Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

I was excited to watch this race, after all the cautions for debris at St. Pete and the rain at NOLA, I was ready for something closer to the norm. Well that is what we got. For the race itself not too much stands out for me. It was a good clean race. The guys kept their cool and we had a good race. Maybe I am missing some of the drama of the previous races after all. Well perhaps the race itself doesn’t stand out but there were a few things from race weekend that sure did. Let’s take a look at those.

DRIVERS

1- Disappointed to hear that both Sage Karam and Simona DeSilvestro would be sitting this race out. Sage would be replaced with Sebastian Saavedra. Saavedra did really well. He was never a favorite but after his ability to get back in the car and be on pace I was cheering for him. I always love seeing a one off do well. Which brings us to Conor Daly.

2- Carlos Huertas was replaced by Rocky Moran Jr. This was so confusing. It was my understanding that Huertas was a full time driver. I would understand replacing Francesco Dracone but why Huertas? I honestly have no clue how Dale Coyne operates his team. Unfortunately, Moran broke his thumb during practice late Friday afternoon. Conor Daly, who is at every race with helmet in hand, was asked to fill the seat. Woo Hoo! Conor is one of those drivers that every IndyCar fan wants to see in a full time ride. To make things even better, Conor did awesome. He moved up from his 21 starting position to finish 17th. He brought the car home in one piece. He finally gave Dale Coyne a driver fans could cheer for. I sincerely hope we see him in a car again soon.

3- Will Power did not advance in qualifying. He started in 18th position. Bad luck for Power but love when the big guys get knocked down a bit.

4- Scott Dixon won! I believe it was a tweet from Curt Cavin that said when Dixon struggles for two races he wins the third. It was very prophetic. Dixon started strong and didn’t make a mistake.

5- Josef Newgarden had a great weekend. Josef made it to the top six in qualifying. He also had a good finish in 7th position. After the last stop for pits we saw Juan Pablo Montoya pull out on his cold tires just in front of Newgarden. Since Newgarden had his tires warmed up it seemed he might be able to pass JPM. Unfortunately Newgarden did not make the pass and the cameras did not keep on them. Next time I noticed Newgarden had faded back quite a bit and was no longer a threat. Man I would have loved to see him get in front of JPM.

TV COVERAGE

1- NBCSN is greatly preferred to ABC- we all know that. Where is Leigh Diffey? Brian Till makes a good stand in but I want Diffey back. I understand he has other commitments but I am ready to hear his voice and his enthusiasm.

2- Always thankful when we can watch qualifying. This is especially important for catching up on the news when drivers have been replaced as they were this weekend.

3- being able to both listen and watch practice sessions from race control has been great. It’s so much easier to keep up on the event.

MISCELLANEOUS

1- What was up with the fluorescent sunglasses. Dixon looks like he had the Golden Arches on his red cap. I didn’t care for the look. He wasn’t the only one. At least three drivers were sporting them. Looks like they got them from a vending machine. Perhaps people cooler than me would disagree but that is one style I don’t care for.

2- I enjoy seeing the opening ceremonies, including the prayer. I am a strong Christian and always pray for the safety of those at the race. I love seeing/hearing the prayer televised. It’s becoming more the norm to not do anything that might offend someone else. So glad NBCSN and IndyCar and willing to televise and continue the tradition of praying before a race. That coupled with our National Anthem should make every American proud.

3- Sir Patrick Stewart gave one of the best calls to start engines that I’ve heard. Loved the emphasis he put on it.

4- Saving the best for last–Sam Schmidt! Wow! How cool is it seeing Sam drive a car around the track. Loved seeing him do it at Indy and loved it even more at Long Beach. He is such an inspiration. With James Hinchcliffe’s win last week and driving the following week, Sam is having a good month. Hope May is kind to him also.

So I guess that sums it up. Not the most spectacular race but still an interesting weekend. Can’t wait to see how things play out at Barber.

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GP of NOLA – Bust or bad luck?

After the disappointment of the cancelled Brasilia race the GP of Nola should have been a bright star in the 2015 racing season. What could go wrong? A new venue in an awesome location, great promotion by all involved and the drivers themselves telling us how much they were looking forward to this race. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans for our race weekend, at one point we didn’t know if the race would even happen. Thankfully we were able to see some racing although most of it was under the yellow flag.

Let’s start with qualifying though because I think that was the biggest disappointment.

I’m assuming if you are reading this you already know what happened both in qualifying and the race so rather than give a detailed account of what you already know I will just share my thoughts on it.

SERIOUSLY—I NEVER get mad at IndyCar and always give them the benefit of the doubt but this time….
I was greatly upset that after all cars were able to make a qualifying attempt they decided to cancel qualifying and start the race based on entrant points. That gave the pole to Juan Pablo Montoya. JPM would not have transferred to the top twelve so he did not deserve the pole. Had the second group not had a chance to run I would have agreed with this call, although I would have still been disappointed. However, both groups went out and everyone put down a time. I wish they would have used those times to make our starting grid. Seeing both JPM and Helio Castroneves starting up front when they should have been in the back was so disappointing.
I agree with the call to end qualifying. I always want safety first. I just really wanted to see anything other than a Penske parade and JPM on the pole. I did not understand why the decision was made to use points rather than times when every driver was able to put down a time.

Race Day

I am so thankful that this race was not called off by the rain. Bad racing under yellow is always better than no racing. I wish it had been a better race but the rain really screwed things up.

I was actually surprised with the start. The cars made it through turn one without a problem and continued on with only minor incidents. A second surprise was how soon they were ready to switch to slicks. It looked to me like there was way too much water on the track. By lap 15 everyone was on reds and no yellow laps. Wow! Third surprise was when Gabby Chaves went off track. The surprise wasn’t that Gabby was off but rather that some random guy ran out and pushed him back on the track. What? Who does that? It didn’t do any good though as Gabby stalled it once he was back on track. Fourth Surprise was yellow breeds yellow—for eternity! Once the yellow came out we saw very little of the green. There was a very scary crash with Pagenaud, Hunter-Reay and Bourdais. So thankful everyone was ok. Fifth and best surprise was finding James HInchcliffe leading after almost everyone went into the pits for a final stop. Thanks to all the yellows, Hinch was able to stay out until the timed race was over and he won! I did not want a Penske parade and thankfully we didn’t get one. A great start to the season for Hinch and Sam Schmidt’s team.

So while it can’t be said that this was a good race, I am very happy with the results. Hinch won, followed by Helio and James Jakes. Simona had an awesome fourth place finish. Wish she had the podium but still a great day for her.

I know there will be lots of complaining about this race but I honestly believe it could be a fantastic race. The GP of NOLA team did a great job. They really seemed to have everything thought out and worked hard to promote the race and interact on social media. The one thing they can’t control is the weather and today that was a huge factor. Guess we will need to wait for next year to see the true potential this race can offer.

Long Beach next week and I know I hoping to see yet another team on the top step of the podium. We’ve been spoiled with great racing the last couple years so fingers are crossed that we will continue. Today might not have taken the path we thought but got us to a great result so I will take it.

GP of St. Pete

FINALLY! So excited after such a long off-season to be back racing. IndyCar is the only sport I watch so this is a tremendous amount of off time for me.

As stated in previous entries the greatest disappointment is that Justin Wilson does not have a full time ride. Thankfully we have heard that he will have a ride for both Indianapolis races with Andretti Autosport. Sure hope that turns into something more.

Okay now for ST. Pete.
Not excited about all the Penske cars starting up front and knowing that passing can be difficult this could be a long race of chase the leader. And that is pretty much what happened. Thank goodness Tony Kanaan was able to squeeze his way up to third so Penske didn’t finish 1,2,3,4. Juan Pablo Montoya wins but it should have been Will Power. Had Power not had trouble in his pit on his last stop he would have won. He had the faster car he just wasn’t able to get around Montoya for the win.

On the opposite end of the spectrum we have Dale Coyne’s team. What a huge disappointment. Both Carlos Huertas and Francesco Dracone failed to finish the race. I hate seeing teams struggle but it’s about what I expected with these drivers.

Because Penske dominated it was a bit frustrating for most other teams. Ganassi can at least claim that they were on the podium. Graham Rahal was looking to have a fair race until he had to serve a drive through penaltly. Simona DeSilvestro needed to have a good day but she had some contact that kept her form running up front. Marco Andretti just made the top ten. Josef Newgarden finished twelfth with new teammate, Luca Filippi, in ninth. Pretty good finish for Filippi but a disappointment for Newgarden.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment was all the debris. If the front wings continue to cause yellows and break so easily I can see many teams going back to the old wing. I’m not expert but wouldn’t it be better to have a slightly slower car but not go in for wing changes multiple times. Well probably not but it is going to get old really fast.

So overall thoughts for the race–

So incredibly thankful to be back to racing.

Could have done without the Penske parade and all the debris. Sure hope that is not a sign of what to expect for the rest of the season. I like having multiple teams win during the season and being surprise by the outcomes. I fear we will just see Penske win after Penske win. Hopefully at NOLA next race we will see things even up a bit with a new track. Regardless we will be racing and that is always a good thing.