I waited all year and the time finally came for open wheel racing to come back to town in the form of the IZOD Indy Car Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Last Sunday was race day and I was parked in my usual spot in grandstand 29 along the main straight of Shoreline Drive and waited for the cars to come blasting by me at 180mph into turn 1. With 2 races in the season already completed (St Petersberg and Alabama) victories were split between the Target Chip Ganassi team and Penske Team with one each so fans were playing the “Ganassi or Penske” game coming into this weekend. With Will Power scoring pole position it was looking like the round would go to Penske but then we were reminded that Long Beach is a street course and street courses almost always equal chaos.
The first bit of anarchy started when Helio Castroneves spun Justin Wilson by making contact with him in the hairpin coming on to Shoreline Drive. That mishap brought out a full course yellow which bunched up the field and destroyed any gap that Will Power had built up on the rest of the field. A double file restart was attempted once Justin was clear but the drivers caught stage fright and for the most part stayed in a single file line when the race went green again. Ryan Hunter-Reay managed to snag the lead from Will Power but just when Ryan was starting to get used to being out front another incident with EJ Viso and Danica Patrick brought out another full course yellow which again bunched the field back up and killed any gap that the front runners put on the pack.
This time race control made sure the Indy Cars really did make a double file restart when the track went green again. The result of which was everything going wrong! Helio Castroneves struck again but this time he got into his own teammate Will Power causing both to spin around which totally screwed up Team Penske’s day. Then inexplicably Takuma Sato got a flat and ran into the tires just past the convention center, and a few other rookies mysteriously spun out in the same area just after Sato came to a stop. It was all absolute madness. With all the carnage another full course yellow came out and once things were cleaned up they went for the double file restart once again. This time things went more cleanly, yet things still kicked off with a surprize as Alex Tagliani, Dario Franchitti, and Mike Conway all put pressure on front runners Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay on the start. First Tagliani seemed to get the jump on the two Ryans but out of no where Mike Conway makes a move on Dario Franchitti then weaves past Tagliani just as Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car decides to take a dump. Then Conway puts a brilliant move on Briscoe to take the lead in the last 6 laps or so and holds on to take his first ever win in the Indy Car Series! It looks like the rest of the season could turn into a three way battle between Ganassi Racing, Team Penske, and Andretti Autosport!
Scroll down for a few highlights from the race and stay tuned for more Grand Prix posts coming up!