“Vacation” Pays Dividends For Franchitti At INDY Long Beach
On a 97 degree day (a record for this day) at Long Beach, one of the most demanding street courses in modern motorsports history, a driver has to bring his (or her) “A-Game” in order to win. Relaxed, Ready. And Rested … after taking a one year “vacation/break” from open wheel motorsports competition, Dario Franchitti, 2007 ICS Champion (and Chip Ganassi) - out pitted, out conserved (on fuel), and out communicated Will Power (and a Penske pit crew managed by Rick Mears) to win the 35th Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach.
Will Power had secured the pole position and maintained the position through the first round of pit stops. Chip Ganassi brought Dario in a little early during the first stint, suspecting that because most all of the teams had opted to start the race using the Red Option sidewall, softer compound tires, that the grip of the tires would go away … and some of the drivers would tangle, or make a mistake that would bring out a full course Yellow Caution Flag. Chip was right.
Mike Conway nosed his Dreyer & Reinbold, Dad’s Root Beer car into the Turn 1 wall bringing out a local Yellow. Then, Transition Player hopeful, EJ Viso of HVM Racing (starting in position #4) was tapped by Franchitti’s Target Chip Ganassi teammate, Scott Dixon (P6), stalling Viso’s broken Dallara at turn #7.
This incidents served to jumble the field and catch Power out for 32 laps until the next pit stop… along with a five car pile up going into the hairpin turn #11 that leads to the long right sweeping straightaway of Shoreline Drive. This incident put another top qualifier, and another Transition Player hopeful, out of the race from the damage the incident had caused. Justin Wilson, who had qualified for the pole position at the last ChampCar World Series race held here at Long Beach in 2008, qualified and started in position #5.
A disruption in communications had Will Power at a little disadvantage. Radio communications with the in-car radio system only operated with a small window of one-way (in) delivery so the Penske team had to resort to Pit Boards hung over the wall to let their driver know when to PIT and etc. Will believed he heard that there was a full course Yellow Flag caution when, in fact, the call was a local Yellow Flag caution. Will slowed and a couple of cars went by – one of them was Dario’s full communications enabled Target Chip Ganassi Dallara.
The stage was set for a show down of pit strategy and driving to conserve fuel. The attitudes of both drivers, in the end, was that each would have had the best of each other if they did not have to drive, maintaining position due to fuel conservation tactics, to win and to keep second place.
To be honest, the way the weekend unfolded for Will Power, and how he responded to the multiple unusual challenges thrown at him and the team (Helio Castroneves late arrival due to an acquittal on Tax issues – Will having to break in a new, untested chassis and still have the fastest track times), Dario needed his prior ChampCar track experience and the one year “Vacation/Break” … just to beat the former ChampCar and current ICS rising star!
How the field fared (*** denotes Transition Player):
Pos / Driver / Team / Gap
1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi
2. Will Power*** Penske + 3.3182s
3. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green + 4.0537s
4. Danica Patrick Andretti Green + 5.0742s
5. Dan Wheldon Panther + 6.5655s
6. Marco Andretti Andretti Green + 7.5900s
7. Helio Castroneves Penske + 8.6332s
8. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon + 9.4835s
9. Robert Doornbos*** Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 9.9583s
10. Alex Tagliani*** Conquest + 13.6185s
11. Ryan Hunter-Reay Vision + 15.2097s
12. Graham Rahal*** Newman/Haas/Lanigan + 15.8507s
13. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 1m05.1013s
14. Vitor Meira Foyt + 1 lap
15. Scott Dixon Ganassi + 1 lap
16. Darren Manning Dreyer & Reinbold + 1 lap
17. Stanton Barrett 3G + 1 lap
18. Ed Carpenter Vision + 3 laps
Driver Team Laps
Mario Moraes*** KV 71
Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 60
Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 51
Justin Wilson*** Dale Coyne 24
EJ Viso*** HVM 16
Unification of the series had brought out the best in Long Beach for this 35th edition of the race on Shoreline Drive. The competitors were very pleased with the crowd reaction and the environment during the four days of event activity.
Dario said it best during his post race news conference (to paraphrase) - "We went to local eateries at night and the crowds ... the buzz in the atmosphere surrounding the venue were fantastic ... pretty cool."
... notes from The EDJE