In what was a stellar Indycar race, Josef Newgarden claimed his first victory in the series as well as the first victory for the new Carpenter-Fisher-Hartman (CFH) Racing team with an incredible drive from Graham Rahal to second, and Scott Dixon coming home third.
A clean start for the race, Newgarden was the early mover from fifth up to second while Pagenaud and Power battled for third garnering a warning to the latter for blocking teammate Pagenaud. Dixon and Kanaan had a poor start to the race with Kanaan dropping from sixth to ninth.
Tires were a key factor as those who started on used alternates (reds) suffered quickly causing issues for many runners in the mid-pack and giving us some fantastic racing Those on primary tires made full advantage of the situation coming through the pack.
Lap 17 saw Dixon, Power, Montoya and Kanaan pit with Power running into the side of Sato as he re-joined the racetrack. The incident produced debris, bringing out the first caution. Power would later receive a drive through penalty for his part in the incident.
Newgarden had a perfect pitstop under yellow, whilst Helio Castroneves was less lucky, with a dropped wheel nut, slowing down his stop. Come the restart, it was Newgarden from Castroneves, Rahal, Hinch, Power, Dixon and Hunter-Reay.
Hunter Reay’s team, having pulled off a fantastic strategy, moved from 18th to 7th.
The brilliant racing continued after the pitstops with numerous changes for position, whilst on lap 34, Coletti and James Jakes had a collision at Turn Five leaving Jakes stranded on the racetrack and requiring assistance to get back underway. This prompted the race’s second full course caution. Coletti would receive a drive through penalty.
Helio Castroneves was the real benefactor of the following sequences of stops while Newgarden had an issue (dropping the clutch early while the team was still working on the car) delaying his release from the pits.
The clean restart saw a rather over-enthusiastic move from Juan Pablo Montoya on Charlie Kimball. Although Indycar issued Montoya a warning, no further action was taken.
Rahal and Hinch, being on different strategies, battled for the lead before entering the pits within a lap of one another. Hinch came out ahead of Rahal but the latter was able to make the pass for position with warmer tires.
Whilst Dracone held a few drivers up during this portion of the race, James Hinchcliffe was racing for position but he had less pace than those around him. The stops allowed a number of drivers to cycle the lead, including Bourdais, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden.
Rahal and Hinch were the last pair to pit on lap 71 of 90. Rahal came out sixth, coming through the pack to third, passing Helio, who eventually ran out of fuel, and then the chase was on to catch Dixon and leader Newgarden. Rahal put in a fantastic effort, closing the gap from 17 seconds behind to pass Dixon for second on the very last lap of the race, whilst Newgarden would win the race by 2.2 seconds.
Overall it was a fantastic race for Indycar and although the series got off to a bad start in 2015, Long Beach and Barber Motorsports Park have given the series races to be proud of. As we go into the month of may, first with the Indianapolis Grand Prix, then the crown jewel, the Indianapolis 500, Indycar has built some momentum despite its rocky start.