If Will Power coming from ninth to win at Barber was impressive, no doubt plenty of team managers wouldn’t mind seeing the Penske playbook after the Australian came from twelfth this past weekend to win the Long Beach Grand Prix for the third time.
Effectively starting second behind countryman Ryan Briscoe, all the Chevrolet runners were hit with 10-place grid penalties.
Also having an engine change was Takuma Sato, but he escaped due to suffering a blown Honda engine at the previous race in Alabama and being granted a free engine change on that basis.
This left Dario Franchitti to start from pole alongside the unlikeliest of front row partners in super-impressive rookie Josef Newgarden – both Honda runners.
At the start, Newgarden’s inexperience came through as what will surely be a learning experience when he tucked in right behind Franchitti and tried to pass into Turn 1. Sarah Fisher’s prodigy racer carried too much speed around the outside, made light contact and found himself in the wall and out of the race. A disappointing end to a great opportunity at the front, however the lesson that races cannot be won at the first corner – but can be lost – undoubtedly resonates with the young American.
A scary incident which is certain to spark further conversation was an incident between Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal which saw the former launched briefly into the air in a car with rear wheel guards on the new Dallara designed to prevent just that. Andretti moved to pass Rahal just before the turn onto Shoreline Drive but a late defensive move caused Marco to hit Rahal’s side and was pitched rather violently into the tyre barriers before emerging unscathed.
The accident definitely looked worse than it may have been, but the ease in which the car found hang-time will definitely have IndyCar VP of technology Will Phillips – and indeed series boss Randy Bernard – a little concerned with the infamous 1.5-mile oval of Texas approaching on June 9.
Franchitti’s discomfort with the new Dallara was on display as he gradually slipped backwards through the field as the race progressed. Whether the new machine doesn’t suit his driving style or not is debatable, but the reigning champion is barely troubling the scorer after three events as he posted another disappointing finish of fifteenth after stopping late in the race with mechanical problems.
Ganassi team-mate Scott Dixon also suffered mechanical problems earlier in the race, compounding a miserable day for Team Target.
Power, however, employed similar strategy to Barber two weeks prior, making many of his positional moves thanks to super-efficient pit work by his crew.
Once all was said and done, held off a late charging Simon Pagenaud to win by eight-tenths of a second and kept Penske’s perfect start to the season intact.
The news gets worse for Power’s rivals as the next event takes place on a circuit nobody else has ever won on in two previous visits, that being the streets of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Can anyone prevent a Power three-peat? We will find out in two weeks.
2012 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – Final Classification (85 laps):