refused to blame the other driver, instead taking the “it was a racing incident” approach. For his part, Hunter-Reay said that he’s a racing driver, he saw a gap and went for it. Was it an optimistic move? Yes. Would I have done the same thing in those circumstances? Probably.
The next race is April 27th at Barber Motorsports Park. Mike Conway will be back, Will Power loves that place, all the Andretti cars seem to be strong, Newgarden is driving well and it is probably time for the Target Chip Ganassi cars to find their pace. Best of all, Pagenaud is pissed at Power, Wilson is furious with Dixon and about a third of the field is pissed at Hunter-Reay. Barber promises to be a fascinating race!