What We Learned from Long Beach 2018

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The Big Picture:  The Grand Prix of Long Beach is the ultimate Spring Break for gearheads. It is second only to the Indianapolis 500 in prestige races in the Verizon IndyCar series.

Event: This is the oldest street course event in the United States, started by Chris Pook in 1975 as a Ford 5000 race. It became a Formula One race the following year, and then a CART/IndyCar race in 1984. It consistently draws at least 200,000 who watch races over an about 2-mile street course of breathtaking waterfront real estate.

Qualifying: The dominance shown by Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi in this race was clearly in evidence as the Formula One refugee took pole. Penske Racing’s Will Power qualified a solid second to Rossi.

Race: It was really Alexander Rossi all day. While there were five race leaders, none of the drivers not named Alexander led more than six laps total. Former race winner Simon Pagenaud was taken out by Graham Rahal before Turn One. Talented rookie Robert Wickens had technical difficulties throughout the day. Strangely, veteran Scott Dixon was out performed by his new teammate Ed Jones. In other words, this contest conclusively introduced that this is a new generation for IndyCar.

Biggest Surprise: Long Beach results generally favor drivers with heavy experience at the 2-mile circuit. Prior winners are heavily favored. Not this time in either case.

Biggest Disappointment: Only two. If you like races with little suspense with only one obvious winner, this was your kind of event. There was little suspense. And, as we have previously mentioned, the lack of the Mazda Road to Indy series’ presence seems to be a waste of a good street circuit.

Best Team: It’s got to be Andretti Autosport. They finished first, fourth, sixth, and 20th. Good job.

Worst Team: Dale Coyne Racing, and it wasn’t always their fault. Sebastien Bourdais made one of the most incredible passes we’ve ever seen. When series officials penalized him, he was able to retake the same position with barely breaking a sweat. But, their rookie with a check, Zachary Claman De Melo crashed and brought out a yellow which ruined Bourdais’ race. Boo.

Sponsor of the Weekend: Toyota has sponsored the Grand Prix of Long Beach since 1980, the longest continuous corporate sponsorship of a sporting event.

 Quote of the Weekend – ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I think the Watkins Glen car was pretty close to the car we had today, but man this Andretti Autosport team and the NAPA Know How crew. It’s unbelievable to win at Long Beach. I can’t really put into words how good the car was all weekend. I think we proved that and I’m just so glad we were able to capitalize and nothing crazy happened. It’s been a great weekend all around, we announced Crown Royal as a partner, and then we put the NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda in victory lane, getting the win that I think the Military To Motorsports car should have had last weekend in Phoenix. On top of it all, I got to win in my home state of California in front of all my family and friends. It’s a good feeling right now.”

Runner-Up Quote of the Week – WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Man, that was just absolutely driving as hard as I could go. On the restarts, I couldn’t get close. I think the Verizon Team Penske car had better top end, but their drive out of the hairpins was really good. I thought I might have a chance, but the thing is with this push-to-pass system is you can use two or three seconds and really look after it out of each corner and you get almost the same benefit. I think they should go back to 10 hits only and then you would see some passing.”

What We Learned:  Some Long Beach races can be a little boring because of dominance of one team or driver. Even usually terrific street racers like Graham Rahal can have bad luck and still finish fifth. Long Beach is still a very good place to enjoy great weather, drinking, and attractive singles even if the race isn’t competitive as usual.

Schedule: Only a week before the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsport Park on April 22rd. It will also feature Mazda Road to Indy races within the weekend program.

Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.

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