Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Will Power's First Celebration At The 38th Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach

Will Power gives a thumbs-up to lucky photographer, Myles Regan, as he celebrates his improbable and masterful second win at the 38th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the first win for the new Chevrolet-powered DW12 Dallara. Image Credit: Myles Regan (2012)

Will Power's First Celebration At The 38th Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach

This posting serves to clear the record as to when Verizon Team Penske's Will Power was first able to celebrate his second win on the temporary street course that has served as a race venue, now, for 38 years. Most people think that the celebration would not really begin until the car and driver arrive at Victory Circle where all of the credentialed photographers stake out a good position to capture the action on the provided riser. Today, this was not the case - EVIDENCE HERE.

At the end of the race, Helio Castroneves (Penske-Chevy) did a chrome-horn nudge with the front of his DW12 to rear of former F1 driver Rubens Barrichello (KVRT-Chevy) at the apex of the hairpin turn #11. Rubens spun and blocked Helio from going around Rubens car and Helio, in turn, blocked Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne-Honda) and both Helio and Justin ended up being stalled with their cars unable to pass thus shutting down the rest of the straight-away to the Start/Finish line. Penske's Ryan Briscoe, however, was able to sneak through before the orange-suited Holmatro IZOD IndyCar Series Safety Team were able to take over and straighten out the mess in the corner.

What happened next is the stuff of footnote legend - Will Power came up to the apex of turn #11 and was completely stopped.

Upon recognizing his plight ... and then in a move that showed he could no longer contain his excitement at winning his second Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race (after three consecutive pole positions and no win), he unstrapped himself, got out of the car, and shared his celebration with fellow stuck drivers, the crowd in the bleachers closest to the turn, the crews that came out to clear the mess, and the photographers who were tucked in at the "island" apex shooting location.

One has to love the back story that not only did Chevy win the race and place a second car on the podium (Andtetti Autosport's James Hinchcliffe - "Mayor of Hinchtown"/"Manica") at P3 ... they took 7 of the top 10 places in the race after being penalized 10 positions to start the race. The closest Chevy on the grid at race start was Penske's Ryan Briscoe at P11.

At race end, two Chevy's get together and blocked the track to the final straight that led to the Start/Finish line. One would assume that Beaux Barfield, Director of Race Control had to "call" the race and sort out the finishing order due to the blockage.

Power gives a personal honor to the creators and race engineers of his Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet-powered twin-turbo DW12 Dallara as he bends over to suggest a kiss on the car through his helmet. Image Credit: Myles Regan (2012) 

Myles Regan of Regan Digital Images (regandigitalimages.com), being the professional he is, kept the camera clicking away in gang-shot mode and he shared a file that contains about 140 images or so that are just excellent and capture the whole incident ... even down to Will Power bending over his Verizon Penske Chevy and giving it a kiss through his helmet on the nose cowling that covers the suspension. The Video here shows the images Myles was able to capture in post-race turn #11 which are just priceless.

For the second time this month, Will Power came into an IZOD IndyCar Series race expecting nothing more than a top-five finish to secure valuable points in the championship.

But with two victories in the young season - starting from ninth at Barber and 12th at Long Beach - the hard-charging Aussie might be changing his outlook. Starting an IndyCar race from the pole position ... of which Power has 10 over the past 20 races, including one this year, might not be the automatic ticket to Victory Circle.

Having to start the race from the 12th position in the 38th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15 (due to a 10-grid position penalty assessed to all Chevrolet teams for unapproved engine changes), Power squeezed 31 laps from 18.5 gallons of fuel on the 1.968-mile street circuit while being chased down by former ChampCar World Series team-mate (Team Aussie), Simon Pagenaud, the final 15 laps. Will Power won by 0.8675 of a second.

"I could not believe it,"
said Power, who notched his 17th IZOD IndyCar Series victory. "You always believe that it is possible to win or get on the podium, but it was very unlikely, the fact that it was going to be a two‑stop race. But it was just amazing that Simon did three stops and I did two stops, like two different strategies and the result was similar. There was hardly any time between us as we crossed the finish line.

"It's just always a surprise in IndyCar, I think. You can never predict; you can never assume going into a race. You just have to be smart as it plays out.

"This was a very sweet victory because I've been on pole here in 2009, '10 and '11, and it just frustrated me that every year something would happen and I couldn't win. Once again this weekend, I'm starting 12th and I felt as though, 'That's impossible to win. I've got another bad year at Long Beach.

"But it was just a good race. I pushed hard all the time, no mistakes, great strategy, and just a great team effort again."

The team effort has led Will Power and Team Penske to the top of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings by 24 points over team-mate Helio Castroneves heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Power has won the past two years running.

Last year, after not converting the Long Beach pole into a podium (he finished 10th in the third race of the season), Power was seven points to the rear of Dario Franchitti. He wound up second in the standings - by 18 points, which included eight bonus points for a corresponding numbers of pole wins -- for the second consecutive year.

Power added that the team effort is spread across the organization, which has swept the three races (Castroneves winning the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg). The Long Beach IndyCar Series win was Team Penske's first since 2001, when Castroneves prevailed.

"I think it's just that they've been probably one of the best prepared with the new car," Power said. "We did a lot of miles (since manufacturer testing began in November). Chevy has worked very hard, and obviously our first hit of the year ‑‑ obviously the 10‑spot grid penalty was a precautionary thing and didn't affect us too badly.

"To me, it has been hard work. I think my guys feel very confident no matter where we start now that it's always possible."

A hand thrust through the air by former ChamCar World Series driver Will Power denotes the joy of winning (for the second time) the grand dame of all American open-wheel temporary street course races - the 38th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit: Myles Regan (2012)

By The Numbers - Race #3 On The Streets Of Long Beach:
Some numbers to note following the 38th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the third of sixteen events planned for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

0 - Lotus-powered cars on the podium in the 2012 season.

1 - Wins at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach by a Chevy-powered DW12

2 - Wins by Will Power at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in a turbo-charged car -- one in a CCWS Panoz DP-01 and one in the Chevy-powered DW12.

3 - Drivers who have finished in the top 10 in each of the first three IZOD IndyCar Series events: Will Power, James Hinchcliffe and Simon Pagenaud.

5 - Different teams represented in the top five in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

7 - Different teams represented in the top 10 in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.

9 - Lead changes in each of the first three race of the season. Percentage points increase in viewership on NBC Sports Network (formally Versus) over the same number of races in 2011.

11 - Positions gained from race start and consecutive races led by Will Power dating to 2011.

11.5 - Average starting position for Will Power in his two wins in 2012.

13 - Positions gained by James Hinchcliffe in securing P3 podium position standing with Simon Pagenaud - P2 and Will Power - P1.

15 - Positions gained by Tony Kanaan and JR Hildebrand in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, most of any drivers… Positions gained by Kanaan in IZOD IndyCar Series standings by finishing fourth at Long Beach as he advanced from 26th to 11th.

24 - Points separating Will Power (127) and Helio Castroneves in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.

26 - Laps led by Simon Pagenaud -- nine more laps than he had led in his previous 20 Indy car starts.

184 - Consecutive IndyCar starts for Tony Kanaan dating to the 2001 CART race in Portland.

170,000+ - Fans who attended the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach event weekend, according to information released by the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, the event promoter.

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, winner Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach): "It's a great day for the Verizon Team Penske Chevy. We really didn't think it was possible to win from 12th place here because it was a two-stop race, but once again with (strategist) Tim (Cindric), Dave (Faustino), my engineer, and all the boys we overcame a 10-spot penalty." (About Pagenaud bump): "When Pagenaud hit my tire, I thought he should have had a penalty for that. So I was happy beating him because I was kind of angry at him for ruining another one of my races." (About Pagenaud closing in on the lead in the final laps): "They told me (Pagenaud) was coming and that I had a four-second gap and just needed to save as much (fuel) as I could and then I ran hard at the end, the last lap or two, and it was enough."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports, finished second): "It was fantastic. The car was great from the beginning. The guys, they did a great job running. We're a one-car team operation, we don't have as much data as Penske or Ganassi, but I'm glad we're giving them a good run for their money. One more lap, man, I would have tried I tell you."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, finished third): "The credit has got to go to Firestone. The tires that they bring here are letting us race, and it's mixing things up with different tire strategies. It was certainly exciting from where I was. I hope it was exciting for you guys in the stands, and thanks to all the fans that come out to the race because this is just one of the best events we go to all year bar none. The guys up in the stand were making all the right calls. I don't know, it's something about this race track that treats me well and I've been trying to get this first podium. We start in the front row and it doesn't happen.We start in the second row and it doesn't happen, and after Barber I said to myself, 'I bet $20 bucks my first podium comes in some bizarre circumstance where I start off in the teens,' and sure enough, here you go."

RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC/ Embrase - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, finished ninth): "Honestly I had a good race today. There were so many yellows the team used a strategy that had me saving fuel. Once we knew we were going to be short, I started to push hard. I would just like people to have more respect for each other on the track.   I was hit on every side of my car. .Apart from that, I enjoyed myself today.   To start so far back and finish in the top-10 again shows I am getting better and better, so hopefully I will have my best result two weeks from now in Brazil."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, finished seventh): "We just were stuck in traffic all day long. It's a real shame because I think we had the quickest car out there and we just couldn't do anything with it. We had a bad pit stop, the first one, and that put us way behind and from there we couldn't go anywhere. It was just a really frustrating day."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Auto Club Team Penske Chevrolet): "We were just trying to finish and there were two cars in front of me and Rubens, and Rubens was being, I think, a bit cautious and stopped the car and he stopped too much—to the point that I obviously touched him. My intention was never to pass him, but we ended up blocking the track."

Thank you Helio, for creating (and Myles Regan for capturing) a special unscripted moment to make this 38th edition of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach one of the most entertaining in years ... with a post-race celebration worthy of the event-winning moment.

Next weekend catch race #4, the IZOD IndyCar Series Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle April 29, 2012: Streets of Sao Paulo. The race will be broadcast - on cable - live on NBC Sports Channel (formally Versus) at 11:00AM ET - SiriusXM Satellite Radio on Channel 94 - with Live Timing & Scoring from the web here - http://content.indycar.com/racecontrol - Also, follow the action at Twitter with the #hashtag - #saopauloindy - Sao Paulo Indy 300 (@IndyemSaoPaulo).

... notes from The EDJE

** Article first published as Will Power's First Celebration At The 38th Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach on Technorati **

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