Last year at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Verizon IndyCar Series went caution-free. That was not the case this year. The first caution came on the first lap when Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Tresiba Honda, Ganassi Racing) went side by side with WIll Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevy, Team Penske) around the fountain and through Turn 3. With Power on the inside, Kimball cut into Turn 4, taking them both out. It ended with Kimball going hard into the outside wall and having significant damage to the back left tire, suspension and wheel, taking him out of contention for the day. Power continued on but the incident took away his ability to be competitive and he finished P13.
At least two, and possibly three different pit strategies were executed by teams today, They proved to be advantageous for James Hinchcliffe who came out victorious in the end. This was the first win for the Canadian since his life-threatening accident in May of 2015 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and nearly two years since his last IndyCar win, back in 2014 at NOLA Motorsports Park,
“A lot has changed since the last time we were sitting up here. It’s just so nice to be back… To do it here and finally at this place, a track that I love so much, a track that’s been very good to me in my career, one that I think is the Indy 500 of street tracks, it’s the second longest running race after the 500. I think because of that history, it makes it a very special event, one that every driver wants to win. The greats have all raced here, the greats have all won here. To get in the winner’s circle was huge.”
The charismatic driver of the No. 5 Arrow SPM Honda proved to his engine manufacturer’s nay-sayers that their results in St. Petersburg were anything but a fluke. Finishing the race directly behind him was Sebastien Bourdais, winner of aforementioned race and driver for Dale Coyne Racing, IndyCar’s ‘underdog’ team that is having their day. Bourdais’ consistency, being the only driver to stand on the podium for the first two rounds of this 2017 IndyCar season, and maintaining the points lead is giving the Chevy team’s who have benefited from obvious dominance in the past couple seasons, a shake in their driving boots…
“Good job by Honda, obviously. We lost balance a little bit at the end so I was just trying to hang on to second place. James (Hinchcliffe) really deserved that one. I was kind of thinking Championship a little bit out there! I don’t know that we’re a contender but we’ll find out. We’ll have stayed up there for two races so that’s not too bad.”
Chevy started off on the pole today, with Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevy, Team Penske) who at the start, didn’t have a Chevy in sight when glancing in his rear view… he’d have to look all the way back to Row 4 where teammate Josef Newgarden was positioned.
While Helio ended up finishing P9, Newgarden remained quietly steady and efficient in his race, earning his first podium as a member of Team Penske with a finish of third,
“For me to start the year off with the No. 2 guys with the Verizon Hum car, it’s nice to have some consistency to start. A top 10 was good at St. Pete. A podium down here is another strong step for us. I think the next thing you need to do is try to hunt down a win. Hopefully we can do that sooner than later. I feel like we’re going to have some good speed at the next couple tracks we go to.”
The Nashville-native will certainly be using the momentum from Long Beach to go hunting down in Alabama on April 23rd. Barber Motorsports Park was the site of his first career IndyCar win in 2015.