Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Records Fall As Fastest Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach Ends

Scott Dixon: "Today, good start.  Juan [Montoya] sort of crowded me a bit on the left, which sort of gave me an opening to go around the outside of him into Turn 1, which was definitely the key there, and the first pit stop exchange with TK [Tony Kanaan] and Helio, obviously opened up the position for me to try and pass Helio in the pits.  Probably need to buy TK a beer.  Obviously he didn't do it on purpose, but that's the way it happens, and it definitely helped out the scenario with our race." - Question: You saw TK right in victory lane? What did you say, if anything, and did you touch base on his pit stop at the first stop? Answer, SCOTT DIXON: "Yeah, I spoke to TK, he said I need to buy him a beer, even though he doesn't drink ... I'll drink it for him (Laughter)." Image Credit: Chris Jones for

Records Fall As Fastest Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach Ends

As the caption on the lead image suggests, there was not a lot of passing for the lead on the track during the running of the 41st Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach (TGPLB). The largest driver position change during the race was delivered by Andretti Autosport DHL Honda's Ryan Hunter-Reay ... backwards 9 positions (P4 to P13).

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “Today was a big disappointment for us, probably one of the worst races we’ve had from green to checkered. I had a car I couldn’t drive hard when I needed to. The strategy we went for didn’t work out. Our pit stops did not really work out. Nothing really worked out for us today. I guess sometimes you have those days in racing, but they’re certainly not days we ever want to be accustomed to having. We’ll regroup and move on to Barber." Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2015)

On a positive side, new #IndyCar #TGPLB track records were set when all 23 of the cars entered in the race were running at race end with 19 of the cars being on the lead lap, and overall average race speed of 96.800 mph when the checkered flag flew and Scott Dixon driving the Red #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing aero kit modified DW12 won.

All three previous records were set in the 2013 DW12 era race won by Takuma Sato when 21 cars finished with 18 being on the lead lap while the leader posted an average speed of 85.763 mph.

As far as the hard-charger award is concerned, a field-high of positions gained is held by Conor Daly, who was a late replacement for Rocky Moran Jr., who injured his hand, in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Trench Shoring Honda. He finished 17th after starting P21.

Scott Dixon trails Helio Castroneves after getting past Juan Pablo Montoya on the first lap. Here, Helio is nearly 2 seconds ahead of Scott as they begin the fourth lap ... just before the only full course caution of the race. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2015)

The most important pass of the day happened in the pits during the first round of pit-stops for fuel and tires on Lap 29. The pass happened with the help of proximity in pit location and timing, in that the pit directly in front of the pit box of the Verizon P1 pole winner and race leader for the first 29 laps, Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves, was being filled by Tony Kanaan (the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team-mate of Scott Dixon) as he came in for his tires and fuel.

Post Race Press Conference:

Question:  Just so we're clear, when they held you in the pits, was that because other traffic coming right behind you and you didn't want to run into them?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah. It was close. It was definitely close. But yeah.

Question: Helio, if that hadn't have happened in the pits, if there was no one in front of you and you were able to go when you were ready, do you think Dixon would have had enough to get by you because I assume you would have been out in front of him?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Again, he was so close. All three cars, four cars actually, but he was much better being in front. I don't think he would be able to get by. After the race was over, we were just talking between ourselves and we can see that he was very consistent, but I have moments of very good and maybe some moments, some laps maybe would be terrible. But in the end of the day, it was ‑‑ it would be very difficult for him to pass. 

So this brings the season to a full circle understanding of aero kit modified DW12s after a really tough start to 2015. The 41st Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach, by default, was the first near incident free real race test of the new aerodynamically modified Dallara DW12 racing platforms.

The first race on the schedule was to be run in Brazil, but was cancelled just a few weeks before the scheduled date, so the actual first race ended up being the Firestone Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg through the streets of St. Petersburg, FL the last weekend of March. The drivers ended up crashing into each other a lot, sending carbon fiber debris from the elaborate multi-element aero kit front wings to be cleaned up during the many laps run under a full course YELLOW Flag caution.

Brian Herta Autosport Bowers & Wilkins CURB Honda's Gabby Chaves (R) running in clean air at #GPNOLA. Notice how the trailing turbulence is left down on the track surface as opposed to being lifted away from the racing surface. Image Credit: Bret Kelley - Verizon IndyCar Series 

The second race, the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, was held at a totally new venue outside of New Orleans, Louisiana and poor weather placed an inaugural penalty of 28 laps. The race was scheduled for 75 laps but was only able to complete 47 due to the abundance of full course YELLOW Flag caution periods that started happening after the first wet, cleanly run 16 laps. Accidents caused by standing puddles on the track had the race called a timed race after 28 laps and with incident after incident happening during each of the many GREEN Flag restarts had the number of racing laps run under GREEN at only 26 Laps.

Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana race winner James Hinchcliffe trails (R to L) Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz through the "Fountain Turn" (Turn 3) in an evenly spaced parade of very fast cars. Image Credit: Myles Regan (2015)

Welcome to "The Beach" for the third test of the season and the long straightaways of Shoreline Drive (front from the hairpin at Turn 11 to Turn 1) and Seaside Way (beginning at Turn 8 and ending at Turn 9). In St. Petersburg, it was suspected that the trailing turbulence from the aerodynamically modified bodywork would not allow the faster car of Will Power to re-take the lead away from his team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya on any straight line part of the course after Montoya's pass in the pits (sound familiar?) on the last round of pit stops in the race.

At Long Beach, the race supported much of the same evidence that the trailing turbulence was at work again (see above images, last image, and launch YouTube video for car spacing observation).

For a complete race with little race impeding YELLOW Flags, the cars can be seen along each of the straightaways pacing each other with similar spacing between each car without much in the way of challenging through out-braking or aggressive actions seen by fans in previous season races.

After winning the first race at the Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg, Penske Racing's currently holds down the Verizon IndyCar Series season points lead after three races with a different winner in each race. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2015)

It really appears that ever since Tony Kanaan came out publicly with statements recognizing the increased occurrence of intensity in the nature of the trailing turbulence, a memo seemed to have been circulated before the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach to all who compete in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

The speculated points contained in the memo instructed competitors to 1) Stiffen-up and reduce the number of exposed aerodynamic parts on the front wings and etc. 2) Do not drive so aggressive as to break anymore pieces of any car given the carnage of the last two races (a reminder that this is an open wheel racing series), and 3) Whatever one does about responding to questions or speculation on trailing turbulence ... DO NOT make this an issue as to reducing the competition on the track - diffuse by saying to anyone who asks about the subject; "This effects everyone the same way so it really is not a problem."

This response was delivered to multiple members of the press who asked questions in the paddock and conference rooms about trailing turbulence and were curious about what had been happening (or not happening) on the track.

Juan Pablo Montoya leads a group of evenly spaced cars into Turn 1 on Shoreline Drive during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit: Richard Dowdy, Verizon IndyCar Series

Fans who follow the series developments and competition closely know that something has changed and it may not be for the better. To be truthful, any aero-engineer worth their salt would attempt to design a trailing turbulence pattern that would kick ANY competitive car that threatens to take the position away on a long straight ... into the next zip code (if not, the next time zone). This may good for leading cars in protection mode but this effect is not good for the product of racing. Neither is a seven month hiatus from the last race of the season to the first race of the next season and being FEARFUL to hold races during American Football season, but these are the subjects for a different time.

Records fall with the increase of aerodynamics but is the racin' any better if no one can pass even with a stronger car? Ask Will Power why he felt a dive into Turn 10 (or Turn 4) at St. Petersburg seemed to be the only option(s) when he clearly had the faster car.

... notes from The EDJE

Next Race: HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA ||| APRIL 24 – 26 ||| Broadcast NBCSN 3:00 PM ET - Race: 3:30 PM ET - 5:45 PM ET

TAGS: Mushroom Busting, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach, turbulence, Verizon IndyCar Series, Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, The EDJE, #IndyCar, #TGPLB, #Highlights, #Toyota, #GrandPrix, #LongBeach

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