Author: Chris Ellis
This weekend’s 2012 Long Beach Grand Prix brought open wheel racing back to Southern California for the first time this season. It was the third race of the IZOD Indycar series and was temporarily slowed by a heavy April storm on Friday that sidelined the cars for almost the entire day. But the sun broke out on Saturday and Team Penske’s Will Power captured his 17th Indycar victory. Power moved up from the 12th spot on the grid to take the checkered flag on Sunday afternoon, keeping his team a perfect 3-0 through the first three races of the IZOD Indycar season.
”After last week [referring to his last win at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 1], you can never say never, but I thought it would be very tough to win the race,” Power said in his post race press conference. ”We worked hard, we got a penalty, and we overcame it. I’ve been trying to win here for four years.”
Power initially qualified second for Sunday’s race but was penalized, along with 10 other Chevrolet cars for changing their engines prior to reporting to the Grand Prix. The Chevy cars surrendered 10 places in their qualifying positions, allowing Dario Franchitti to take the pole alongside rookie James Newgarden who had originally qualified 12th. Newgarden ran into trouble on the first lap, smashing into the tire wall while he attempted to pass Franchitti on turn one.
”I just got touched on the exit, went right to the wall. Maybe it wasn’t the right move,” Newgarden said in his post race press conference. ”I thought I had a good run on him and got a good jump on him. Maybe I probably should have just-it’s a tough call.”
Franchitti could not hold onto the lead for long, falling back into the middle of the pack, and eventually made contact with Ryan Briscoe, essentially ending Franchitti’s race.
It was a tough race for his entire Target Chip Ganassi Racing Team who also had trouble with teammate Scott Dixon’s car. Dixon abruptly stalled on the main straightaway under caution, causing some confusion and delay between his crew and the other drivers.
Near the halfway mark of the race there was a scary collision between Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal which included one of their cars launching off the side of the other, causing massive damage to both cars and knocking them out of the race. Andretti stated that he thought Rahal should be penalized for causing the crash.
”There is one thing, blocking, but there is another thing, chopping,” Andretti said to the Associated Press. ”That was a chop. I’m lucky I didn’t get upside down. I could have been killed.”
But after review there was no penalty issued for either driver.
”It’s a cluster back there,” Rahal said in his post race press conference. ”I think I surprised Marco. He wasn’t going to make the corner no matter what.”
Rookie Simon Pagenaud finished second with James Hinchcliff finishing a career best third place after Ryan Hunter-Reay was issued a 30 second penalty for avoidable contact.
The weekend also featured a Saturday race for the American LeMans Series presented by Patron, a Firestone Indy Lights race prior to the Indycars and the Pirelli Pro Racing World Challenge, which ran on Sunday after the Indycar event.
This year’s event was a big success regardless of Friday’s rain and will be followed up by another Southern California IZOD Indycar race appearance later in the season at Auto Club Speedway on Sept. 15.
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