Monday, April 21, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Easter Eggs, Raindrops and Mops

Easter weekend is a dull... well non-existent weekend for motorsports in the United States. No NASCAR, no IndyCar, no IMSA, not even the NHRA and I can live with that. Give me the day with the family. With that said our friends in Europe were smart enough to take Easter Monday off making it a three-day weekend (maybe four? Does Europe take Good Friday off?) and making having a race a little more sustainable.

Toyota Wins Silverstone
We will start at the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship season opener and how Toyota took advantage of Audi's hour from hell. As the rain began, the #1 Audi of Lucas di Grassi spun off, ending the defending champions day. The #2 Audi dropped off the lead lap and then had it's own accident halfway through the race with Benoît Tréluyer behind the wheel. It was the first time multiple Audi's retired from an event since 2011 Petit Le Mans.

Toyota took advantage and went 1-2 as the race ended a half-hour early due to heavy rain. The team of Anthony Davidon, Sébastien Buemi and Nicolas Lapierre lead their teammates Alexander Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima and Stéphane Sarrazin by six points in the championship. The #20 Porsche finished third with Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber piloting the car on debut.

With Audi's naught from round one, it sure made their championship defense interesting. I'm sticking with my prediction Porsche wins Le Mans and Spa can't come soon enough.

Other winners from the weekend was the #26 G-Drive Morgan-Nissan of Romain Rusinov, Olivier Pla and Julien Canal in LMP2. G-Drive has won the last three WEC events and five of the last six dating back to their exclusion from Le Mans last year.

In GTE Pro, Porsche started with another victory for the 911 RSR. The car won the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring in IMSA. Marco Holzer, Frédéric Makowiecki and Richard Lietz were in the winning #92 while Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy finished second in the #91. Aston Martin's Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner rounded out the GTE Pro podium.

Wouldn't it be great if Corvette and Viper entered one car into the WEC? I understand why the compete in IMSA but they only time they compete against the best of the best is at Le Mans. Wouldn't it be great to see what they could do over the course of an eight round championship?

In GTE Am, the all-Danish #95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim, David Heinemeier Hansson and Kristian Poulsen took victory with their teammates, the #98 of Christoffer Nygaard, Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana in second and the #81 AF Corse Ferrari of Sam Bird, Michele Rugolo and Stephen Wyatt in third.

WEC next competes at Spa on Saturday May 3rd.

European Le Mans Series opened their 2014 season at Silverstone and had thrilling three car battle for the overall victory down to the final lap. The #41 Thiriet by TDS Racing Morgan-Nissan of Tristan Gommendy, Pierre Thiriet and Ludovic Badey won 3.828 seconds over the #34 Oreca-Judd of Race Performance driven by Michel Frey and Franck Mailleux. The Morgan-Judd of Newblood by Morand Racing finished 4.731 seconds back in third with Christian Klein, Gary Hirsch and Romain Brandela.

Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Michele Rugolo won in GTE driving the #55 AF Corse Ferrari with the #96 Team Ukraine Ferrai of Andriy Kruglyk, Sergii Chukanov and Alessandro Pier Guidi winning in GTC.

The second round of ELMS takes place May 18th at Imola.

Mercedes Mops Floor at Shanghai
Lewis Hamilton led every lap at China and Mercedes has led all 224 laps of the 2014 Formula One season as the teams begin their European stretch of the championship in three weeks. It was Hamilton's third consecutive victory but he is still second in the championship, four points back of Nico Rosberg as his Mercedes teammate has one victory and finished runner-up to Hamilton in his three victories.

Fernando Alonso finished third and is now third in the championship while his Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen continues to struggle. For the second race Daniel Ricciardo finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel as the Australian continues to search for his first career podium after being disqualified from second at his race in Australia. Nico Hülkenberg is still the top German driver in the championship, three points ahead of Vettel for fourth.

Mercedes not only mopped the floor at Shanghai but has mopped the floor at every race this season by scoring every pole and fastest lap along with every victory and lap led. Had Hamilton's engine held up at Australia they would probably have the maximum 172 points in the Constructors' Championship.

Other winners from the weekend: Audi drivers Laurens Vanthoor and César Ramos won the qualifying race at the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series opening round while Mercedes drivers Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Götz won the main race.  G-Drive Audi's pair of Stéphane Ortelli and Grégory Guilvert lead the Sprint Series points after finishing fourth and second at the two races this weekend. Alex Zanardi finished fourteenth and thirteenth in his Sprint Series debut this weekend.

In WTCC, Yvan Muller won the first race at Paul Ricard while his Citroën teammate José María López took the second race. López leads the championship with 86 points, 12 ahead of Sébastien Loeb who finished second and sixth over the weekend. Muller is third in the standings, twenty points back.

Coming up this weekend: NASCAR under the lights at Richmond, IndyCar and the Road to Indy bandwagon at Barber, MotoGP returns to Argentina for the first time since 1999, World Superbike at Assen and V8 Supercars in New Zealand.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Practice, Practice, Practice

From China to the United Kingdom and France, top drivers from around the globe took to the track preparing for racing this Easter weekend.

Formula One is in China and Lewis Hamilton topped the second session with a lap of 1:38.315. Second fastest was Fernando Alonso, 0.141 seconds back. Nico Rosberg was third, 0.411 seconds back of his teammate. Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top five.

Felipe Massa was sixth ahead of his former Ferrari teammate Kimi Räikkönen. Jenson Button was eighth with Romain Grosjean in ninth in the first good session of the season for Lotus-Renault. Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten.

Nico Hülkenberg was eleventh ahead of rookie Kevin Magnussen. Jean-Éric Vergne was thirteenth with Valterri Bottas and podium finisher from Bahrain Sergio Pérez in fifteenth. The Sauber-Ferraris of Esteban Gutiérrez and Adrian Sutil were sixteenth and seventeenth. Pastor Maldonado was eighteenth but his session ended early are having an accident entering the pit lane.

The Marussias of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton led the Caterhams of Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson in the final four positions.

The 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship season begins this weekend at Silverstone and defending champions Audi were on top Friday. Lucas di Grassi set the fastest lap at 1:43.134 driving the #1 R18 e-tron quattro. The #2 Audi was second, as André Lotterer was four tenths off. #7 Toyota was third, nearly a second back with Kazuki Nakajima setting the fastest time. The #20 Porsche of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley was nearly two seconds back. The #8 Toyota rounded out the top five with the #12 Rebellion Racing sixth and the #14 Porsche in seventh. The #13 Rebellion rounded out the LMP1 times.

The #26 G-Drive Racing Morgan-Nissan was tops in LMP2 with a lap of 1:50.401. The #47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan was 0.302 seconds back in second with the SMP Racing Oreca-Nissans rounding out the four-car LMP2 field.

Porsche topped GTE Pro with the #92 Porsche setting the fastest lap at 2:00.057, 0.211 seconds ahead of the privateer British entrant, #52 Ram Racing Ferrari. The #91 Porsche was third. Defending GT champions Ferrari were fourth and fifth with the #71 of Davide Rigon and James Calado ahead of defending GT drivers champion Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander. The #97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke were sixth, 1.731 seconds back. The #99 Aston Martin of Alex MacDowell, Fernando Rees and Darryl O'Young rounded out GTE Pro.

The #88 Proton Competition Porsche led GTE Am with a time of 2:00.570 seconds. The #61 Ferrari was second followed by the #98 and #95 Aston Martins respectively. The #75 Proton Porsche, #53 Ram Racing Ferrari and #90 8Star Ferrari rounded out GTE AM.

After sweeping the opening weekend of the 2014 World Touring Car Championship at Marrakech, Citroën driver José María López and Sébastien Loeb led Friday's test at Paul Ricard. López set the top time at 1:31.227 with Loeb 0.138 seconds back. Honda's Nobert Michelisz was third, 0.908 seconds back. Frenchmen Hugo Valente and Yvan Muller rounded out the top five.

Gianni Morbidelli was sixth and former Formula One driver Tiago Montero was seventh. Tom Chilton was eighth with Serbian Dušan Borković in ninth. The 2009 WTCC champion Gabriele Tarquini rounded out the top ten.

Five hundred seventy-seven kilometers (358.53 miles) west of Paul Ricard, the Blancpain Sprint Series held their first practice session for the opening round of their 2014 season at Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro, France. Defending co-champion Laurens Vanthoor and César Ramos led an Audi 1-2-3 on Friday with a time of 1:26.207 seconds, ahead of teammates René Rast and Enzo Ide and the Phoenix Racing's Markus Winkelhock and Niki Mayr-Meinhof.

Lamborghini's Jeroen Bleekmolen and Sascha Halek were fourth with Silver Cup Audi drivers Mateusz Lisowski and Vincent Abril. Mercedes drivers Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Götz were sixth with their teammates Stef Dusseldorp and Sergei Afanasiev in seventh. Eighth place was the G-Drive Audi of defending co-champion Stéphane Ortelli and Grégory Guilvert.

Alex Zanardi returns to racing after a five-year sabbatical. He was thirteenth fastest, 1.955 seconds back of the top time and was the second fastest BMW. Zanardi last competed in the WTCC in 2009.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Musings From Monday: Indianapolis 500 News

IndyCar announced some changes to Indianapolis 500 qualifying and we getting closer to finding out who will be attempting the 98th running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

IndyCar announced additional changes to Indianapolis 500 qualifying yesterday to allow for potential bumping on the final qualifying day.

The field will still be filled on Saturday with qualifiers setting the Fast Nine for Sunday and receiving points based on their time Saturday. However, should a team suffer "hardship" (IndyCar's word, not mine) on Saturday they will get a second chance on Sunday.

Teams that are not in the fastest 33 on Saturday along with any new entries must declare by 7:00 p.m. ET Saturday their intention to qualify on Sunday but any Sunday qualifiers will be limited to starting on the eleventh row.

At a glance:
Fast nine still happening.
10th-30th fastest from Saturday are locked into the field.
31st-33rd from Saturday could be bumped and any car that does not make the field Saturday or any new entries making a qualifying attempt.

Sunday qualifying schedule will go as follows:
Group one (determines positions 10th-30th): 10:15 a.m. ET to 12:15 p.m. ET.
Group two (determines row eleven): 12:45 p.m. ET to 1:30 p.m. ET.
Fast Nine: 2:00 p.m. ET to 2:45 p.m. ET.

Got that?

IndyCar really thinks this "enhances" (IndyCar's word, not mine) Indianapolis 500 qualifying? It causes more headaches with it's redundancy and lack of risk.

First off, stop using the word "enhance." It makes it sound like you gave Indianapolis 500 qualifying Viagra or Cialis or Extenze (by the way, is Kevin Conway going to be making an attempt?).

Second, let's run down this scenario:
Driver U qualifies 30th on Saturday and gets four bonus points.
Driver V qualifies 31st on Saturday and gets three bonus points.
Driver X qualifies 32nd on Saturday and gets two bonus points.
Driver Y puts it in the wall and his team is scrambling.
Driver W qualifies 33rd on Saturday and gets one bonus point.
Driver Z does not make an attempt but at 6:58 p.m. the team owner gives Derrick Walker or Beuax Barfield or some IndyCar official the heads up, "hey, we are going to give it a shot tomorrow."

Sunday comes.

Group one ends.

Driver Y along with Driver Z both bump their way into the field with times faster than Driver U who is in 30th and knock out Driver W and Driver X. Driver V is 33rd.

Driver X has put it into the wall trying make his way back in. Driver X is done.

Driver W qualifies and their time is faster than Driver Y, Z and U with Driver V bumped out of the field.

Driver V goes out and runs a time fastest than Driver U but not Driver W, Y or Z. Driver V doesn't make the field because Driver U is locked in for being in the top thirty on Saturday.

Gun sounds. Group two done. Breakdown of what just happened:

The final row features Driver W, Y and Z in that order and they have the 30th, 31st and 32nd fastest times.

Driver V was 33rd fastest but since they were not in the top thirty on Saturday and limited to starting on the last row, fails to make the race but as a consolation prize gets to keep the three points from Saturday.

Driver X is out after putting it into the wall but gets to keep the two points from Saturday as a consolation prize.

Driver U is 34th fastest and not only makes the Indianapolis 500 but starts 30th with four points to boot.

Like it or not that could happen.

Better yet is this juicy quote Derrick Walker gave us, "As our qualifying format evolves we continue to evaluate what is best for the competitors. We realized the need to provide teams that suffer an unexpected hardship on Saturday a second chance to make the Indianapolis 500. The changes apply primarily for cars that crash or suffer a mechanical failure during their Saturday qualifying run. Ultimately, we will capture the fastest 33 cars and that's who will make the race."

Here is what Walker is saying in this quote:

"As our qualifying format evolves we continue to evaluate what is best for the competitors.."

What Walker means: We are trying something new and have no idea if it is going to work.

"We realized the need to provide teams that suffer an unexpected hardship on Saturday a second chance to make the Indianapolis 500..."

What Walker means: Listen, this is for if a Penske or Ganassi car stuffs it in the wall on Saturday. Imagine if Kanaan repeats his 2010 pole day performance? Then the defending Indianapolis 500 winner is out of the race. You think Mr. Ganassi is going to be happy? What about Target? And I'm not going to be the one to tell them tough shit that their car failed to make the race. God forbid they accept the risks that come with making the Indianapolis 500.

Oh and imagine if it is Verizon golden-boy Will Power who puts it in the wall on Saturday!? How the fuck am I going to explain to Verizon that their car won't be in the Indianapolis 500? And then there is Mr. Penske who has been it that position before but he will be on my ass for the rest of 2014.

And Kurt Busch. Let's face it, the odds are really good he stuffs it in the wall on his qualifying attempt. Trust me, I asked the Old Scout and he's giving people 3-1 odds Busch stuffs it on his attempt. God forbid he gets back on a plane to Charlotte for an exhibition All-Star race with his tail between his legs and learns what it feels like to fail to qualify for something. He has already called me six times seeing if his past champions provisional carries over and called me after the Martinsville race to see if that win not only was enough to make the Indianapolis 500 but guarantees he would have a shot at the championship at Fontana season finale. What the hell is he thinking?

And this is also to prevent teams buying their way in. I have already had Martin Plowman call me worried sick he qualifies in the top half of the field but someone comes dangling a check in front of AJ and he ends up on the sidelines like Bruno Junqueira in 2011. The last thing we needs is that fiasco again especially to another hard-working driver who gets where he is on speed.

"The changes apply primarily for cars that crash or suffer mechanical failure during their Saturday qualifying run..."

What Walker means: Yeah, this is there in case Buddy Lazier tears a gearbox up or Michel Jourdain, Jr. finds a ride (if he does, we have a problem) but mostly it's to cover my own ass if things go to hell for Ganassi or Penske, especially that Verizon car.

"Ultimately, we will capture the 33 fastest cars and that's who will make the race."

What Walker means: About that, uh... we may have screwed the pooch on this one. Let's see how this goes but we may have 33 cars but not the 33 fastest cars. Hopefully that doesn't happen otherwise I will have some explaining to do.

Moving on.

I just don't see how these changes has made Indianapolis 500 qualifying better. I understand you want cars on track more but by making car qualify again and again and again is redundant. It's easier said than done but if you want to make qualifying better make sure 38-40 cars back an attempt. It's easy to say but in reality it's difficult with the lack of funds, team and crew members but telling the same drivers to qualify again and again and again isn't, in IndyCar's words "enhanced."

IndyCar needs to keep it simple stupid. Making everybody qualify twice and giving away points like they are condoms at Carnival in Rio is a waste. I understand many want qualifying to be an event that draws a crowd comparable to the other oval races on the schedule (25,000-30,000 people) and a decent TV rating but I don't think these changes or any changes would have been for the better.

Indianapolis 500 qualifying's problem hasn't been so much the format as it has been the amount of participants but you can't just make another dozen cars appear at the drop of a hat. However, if IndyCar wants to make Indianapolis 500 qualifying better for the long haul they are going to have to figure out a way to get another two or three full-time teams in IndyCar that can run an additional car for the Month of May and make it possible for Indy Lights teams, IMSA teams, hell even USAC teams to run a one-off and not have to close shop if it all goes to hell.

Moving on from qualifying because we could talk all day about it.

Here is what we know: Take the 23 cars from Sunday at Long Beach and add Martin Plowman (24) for both Indianapolis races with Buddy Lazier (25), Jacques Villeneuve (26), Kurt Busch (27), JR Hildebrand (28) and Alex Tagliani (29).

Townsend Bell and KV confirmed their partnership and we are at 30th.

Ganassi is still pussyfooting running Sage Karam but it looks like that is close to happening (31).

Dreyer & Reinbold plan to run a car (32) and Davey Hamilton is the man who is running the second car out of D&R's shop (33).

Note: Davey Hamilton is NOT driving. Once again, Davey Hamilton is NOT driving. And a third time to get it through to everybody, Davey Hamilton is NOT driving. Hamilton is the car owner and someone else will be the driver. I am not sure what this means for his partnership with Sam Schmidt but we will worried about that later.

Then there is Stefan Wilson's super secret attempt to run for an Indianapolis-based team who remains nameless (34).

And finally Dale Coyne could run a third (35).

I know above I said Indianapolis 500 qualifying needs 38-40 but for this year, after having 33 cars enter the first year of the DW12 in 2012 and 34 in 2013, this is a step in the right direction. Cars, teams, interest and funding won't just appear over night but one step at a time and hopefully that next step in 2015 is just a little bit bigger. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Hip-Checks and False Starts

A lot of hurt feelings from Long Beach and MotoGP had a successful weekend at Austin. Here is what I observed and what is rattling around my brain.

Hip-Checks Allowed in IndyCar
A lot of contact at Long Beach and IndyCar officials have set the bar for what will be allowed and what will not be allowed in the coming races. St. Petersburg was uneventful compared to yesterday and a million times less controversial.

There were four incidents that caught my eye on IndyCar making a call and now needing to be consistent from here on out.

Let's start with the Will Power-Simon Pagenaud incident. Going into turn six, Power made a move to the inside of Pagenaud at turn six. Contact occurred and sent Pagenaud into the drives for a brief moment while Power continued running in the top five. Pagenaud would continue and would eventually finish fifth.

Simultaneously with the Power-Pagenaud incident, IndyCar was reviewing Graham Rahal spinning Justin Wilson in the hairpin. Rahal simply got into the rear of Wilson's car and sent him around. Just like Pagenaud, Wilson kept the car going and was able to continue.

Rahal received a penalty, Power did not. 

The precedent has been set.

If contact occurs between cars side-by-side in the corner, it's a racing incident, no penalty. 
If contact occurs with car getting into another from behind, avoidable contact, penalty.

After that their were two incidents that caught my eye.

First is Ryan Hunter-Reay-Josef Newgarden accident after the second round of pit stops at turn four which also collected James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato. 

A lot of people are crucifying Hunter-Reay for attempting the move but it doesn't sit well with me the thought that had Hunter-Reay completed the pass he would've be praised for a ballsy move (same as Zanardi on Herta in 1998) but since it ended poorly, many call amateur hour. 

First, anyone who cried out amateur hour, let's see you get between the wheel of the car and see if you can do one lap without putting it in the tires or tearing up a gearbox or pisses your pants and then you can decide what amateur hour is. 

Second, had Hunter-Reay made contact and forced Newgarden into the wall and continued, the precedent was set and he shouldn't have received a penalty. He was along the side of Newgarden, same as Power-Pagenaud. 

Then there was Scott Dixon making contact with Justin Wilson entering turn eight. Wilson had made a move to the outside and Dixon made contact with the side of Wilson, forcing him into the wall and out of the race. Dixon continued and just like the Power-Pagenaud incident, Dixon and Wilson were side-by-side when the contact occurred and no penalty was issued to Dixon. 

IndyCar was consistent on their calls. Side-by-side contact is viewed as racing incidents. Now the series has to call it that way from now until the checkered flag at Fontana on August 30th. 

Another thought from all these incidents are do the drivers use their mirrors? The distance from turn three to four might not be long but Hunter-Reay made his move early enough for Newgarden to see him. He didn't dive bomb in there. He committed to the move. Same as Wilson. Wilson was along side Dixon for most of the straightaway from turn six to eight. My question is how didn't either  Newgarden or Dixon see Hunter-Reay or Wilson in their mirrors? 

We could spend the whole intermediate between Long Beach and Barber discussing what the precedent is and what is and what isn't a racing incident but we have to move on.

False Start: Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo's day started and ended before everyone else's yesterday in the Grand Prix of the Americas from Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The jumped start for Lorenzo led to a drive-through penalty but the Majorcan would recover for tenth.

His countryman Marc Márquez however dominated again and it is clear the only person capable of beating him is himself and he nearly didn't on the final corner of the race. His Honda nearly stepped out on him but he was able to hold on and still win comfortably (although I am sure his heart rate skyrocketed) over his teammate Dani Pedrosa. There was a phenomenal battle between Andrea Dovizioso, Bradley Smith and Stefan Bradl for third. Valentino Rossi's race started well but his bike faded late with rookie Pol Espargaró and Andrea Iannone dropping The Doctor to 8th. Aleix Espargaró was the top open class bike in 9th.

Nicky Hayden came home in 9th and his fellow American Colin Edwards had a fall while in the points, ending his final race in his home state of Texas. Edwards announced his retirement before the Austin race. It was disappointing to see his home race end that way. Hayden on the otherhand appeared to have his bike improve throughout the race as he passed Yonny Hernández and pulled away from him in the closing laps. 

In other bike news, shout out to Tom Sykes who swept the Superbike World Championship round at Aragón. He holds a four point lead over Frenchman Loris Baz who has finished second in three of the first four races.

Other winners from the weekend: José María López won race one of the World Touring Car Championship season on the streets of Marrakech. It took Sébastien Loeb two races to pick up his first WTCC victory as Citroën swept their WTCC debut weekend. 

The #98 ART McLaren MP4-12C of Álvaro Parente, Alexandre Prémat and Grégoire Demoustier won the opening round of the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series season at Monza. 

Loïc Duval won the opening round of the 2014 Super Formula Season from Suzuka.

Looking forward to the Easter weekend. No motorsports in the States but plenty in Europe because they take Easter Monday off while North Americans get back to work (God forbid we take an extra day off for some R&R). 

European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship both get underway from Silverstone. Formula One is in China. Alex Zanardi returns to competition with the Blancpain Sprint Series on Easter Monday from Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro, France. World Touring Car Championship heads to Paul Ricard. 

That should be enough motorsports to fill in between church and family while snacking on a chocolate bunny.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

First Impressions: Long Beach 2014

1. Who had Conway!? WHO HAD CONWAY!? I DID! On a day that saw a plethora of drivers taken out and fuel mileage came into play, the little team that could stun the big boys on a street circuit.

2. Moving on from tooting. Great drive by Mike Conway. Congratulations to Ed Carpenter. One step closer to the owner's title. And now Mike Conway shows why I nominated him for 2013 For the Love of Indy Racer of the Year: He will get on a plane and run in the FIA World Endurance Championship season opener at Silverstone next week. That's my kind of racer.

3. Will Power recovered from a poor qualifying session. Hip-checked Simon Pagenaud and escaped penalty and somehow finished second. For the driver who for a half decade never had breaks go his way, breaks are finally going his way and that elusive title may just fall into his lap.

4. Colombians finished third and fourth with Carlos Muñoz beating out Juan Pablo Montoya. A few accidents played into their favor but they will take it.

5. Simon Pagenaud recovered from Power's hip-check to finish fifth and his teammate Mikhail Aleshin finished sixth. Once again, a few accidents played into their favor but you got to take what you can get.

6. Oriol Servià finished seventh, he was quicker than his teammate Graham Rahal (more on him in a moment) all weekend. Someone fund him for the rest of the season, not just through Indianapolis.

7. Marco Andretti finished eighth after having a sore wrist and an extra pit stop for a wing replacement. Not bad.

8. Colombia had a great day. Sebastián Saavedra and Carlos Huertas rounded out the top ten. Who saw that coming?

9. Scott Dixon was leading late before needing to stop for fuel and finished 12th. He hip-checked Justin Wilson a whole hell of a lot worse than Power on Pagenaud and how he escaped penalty amazed me. I feel bad for Justin Wilson. He could have won this race had it not been for Dixon's move.

10. On to the major incident. Got to give Ryan Hunter-Reay credit for going for it. He saw a gap and went for it. He was trying to re-create Alex Zanardi on Bryan Herta in 1998 and it didn't work. It stinks Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves, Ton Kanaan, Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato were also involved. I don't place blame on Hunter-Reay. It was a racing incident. We can't place blame every time there is an accident. It was a driver going for a gap. What do you want him to do?

11. But even after all those contenders were taken out, the race didn't suffer. Other players stepped up and fought like no tomorrow for the victory. IndyCar has a deep grid and it surely showed today.

12. Sébastien Bourdais had a rough day. He had a great weekend going before getting into the tires twice. Let's hope Barber goes more in the Frenchman's favor.

13. On to Graham Rahal. It was a poor weekend and the race didn't go better. It's only race two but this team has to turn it around. Servià handed Rahal's ass to him and Servià had two test day and should be on the back nine of his career. Rahal was 12,698,967.47 reasons why he NEEDS to turn it around.

14. Rough day for Ganassi. Dixon's fuel strategy being three laps short. Ryan Briscoe had electrically issues. Kanaan was in an accident that wasn't his fault and Charlie Kimball had an engine fail on him. By the way Chevrolet, that will cost you ten points.

15. On to Barber in a fortnight. Let's see if the drivers calm down over Easter. Someone get them a box of chocolates (for Kimball, a fruit basket... because of his diabetes. It's a joke people, don't take it too seriously).

Morning Warm-Up: Long Beach 2014

Ryan Hunter-Reay Looks for His Second Long Beach Victory While James Hinchcliffe Looks for His First.
Ryan Hunter-Reay starts on pole for the 40th Grand Prix of Long Beach. The American won at Long Beach in 2010 and is second in the points after his second place finish at St. Petersburg two weeks ago. James Hinchcliffe swept the front row for Andretti Autosport. The Canadian finished third on his Long Beach debut in 2010. Three-time Long Beach winner Sébastien Bourdais starts third. He has not scored a top ten at Long Beach since returning to IndyCar in 2011. Josef Newgarden starts fourth and has been in the top ten in every session this weekend entering race day.

Rookie Jack Hawksworth starts fifth. Last year, Hawksworth started second in the Indy Lights race at Long Beach but was taken out in a three car accident before even reaching turn one. Simon Pagenaud joins Hawksworth on row three. Pagenaud finished second at Long Beach in 2012. Scott Dixon starts seventh. The defending champion has one top ten finish in seven Long Beach starts and his average finish at Long Beach is 15.4. Marco Andretti starts a career-best eighth at Long Beach. His best Long Beach finish is sixth in 2009. Helio Castroneves starts ninth with Justin Wilson rounding out the top ten.

Carlos Muñoz starts eleventh with Oriol Servià on the outside of row six. This is Servià first race of the 2014 season after missing the season opener at St. Petersburg. Tony Kanaan starts thirteenth with Will Power in fourteenth. This is Power's worst start in nine Long Beach appearance. Defending Long Beach winner Takuma Sato starts fifteenth with 1999 Long Beach winner Juan Pablo Montoya in sixteenth.

Mike Conway and Ryan Briscoe make up row seven. California-native Charlie Kimball starts nineteenth with rookie Mikhail Aleshin in twentieth. Carlos Huertas and Sebastián Saavedra make it an all Colombian row eleven with Graham Rahal starting in the twenty-third and final position on the grid.

This is the first race of the 2014 season that will use a standing start.

This is the 31st time IndyCar has race on Palm Sunday. Since 1946, IndyCar has had a race fall on Palm Sunday in 27 years for a total of 30 races at nine different tracks.

Here is a list of those Palm Sunday races:
1958- Trenton: Len Sutton (1st career win).
1960- Trenton: Rodger Ward
1964- Phoenix: AJ Foyt (1)
1968- Phoenix: Bobby Unser (1)
1973- Trenton: AJ Foyt (2), Mario Andretti (1). Two 150-mile heats.
1974- Trenton: Bobby Unser (2)
1979- Texas World: AJ Foyt (3)
1984- Phoenix: Tom Sneva
1987- Phoenix: Roberto Guerrero (1st career win).
1990- Phoenix: Rick Mears
1992- Long Beach: Danny Sullivan
1993- Phoenix: Mario Andretti (2) (Final career win).
1995- Long Beach: Al Unser, Jr.
1996- Surfers Paradise: Jimmy Vasser
1997- Phoenix: Jim Guthrie (1st and only career win)
1998- Long Beach: Alex Zanardi
1999- Phoenix: Scott Goodyear
2000- Long Beach: Paul Tracy (1)
2001- Long Beach: Helio Castroneves (1), Homestead: Sam Hornish, Jr. (1). CART/IRL Split.
2002- Homestead: Sam Hornish, Jr. (2)
2003- Motegi: Scott Sharp, Long Beach: Paul Tracy (2) CART/IRL Split.
2006- Long Beach: Sébastien Bourdais
2007- St. Petersburg: Helio Castroneves (2)
2009- St. Petersburg: Ryan Briscoe
2011- Long Beach: Mike Conway (1st career win).
2012- Barber: Will Power
2013- St. Petersburg: James Hinchcliffe (1st career win).

AJ Foyt has the most wins on Palm Sunday with three. The only other drivers will multiple Palm Sunday victories are Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti, Sam Hornish, Jr., Paul Tracy and Helio Castroneves.

Five drivers got their first career win on Palm Sunday (Len Sutton, Roberto Guerrero, Jim Guthrie, Mike Conway and James Hinchcliffe). Two drivers got their final career win on Palm Sunday (Mario Andretti and Jim Guthrie).

Entering today, Long Beach and Phoenix are tied hosting 8 Palm Sunday races apiece. Trenton hosted 5 Palm Sunday races. St. Petersburg has hosted Palm Sunday races on three occasions. Homestead has hosted Palm Sunday races twice. Barber, Motegi, Surfers Paradise and Texas World each hosted one race on Palm Sunday. 

IndyCar morning warm-up will take place at noon ET. NBCSN's coverage from Long Beach begins at 2:30 p.m. ET with the Indy Lights races. Immediately following the Indy Lights race will be coverage for the Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Long Beach beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET with green flag at 4:50 p.m. ET.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hunter-Reay Takes Long Beach Pole

In a session that saw Ganassi and Penske get shut out of the final round of qualifying, Andretti Autosport swept the front row for the 40th Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Ryan Hunter-Reay won his sixth career pole with a time of 67.8219 seconds. He held off his teammate James Hinchcliffe by 0.1184 seconds. Sébastien Bourdais was the top Chevrolet team in third. He was 0.1361 seconds back. He is joined by Josef Newgarden on row two as the Tennesseean was 0.1878 seconds back. Rookie Jack Hawksworth starts fifth with Simon Pagenaud rounding out row three.

Scott Dixon starts seventh with Marco Andretti starting a career-best eighth at Long Beach. Helio Castroneves starts ninth with Justin Wilson rounding out the top ten. Carlos Muñoz starts eleventh for his Long Beach debut while Oriol Servià made it out of round one in his first qualifying session of the season and will start twelfth.

Tony Kanaan will start thirteenth. Will Power surprisingly failed to make it out of round one and will join Kanaan on row seven in fourteenth.   Defending Long Beach winner Takuma Sato will start fifteenth and will be joined by fellow former Long Beach winner Juan Pablo Montoya on row eight. Mike Conway will start seventeenth next to Ganassi's Ryan Briscoe in eighteenth.

Charlie Kimball starts nineteenth and Mikhail Aleshin will start twentieth on his Long Beach debut.  Carlos Huertas starts twenty-first. Fellow Colombian Sebastián Saavedra starts twenty-second and Graham Rahal rounds out the field in twenty-third.

Tomorrow's coverage of the 40th Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN with green flag at 4:50 p.m. ET.