FIRST IMPRESSIONS: 2013 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

First Impressions, IndyCar — By on April 21, 2013 6:49 pm
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The 39th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is in the books, and it certainly produced some surprising results! Below, the More Front Wing crew offer up our first impressions of this year’s Roar by the Shore.

Steph’s impressions:

Being a Canadian, a country with a relatively small presence in open-wheel racing, I can relate very well to the jubilance taking place in Japan right now.

When a top-tier series has only one driver in it to represent an entire nation, the hopes of many people rest on the shoulders of one.

This wasn’t just Takuma Sato’s win. It was Japan’s win, too.

For the first time since the open-wheel racing merger in 2008, there was not a single Penske, Ganassi or Andretti car on the podium today. The flags of three different nations have flown at the top step of the season’s three podiums.

We’re getting deep enough into the season now that we can start looking at trends, and it’s starting to look like we might be on the cusp of a changing of the guard.

And all of that is the best possible news for IndyCar.

The only possible downside of today’s race was too much carnage. A few people lost their heads today. It wasn’t the most professional IndyCar race we’ve seen.

Still, that’s searching for things to whine about, in my opinion. This is a feel-good story for the ages. I’m quite happy to put niggling concerns aside and join Takuma Sato, AJ Foyt Racing, and all of Japan in celebration. Omedetou gozaimasu!

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Paul’s impressions:

Hmmmm… well, okay.  That really wasn’t exactly how I imagined this race playing out.

As happens so often at Long Beach, a surprise winner came along and made the second half of the race look surprisingly easy.  In this case, Takuma Sato, who flirted with victory on a handful of occasions in 2012, took control during the middle portion of the race and cruised to a fairly easy victory down the stretch.

Though Sato will get most of the headlines (and deservedly so), there are a huge number of great stories to discuss through the next week – the awful showing of Team Penske (and Will Power in particular), the domination of Honda, an absolutely incredible run by Justin Wilson to go from starting 26th (after crashing hard in practice on Friday and without even turning a lap in qualifying), a solid run by Graham Rahal, a much-needed top-five by Dario Franchitti, an absurd number of new front wings needed (really, NBC Sports — could you not just throw us a bone and say most of the field is going to need More Front Wing after this event?), Andretti Autosport crashing back to earth (literally) after a hot start to the 2013 season, and so much more.

In the end, it was a really exciting race with plenty of passing, interesting tire strategy, and no fuel racing!  I call that a great race!

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John’s impressions:

What a fantastic race by the entire AJ Foyt Racing team. I didn’t think they had this type of race in them, to be honest, and I am very, very happy to be proven wrong today. AJ Foyt lives three minutes down the road from my house, and I’m pretty sure that I can hear him screaming from here! I’ll save any other thoughts for later because its time to give AJ Foyt Racing all of the attention today.

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Zack’s impressions:

Really, today marks a day that had so often been teased but never seemed to come to fruition. Takuma Sato has always been fast, and he’s been in contention to win; the difference today was that he finally put together the perfect complete race. There was no mental miscue, no last-lap crash that stopped it from happening.

AJ Foyt Enterprises has struggled so much in recent years, but one had to feel their new engineering support was making a difference. We can see the results for ourselves.

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Bash’s impressions:

Holy cow,what a redonkulous race! There were none of the drowse-inducing lulls we sometimes get on urban twisties — somehow these guys managed to get around each other, albeit with a good bit of carnage. Dallara’s collective eyes are sporting dollar signs with all the nose assemblies they’ll be selling soon.  There were plenty of daring passes and dumb moves to keep things interesting, and the top 10 at the finish was littered with guys who started at the back of the field.

For me, there were two big things: 1) Takuma Sato getting his first win and putting Foyt’s team back in victory circle; and 2) the top three spots going to Not Penkse, Not Ganassi and Not Andretti. (The top 10 boasted just four drivers from the Big Three.) Sato’s been threatening to win a race for a few months now, and his victory coming with AJ Foyt’s team is a welcome surprise. Many wondered how these diverse entities would mesh, and they’ve quickly showed us things are going quite well for them all.

Top it off with a huge crowd and perfect weather, and you couldn’t have a better billboard for IndyCar racing. I’m still trying to catch my breath!

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Chad’s impressions:

It was a great effort by everyone at Foyt to get the first career win for Sato. That lightning quick pit stop after the caution on lap 30 got them out in front of Dario. From then on, nobody was going to pass him, not even the pace car.

It was a great run for everyone in the top five. Rahal, Wilson, Dario, and Hildebrand all needed a great finish and finally got one. Incredible job by Wilson and his team to come from the back to the front, gaining 21 positions. Coming into the weekend, how many of us thought Hildebrand would finish in the top five?

For Dario, you couldn’t have asked for a much better day. Sure, a win would have been great, but look at all of the guys who had rough days. Hinchcliffe got his second DNF in a row, Hunter-Reay didn’t finish either, and Will Power was surprisingly a non-factor. Aside from the incident in pit lane with Vautier, he was hardly even mentioned during the race. Another strong run for Marco Andretti, who is proving that last year is a distant memory. Three races in, it looks like another win for him is coming soon.

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