Random Thoughts on the 2012 IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Before getting in to the 2012 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, I’ll contribute my opinion on the 2012 engine rules which played so much of a part in this race.  As far as I’m concerned engine limitations like IndyCar’s and F1’s belong in ladder series, not at the pinnacle of a form of racing.  I understand that they are there for cost containment but lets be honest, at the top of the rung, motor sport always has been and always will be won by cubic dollars, not cubic inches.  If they are concerned about qualifying/practice engines then adopt a rule similar to NASCAR’s, where if you change an engine after qualifying, you start from the back of the field.  That said, it is now too late to change the rule.  Changing the rule now doesn’t help those that have already been penalized; there would no longer be a level playing field for the entire season.  The time to change a rule like this is the off-season, not during the season.

This final practice session doesn’t bode well for this afternoon’s #IndyCar race. Hope it isn’t an omen.  In the final practice on Sunday morning, they had 4 red flags in the 30 minute session! Cars seemed to be spinning or hitting the wall left and right.  While there were full course cautions and one spectacular crash in the race, it didn’t turn out to be the crash fest that the final practice session seemed to foretell.

I’m not so sure that was penalty worthy for Franchitti. It was a high risk move on Newgarden’s part. Glad I’m not an official.  On the start, rookie Josef Newgarden made a bold, decidedly high risk move to pass pole sitter Dario Franchitti in the first turn.  There was contact between Franchitti right front and Newgarden’s left rear, pitching Newgarden into the tire barrier and out of the race.  There were a lot of calls to penalize Franchitti (mostly because Franchitti and the Ganassi team are unpopular amongst many IndyCar fans and partly because Newgarden’s owner Sarah Fisher is worshiped amongst many IndyCar fans) but I didn’t agree.  I saw it as a racing accident.  Newgarden made a late bold move that a veteran driver may not have tried (Pagenaud did almost the same thing on a later restart but started the move earlier) but he would have been lauded had he pulled it off.  Franchitti, in my opinion was not obligated to give Newgarden more room just because he was attempting a spectacular passing attempt.  I thought it was an excellent call by IndyCar race control.

From @toomuchracing:  New pit rules from this race: under yellow they do NOT close the pits on street/road courses. Seems to work!  I absolutely agree.  It shortened the length of most of the cautions and pit lane didn’t seem to be as busy and crowded during the cautions.  It may have also contributed to the various pit strategies that were in use during the race; this was one of those race where there were quite a few variations of 2 and 3 stop strategies in use.

Wow. Andretti ran over Rahal and launched after Rahal moved over to block. Looks like the rear bumper structure doesn’t work as advertised. In the race’s most spectacular crash, Graham Rahal moved over to block Marco Andretti who was coming down the inside with the proverbial “bone in his teeth.”  The result was contact between Andretti’s left front and Rahal’s right rear which launched Andretti into the air and almost over on his lid.  This led to much discussion in Twitterville over whether the rear bumper structure worked as advertised.  It seemed to me it did not work as many expected but the launch could possibly have been greater (see Mark Weber at Valencia in 2010). 

With all the argument about the rear bumper, that would have cut down Briscoe’s rear tire without the bumper. #IndyCar #TGPLB  On the other hand, the rear bumper structure worked quite well when Dario Franchitti bumped the rear of Briscoe’s car with his front wing.  Previously, without the rear bumper structure that likely would have resulted in a cut tire for Briscoe.  Instead, Briscoe was able to continue on unharmed and Franchitti (as deserved) had to change his front wing.

Penalty for Castroneves I agree with more than the one on Hunter-Reay. Think the RHR/Sato one was more a racing incident.  I felt the incident involving Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato in the closing laps was similar to the Franchitt-Newgarden accident, more of a racing incident.  I was therefore surprised when he was issued as 30 second penalty post race.  My opinion is not shared by many other fans, it seems.  I understand that many are looking for consistency in officiating; if Race Control penalized Hunter-Reay for that call then penalizing Franchitti would have for the contact on the start would have been more consistent.  It’s too early to start calling Race Control inconsistent though; the season is early and their job is not to make the fans happy, their job is to call the race in a balanced and fair fashion.  The fans view of fair and balanced, the teams’ view of fair and balanced, and Race Control’s view of fair and balanced won’t always be the same.

I want to know how Power did it. Amazing. Simply Amazing. #IndyCar #TGPLB  The final stint by Will Power was unbelievable. Cars that stopped around the same time he did had to make stop and go’s to make the checkered flag but Power was able to stretch out a considerable lead over Takuma Sato just after the pair’s final stop but also save enough fuel to be able to turn up the wick when Simon Pagenaud threatened his lead at the end.  We’re beginning to see that Will Power is more than just an aggressive racer, he also has the ability to drive a tactical race when the need arises.  Could it be the presence of Tim Cendric on his pit box?

The IndyCar race and F1 race this weekend are similar in that there are more strategies going than you can keep track of!   I watched both races this weekend and enjoyed both of them.  There was quite a bit of difference between the tire compounds in the F1 race and it resulted in multiple tire strategies that became hard for me to keep up with.  The result was a lot of passing and a lot of thought to stay in the race.  The IndyCar race turned out very much the same; there was plenty of action on the track and plenty of strategy to keep the gears in my head turning.

From @ScottWhitmore:  Interesting how both Dario in #IndyCar & Vettel in #F1 are struggling in new-model cars this season. Tough staying the Champ.  I’ve thought the same thing as Scott this season.  Dario Franchitti has simply not adapted to the DW12 as well as many other drivers have; whether it’s the balance of the car, the pedal setup, both or something different, he simply isn’t showing the same form as he has the past few seasons (I think he also has a problem with some of the new rules).  Sebastian Vettel hasn’t adapted well to the new Red Bull car as well as Mark Webber has either; perhaps the lack of the blown diffuser has given the car a balance he doesn’t like.  I don’t know, but like Franchitti he hasn’t shown the same form as the last two seasons.  It’s fascinating how the two series are sharing some story lines this season.

The first three IndyCar races of 2012 have renewed my enthusiasm for the series.  The DW12 and new rules have no doubt provided better road and street course races than the old car and the old Race Control.  I can’t wait for Indianapolis and the rest of the ovals to see what the new car and new rules do for the oval races.  Stay Tuned…

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