A hazy outlook, but no rain, greeted the IndyCar series in Long Beach for the 37th running of the prestigious Grand Prix. Surviving a hectic race and adding their name to a who’s who of open-wheel legends and Long Beach winners list was Mike Conway, shaking the proverbial monkey off his back and taking his first career victory, as our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon writes for Richard’s F1...
As he has done at each race so far this season, Will Power led away from the green flag. The start was very fragmented, with only the first three rows actually in formation. The rest were still catching up and in some cases still making the final hairpin turn onto the front straight. The drivers slotted into a single-file format to get through the first few corners, and the race ran under green for the first 25 laps. Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, usually expected at the front of the field, were down in seventh and eighth places respectively.
On Lap 26, Justin Wilson was tapped into a spin at the final hairpin by Hélio Castroneves, and taking a gamble on a predicted full-course caution, Alex Tagliani and Ryan Briscoe made an early pit stop to attempt to get out of the midfield. While Wilson’s spin did not necessitate a caution, a subsequent spin by Simona di Silvestro in the same place confirmed the pace car’s deployment. With their first stops underway and the pits closed, Tagliani and Briscoe’s pit gambles paid off in a big way, and as the rest of the field pitted, these two drivers took a leisurely free pass to the front of the field.
In pit lane, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay and the majority of the field all made their pit stops and resumed behind Tagliani and Briscoe. Further down the pit lane, chaos ensued. Marco Andretti was unaware of Sebastian Bourdais travelling directly to his left, and as Justin Wilson exited from his pit stop, Andretti’s move to the left resulted in a crash with Bourdais. While the four-time Champ Car champion was less than impressed, Andretti admitted full fault and apologised.
At the restart on Lap 32, Briscoe got the jump on Tagliani and led the Canadian veteran and Hunter-Reay in third, who in turn had out-dragged Will Power to the first corner.
The next round of scheduled pit stops began on Lap 58, with Tagliani first, followed by Briscoe and Hunter-Reay. Tagliani’s charge back to the lead was ruined by traffic on his out-lap, while Briscoe only marginally beat Hunter-Reay out of the pits and into the final stint.
Lap 67 saw the next restart, and at the first corner, Castroneves locked his brakes and pitched himself and team-mate Will Power around, with Oriol Servià also getting caught up in the mess. Another caution was required to allow marshals to clean up.
Once everything had settled down and the race restarted yet again, Briscoe led from Hunter-Reay, Franchitti and Mike Conway, who had kept his nose clean and driven a smart race. On Lap 71, Conway moved past Franchitti into 3rd place at Turn 5, and was instantly gifted second when a slowing Hunter-Reay moved offline and into retirement, with a broken gearbox eventually blamed for the breakdown. A lap later, Conway made the best move of the day, taking Briscoe on the inside of the same corner, before opening up a lead of six seconds that he would never relinquish.
Conway, who was back in the IndyCar series in 2011 having recovered from his horrific injuries sustained at Indianapolis in 2010, motored on to take his first career victory. Ryan Briscoe finished second, with Franchitti coming home third. Will Power recovered to finish tenth.
2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – Final Standings (85 laps):
|1.||Mike Conway||GoDaddy.com Andretti Autosport||85||1:53:11.100|
|2.||Ryan Briscoe||IZOD/PPG Team Penske||85||+ 6.3203|
|3.||Dario Franchitti||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||85||+ 6.7163|
|4.||James Hinchcliffe||Sprott Inc Newman/Haas Racing||85||+ 9.1705|
|5.||Alex Tagliani||B&W Sam Schmidt Motorsports||85||+ 16.0177|
|6.||Oriol Servià||Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing||85||+ 16.8966|
|7.||Danica Patrick||GoDaddy.com Andretti Autosport||85||+ 17.5016|
|8.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology Lotus||85||+ 18.9655|
|9.||Vitor Meira||ABC Supply Co AJ Foyt Enterprises||85||+ 19.4723|
|10.||Will Power||Verizon Wireless Team Penske||85||+ 19.8909|
|11.||Raphael Matos||AFS Racing||85||+ 20.4660|
|12.||Hélio Castroneves||Shell/AAA Team Penske||85||+ 20.7784|
|13.||Graham Rahal||Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing||85||+ 21.3464|
|14.||Sebastian Saavedra||Conquest Racing||85||+ 23.1137|
|15.||James Jakes||Acorn Stairlifts Dale Coyne Racing||85||+ 24.5926|
|16.||Paul Tracy||Ralphs Dragon Racing||85||+ 1:03.7578|
|17.||JR Hildebrand||US National Guard Panther Racing||85||+ 1:10.9001|
|18.||Scott Dixon||Target Chip Ganassi Racing||84||+ 1 lap|
|19.||Ana Beatriz||Lubrizol Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||83||+ 2 laps|
|20.||Simona di Silvestro||Entergy HVM Racing||82||+ 3 laps|
|21.||Takuma Sato||KV Racing Technology Lotus||81||+ 4 laps|
|22.||Justin Wilson||Z-Line Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||78||+ 7 laps|
|Ryan Hunter-Reay||DHL Andretti Autosport||72||Mechanical|
|Charlie Kimball||Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing||66||Mechanical|
|EJ Viso||KV Racing Technology Lotus||59||Collision|
|Marco Andretti||Venom Energy Drink Andretti Autosport||27||Collision|
|Sébastien Bourdais||Boy Scouts Dale Coyne Racing||27||Collision|
[All images and video via IZOD IndyCar Series]