Long Beach: Bash’s Sunday thoughts

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on April 16, 2012 2:05 pm

In yesterday’s commentary, I mentioned that this could be a crazy day and a crazy race. In a word — yup.

Yes, Will Power won the race, but he came from 12th to do it. Like Barber last weekend, where he won from 9th, that just doesn’t happen around here.

Power’s win capped off a day of strange happenings: the 30-minute morning practice was red-flagged four times for spins and contact; the military flyover happened right in the middle of the national anthem, drowning out Taylor Dayne; Robin Miller did a grid walk on a pit lane with no drivers present and ended up trending on Twitter; and the command to start engines was rousing (rare, and served with extra mustard by grand marshall Parnelli Jones.)

One thing that wasn’t so strange was the first lap contact between front row starters Dario Franchitti and Josef Newgarden that put the young rookie out of the race. After behaving so well the first two races this year, we saw a first lap mishap that had become too common in prior seasons. Opinions about the incident ranged from “Dario drove him into the wall” to “Josef shouldn’t have gone in there” to “just one of those racing deals.” I was at Josef’s pit for the start of the race and it wasn’t long before he returned on foot with a none too pleased look on his face. It was a real shame that Newgarden was knocked out — his was definitely going to be one of the best stories to follow.

I left the pits after about 20 laps and by the time I got back to the media center, all heck had broken loose. Alex Tagliani got Viso’ed and a quick shift to the right by Graham Rahal caused a quickly-closing Marco Andretti to sail over the back of Rahal’s car, get sideways mid-air, and thankfully stay right-side-up as he slammed into a tire barrier.

Once that carnage was sorted out, the race settled into a bit of a parade now and then, but the fuel strategies and Simon Pagenaud’s prowess made the last few laps exciting as he reeled in Will Power and just ran out of time. The final lap was marred by a four-car incident in the hairpin that blocked the track for the rest of the field and jumbled the finishing order a bit.

I understand the post-race press conference was another comedy routine (Hinchcliffe was there, so of course it was!), but I had a flight to catch so I don’t have highlights to share. (And of course, my flight was delayed, so I could have stayed!). Despite the strange happenings, this year’s Long Beach contest was enjoyable on the track as well as off. On the drive in yesterday morning, I heard an interview with Grand Prix Director of Communications Chris Esslinger on the radio, who said 85,000 people were expected to attend the race and even with Friday’s torrential rains, three-day attendance was expected at 170,000. I personally can attest to Saturday being the busiest I’ve ever seen at Long Beach — getting anywhere in the infield was like swimming up Niagara Falls. Annoying if you need to be somewhere, but very encouraging for the overall health of the event. It’s happening  in small steps, but you can feel IndyCar’s forward momentum and that’s music to this race fan’s ears.

Thanks for following this past weekend and for reading and supporting More Front Wing!

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