Okay who predicted the podium at the Grand Prix of Long Beach would have Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson as the top three finishers? And in that order! If you’re putting your hand up you better have proof because no one would believe you. But that’s exactly what happened at round number three of the IZOD IndyCar series.
The first series win for Sato is a popular one with fans and others in the series. When Sato agreed to join A.J. Foyt’s team for this season a few eyebrows were raised and everyone wondered how the combination would work. Turns out pretty well.
Sato has been fast all season. If not for a penalty he would have started each of the first three events inside the top six. He scored a top ten result at the season opener in St. Petersburg and Sunday in Long Beach showed he was clearly the fastest driver on the day.
Once Sato passed Ryan Hunter-Reay for second spot he ran down pole sitter Dario Franchitti before the first pit stops. Sato took the lead when Franchitti had a slower pit stop. If it didn’t take place in the pits Sato would have overtaken Franchitti on track as his car was definitely quicker.
In his 52nd series start, Sato drove a nearly perfect race. In fact, Team Director Larry Foyt said, “he drove a flawless race.”
And in a refreshingly honest post-race interview Sato said that with the way the car performed it was actually an easy race. It was “just a perfect weekend to be honest.”
After a dismal start to the season Graham Rahal also got a nice bounce at Long Beach. Rahal carried on the family tradition finishing second. His father Bobby finished second at the beach on four separate occasions. After finishes of 13th and 21st Team Rahal needed this one.
Justin Wilson wasn’t allowed to qualify due to a technical infraction and started his race 24th on the grid. The lanky Brit managed to avoid the carnage taking place all around the track and claim a third place result.
Contact ruined the days of both Canadian participants. Alex Tagliani was battling with Charlie Kimball in a fun to watch wheel to wheel fight. Kimball was on new tires which were not up to optimum temperature and Tagliani wanted by him. Kimball refused and as the two headed for turn eight there was contact and both ended up in the tire barrier. Officials deemed it a racing incident with neither being penalized but I’ll put more blame on Kimball. Tagliani was the faster car and Kimball should have given him more room.
St. Petersburg winner James Hinchcliffe was also a victim only a few laps later. On the subsequent restart from Tag & Kimball incident, Hinchcliffe was squeezed out of racing room by E.J. Viso and Tony Kanaan and found the wall heading into turn one. Agitated at the time Hinch would not grant interviews until after the race, very unusual for him. Again it was deemed a racing incident with no penalties handed down. The season opening win for Hinch must now seem like forever ago.
Long Beach had plenty of battles all over the track for position, plenty of action and so many new noses put on cars because of contact you’d think a cosmetic surgery sponsorship for next year would be something to consider. All in all, a fun race with a popular winner.
If this kind of action and unpredictability continues it will be fantastic for the series. A genuine opportunity to win by almost every driver on any given day makes for great drama. Two first time winners in the first three races has also added another layer of intrigue. Bring on Brazil!