Mike Conway Wins at Long Beach

MCSometimes things have a funny way of working themselves out. On a weekend that saw Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais, and Josef Newgarden separate themselves from the field, it was Mike Conway that stole the show. Starting in 17th position, Conway drove the Fuzzy’s sponsored Ed Carpenter machine to victory lane as he became a two-time winner at Long Beach (2011). Will Power dodged another controversial incident to finish in second place. Carlos Munoz finished third, giving him two podium finishes in just five career IndyCar races. Juan Montoya and Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top five in Sunday’s race.

Obviously the big storyline that everyone is talking about was the incident that collected the three best cars in the race. Was it Hunter-Reay’s fault for being too aggressive? Was it Newgarden’s fault for not letting the inevitable pass take place? Hunter-Reay’s boss, Michael Andretti, and teammate (Hinchcliffe) both acknowledged that it was Ryan’s mistake. It may not have been the wrong time, but it was definitely the wrong place.

It was a tough break for Newgarden and team owner Sarah Fisher. After taking the high road on television, Sarah went the opposite route on social media. In fact, there was plenty of venting/drama to be found on Twitter shortly after the race. Hinchcliffe suffered a sprained thumb, and will need to get approval before getting back in the car. Regardless of the blame, it was just an unfortunate situation for everyone. Well, everyone except Dallara.

There weren’t many drivers that actually had a good day on Sunday. Graham Rahal spun Justin Wilson and was given a penalty. Rahal himself was turned later in the race. Simon Pagenaud was running in 2nd place when he was spun by Power, who was surprisingly not given a penalty. After the race, Power said that he was surprised that he wasn’t given a penalty, and that he felt really bad. Pagenaud was visibly (and understandably) upset after the race, despite rebounding for a top five finish.

Sebastien Bourdais put his car into the tire barrier multiple times, and received two separate pit road penalties. He was battling for the lead on cold tires during his first incident. Ganassi saw two of its cars have engine issues, with Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe. Kimball was running 6th at the time his engine let go. It was the second straight race that Jack Hawksworth was collected in an accident after having a very strong day.

Click here for the full results of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

So it took two whole races for Ed Carpenter’s big decision to pay off. This shouldn’t come as a total shock to anyone, because Conway really is that good. Remember, he won a race last year in the other Dale Coyne Racing car. With so many road and street circuits on the schedule, and double points for the big oval races (for Ed), things are looking good for Ed Carpenter Racing. Conway is currently second in the championship standings.

The next race on the Verizon IndyCar schedule is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on April 27. The telecast will begin at 2:30 PM ET on NBC Sports Network. This is the final race before teams begin the Month of May at Indianapolis.

Hunter-Reay Earns Long Beach Pole

RHRIt will be an Andretti front row to start the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday. Ryan Hunter-Reay won the pole, and James Hinchcliffe will start beside him. It’s the sixth career pole for Hunter-Reay, his first since Mid-Ohio last year. Sebastien Bourdais and Josef Newgarden claimed row two, and Jack Hawksworth and Simon Pagenaud will share row three. The four drivers that just missed the Firestone Fast Six; Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves, and Justin Wilson, round out the top ten starters.

For the first time since the Firestone Fast Six was created in 2005, there weren’t any Penske or Ganassi cars in the final round. It was a strong day for the Honda-powered teams, as they took five of the top six (9 of the top 12 overall) starting spots in qualifying.

There are some heavy weights that will be starting in the rear of the field on Sunday, including Will Power. Most expected Power to contest for the pole, but he will start tomorrow’s race in 14th position. His Penske teammate Juan Montoya will start one row behind him, in 16th position. Tony Kanaan and Mike Conway will also start in the rear, with Graham Rahal starting in the 23rd and final position. Graham is running out of excuses. His teammate, Oriol Servia will be starting in 12th on Sunday.

Click here for the full starting lineup for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

It was an impressive day for Hawksworth, who continues to turn heads around the IndyCar paddock. Carlos Munoz did well too, earning himself an 11th place starting position. Tomorrow marks the 40th running of the race in Long Beach, and will feature a standing start. Race coverage begins at 4 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.

Indy Road Course Update

IMSToday I was fortunate enough to take a few laps around the new road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the President of the speedway, Doug Boles. I’m very thankful that Doug (and his son) took the time out of their busy schedule to take me around the new layout. It was an extremely nice gesture, but if you know Doug, this shouldn’t come as a surprise at all. He is easily the best track President anywhere, and a genuinely nice and down to earth person. Anyway, he shared some interesting stuff that is going on right now, and what could be in the future plans for the speedway..

Work has begun on the curbing, but the high winds today limited the guys on how much they could do in that area. One of the first things Doug pointed out was the different lines that the IndyCars and motorcycles would be taking. They varied quite a bit, but each of them fit beautifully in the design of the course. The section between turns 1 and 2 on the oval was well thought out. It’s a very tight turn for the IndyCars, and a great transition for the motorcycles, heading into the next portion of the track.

Another thing fans will notice is the much improved viewing mounds. They are now higher, offering a better view, especially the one near the turn 4 infield. There, you will have an incredible view of everything on both sides of the mound. These spots will offer the best up-close view of the action on the track, and should be packed during the races.

IMS2There were a few changes near the entrance to, and on pit road. When the IndyCars come in, they will have more room, the interior wall has been pushed back, and another wall will be put up on the opposite side, separating pit lane and the track. Also, the fencing directly behind the pit boxes has been completely replaced, and it looks stunning. Doug said that the plan is to replace all of the fencing on the walls around the oval. It’s stronger, and will definitely help the overall appearance of the speedway.

I asked Doug about the main scoring pylon, and he said that what they want to do is take the time to get it right. They want the new pylon to have the look of the current pylon, but also have the updated technology which will allow them to display different sets of numbers, with the ability to adjust the size of them. He said it will also have a video board that will have on-track action, as well as advertising opportunities. The new scoring pylon will likely be put up just before the Brickyard 400 weekend.

The design of the course was well thought out, and will definitely offer some incredible racing next month. It’s going to provide a uniqueness to each type of racing, no matter which direction they are going. Coming off the corners, the cars will carry more speed/momentum onto the straightaways, which equates to higher top speeds.

Click here to purchase your Grand Prix of Indianapolis tickets

The Inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis begins with practice on May 8, with qualifications on May 9, and the race on May 10, at 3:30 PM ET. The practice day on May 8 is free and open to the public.If you have not yet purchased your tickets for this event, I strongly encourage you to do so now. This is going to be an incredible event that you don’t want to miss. It’s not every day that you get to ride around the The Greatest Race Course in the World with the track President. Then again, most presidents aren’t as gracious and humble as Doug. Thanks again.