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Gaynalysis: IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

This week the IZOD IndyCar Series landed on the West Coast for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.  For the official race recap, click here.  Otherwise, hang on for the Ganalysis!

Street races typically fall into one of two catagories:  parades or drama festivals.  Before the race weekend, we were assured it would be a dramatic weekend when Chevrolet announced they would change all of their engines and all would be assessed a 10 spot grid penalty for unapproved engine changes.  This is like half the Miss America contestants receiving a last minute breast implant change before the pageant.  Miss Chevrolet had her fingers crossed that none of her stitches popped on her big day spewing underbody parts and pieces everywhere.

I would normally not discuss in detail the pre-race ceremonies, but Long Beach was a doozy.  What seemed to be an ancient, drunk priest prayed (was it a prayer?  I’m not sure…) and talked of visitors from above, rain, and a bunch of stuff I just got lost on.  He needs to start every race.  Then Taylor Dayne sang the National Anthem.  Does anyone still remember Taylor Dayne?  Has IndyCar fallen so far off the map that she is all the series can get to sing for us?  She’s so irrelevant she’s not even a Z-List celebrity.  She’s in the double letter lists like YY-List.  Next time get a cute kid to sing.  Hopefully the lack of love won’t lead her back.  That said, I do own Taylor Dayne’s Greatest Hits.  Don’t judge me.

Credit Marshall Pruett SpeedTV.com

Because of the engine changes, no Chevy was to start higher than 11th.  This placed Dario Franchitti and rookie Josef Newgarden on the front row.  The likeable and talented Newgarden seemed like an excited kid with a big balloon full of joy.  At the green flag going into turn 1 on lap 1, Newgarden attempts a bold move on the outside of Franchitti for the lead.  BAM!  He ends up in the tires.  Cue the sad, sobbing child with the popped balloon.  Ok, so Newgarden wasn’t crying, but he should’ve been.  Some believe contact was made between Franchitti and Newgarden, but no penalty was assessed.  No matter how this canvas is painted, Newgarden was overly ambitious and ruined a great chance to continue to learn by a dumb move.  Regardless if he was punted or not by Franchitti, he should have never put himself in that position.  If it were the last lap, then his move would’ve been ok.  Rookie lesson of the day:  You can’t win a race in turn 1 of the first lap.

After starting 17th because of others engine changes, we are treated to watching Simona de Silvestro being inhaled by every other non-Lotus entry.  Not to compare Simona or the other Lotus drivers to Milka Duno, but they are all essentially moving chicanes that are as in the way as Duno at Mid-Ohio in front of Danica Patrick.  Is it too early to officially deem them SLOWtus engines?  Or is sLotus better?  Either way, we are shown throughout the race that the Lotus engines are definitely at a disadvantage with top end speed.  It’s that or someone is sneaking old GM “Iron Duke” engines in the Lotus cars the nights before races.

Bourdais brings out the caution on Lap 20 when his Lotus shakes its tail feather a little too much heading into a turn.  Good strippers know you have to control the shaking if your stilettos are low on traction.  Sidenote:  Lotus Bourdais would make an excellent drag queen name.  This caution sets up a restart on Lap 22 which stirs up the real drama.

First we see Alex Tagliani limping into a runoff area with a gimp wheel.  Then, Marco Andretti spins into the tire barriers.  Is his RC Cola spiked?  Graham Rahal’s wing has been clipped and is dragging the ground.  Katherine Legge has buried her nose in the tire barriers.  Gigantic brain farts happening everywhere.  Everyone do the Macarena!  A replay is shown of Andretti attempting an interesting dive-bomb move on Rahal.  It appears Rahal chops Andretti just a little and we have liftoff.  Andretti gets airborne a couple of feet, does a lovely pirouette, then lands shiny side up in the tire.  I give his Double Salchow a 8.5 mainly because he stuck the landing.  As the replay is happening, Mike Conway’s car dies as does Scott Dixon’s.  I’m beginning to think the folks that assembled Fiat’s in the 80’s were hired to screw together the mechanical pieces of this car.  Fix It Again Tony!  As Marco is being interviewed post-wreck my boyfriend, who doesn’t watch IndyCar, looks up from his iPad (he had not been paying attention) and says, “He seems like a jerk.”  Keep that in mind. We will continue on this story further down.

Credit Marshall Pruett SpeedTV.com

The race will stay green the rest of the way with alternate fuel strategies playing out.  Simon Pagenaud is on a 3 stop strategy and Will Power is on a 2 stop strategy.   Pagenaud is hauling ass.  I’d like to take this moment to point out that despite what some people think, the Honda isn’t markedly slower than the Chevy.  The Chevy teams are just better.  The Honda camp is full of 1-car operations and teams that haven’t proven to be winners in a long time.  The speed is there, but the race strategy execution is not.  Nevertheless, Pagenaud catches Power on the last lap, but there isn’t enough time to make a pass and Will Power wins…again.  If winning is porn to Roger Penske, he’s living the life of Hugh Hefner right now.

But, we aren’t done.   Massive brain farts happening again on the last lap.  Ryan Hunter-Reay punts Takuma Sato.  Castroneves drives his nose into the rear-end of fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello in the last turn completely blocking the track.  Both Hunter-Reay and Castroneves receive 30-second penalties dropping their finishing positions.  Somewhere in the world Paul Tracy was watching with glee.

Credit Marshall Pruett SpeedTV.com

So, Will Power wins again, but that isn’t the good stuff.  After the race, a quote from Graham Rahal comes out about Marco saying “What’s Marco’s last name?  I’ve said enough.”  On Monday, Mario tweets to Rahal, “What’s your problem with me?”  Oh, this is classy.  Mario Andretti follows up saying, “Your quote to AP says Marco is an Andretti so enough said.  That insult includes me.  You insulted me to the world & I responded.”  Girl fight!  I was fully expecting the next Tweet to included “your momma” and “I know you are but what am I?”  The fact of the matter is these guys can call each other.  There is absolutely no point in airing a disagreement with one another on Twitter.  The wreck itself was both drivers fault.  A dumb dive-bomb move countered with a chop/block (sounds like the old Parappa the Rapper game on PS1) ended with two wrecked cars.  They both had a right to be frustrated…with themselves.  Point is, don’t bitch on Twitter!  I lost respect for Marco, Graham, and especially Mario.  Mario is older and should be wise enough to know better than to stick his nose in it whether his last name was mentioned or not.  The fans wanting the old glory days of IndyCar to return, a good Rahal/Andretti rivalry should make you smile.

The Team Penske series…I mean IZOD IndyCar series heads to race on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 29th.  The race will be televised live on NBC Sports Network at Noon ET.  The temporary street track features an extremely long back straightaway which should provide lots of passing in the form of lapped Lotus cars.  I sure hope not, but it is probably going to happen.  And, hopefully we get to see Andretti and Rahal kiss and make –out…I mean make-up.

Ross (@therossbynum)