Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon wins at Long Beach, ahead of Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud, in front of a very strong spectator crowd.
So how was the race? In my opinion, it was the race that Indycar needed, the series has had an extremely tough start to its new aero kit era, we saw a caution-fest at St Petersburg and the less said about NOLA 2015, the better. With those races in mind, a calm, albeit relatively interesting race was exactly what Indycar needed to deliver this weekend, and deliver it did.
While Helio Castroneves led the field away from teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, it was clear to see that Dixon and Ganassi had a strong car this week, with Dixon passing JPM, and attacking Helio for the early race lead.
The pitstops where the real turning point for Dixon however, with Helio being held a few seconds extra due to Tony Kanaan entering the box infront, which effectively allowed Dixon to take the lead. From then, despite a charge from Helio, Dixon held a commanding lead, with the battle behind between the Penske drivers.
Firstly it was Helio and Pagenaud, then Pagenaud and Montoya, who continued a duel for several laps, eventually in the closing laps allowing Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan and KV Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais to join that battle for the final podium step.
Only one caution period existed during the race, for debris from Gabby Chaves, BHA Honda, other than that, this was an exceptionally clean, strong race for Indycar, with a lot of positive headlines to take away. Ganassi can fight Penske for victories, the aero kits can produce clean races, and a new track record by Helio Castroneves in qualifying.
Chevrolet had the march once again, in the Honda vs Chevrolet battle, with the top Honda finish, Marco Andretti in eighth for Andretti Autosport. Honda seem to have pace in qualifying, with Ryan-Hunter Reay making the fast six yesterday, but in the race, the pace on road courses still needs improvement.
Right now it does appear that we are looking at a Penske vs Ganassi season, with less influence from other teams, something Indycar has seen less of since the introduction of the previous DW12 chassis, though more traditional in Indycar history.
I’m not sure that this is really a bad thing right now, an inter-team battle as we saw today between Montoya, Pagenaud and Castroneves is going to provide a good championship prospect, then factor in Dixon and Kanaan at Ganassi, Plus Will Power who suffered a tough race today and many unanswered questions as to how the balance between Chevrolet and Honda will be in oval configuration, and the 2015 Indycar season suddenly looks very positive.
Will Power’s weekend in Long Beach went wrong from yesterday in the qualifying session, when Coletti spun and disallowed Power the chance to put his strategy into place of having one fast lap late in the session, after a banker lap.
His early stint today was decent, until the reigning champion took to pitroad, stalling behind a slow Luca Filippi on pit entry due to confusion as to what was happening ahead, effectively ending any chances of a charge through the field.
Standout performances by Sebastien Saavedra today, who put in a very impressive debut 2015 outing with Chip Ganassi Racing, coming home in tenth place, and Conor Daly, who finished seventeenth, however you have to take into account, neither got a whole lot of track time prior to the race time, however still translated impressive race pace, it’s positive.
Overall, a strong race and the right race for today. I’m sure social media has many mixed thoughts, and looking back, this race will have different opinions. I’m now excited for Barber Motorsports Park, The Grand Prix of Alabama next weekend, ahead of the month of may!