Long Beach's days in the sun (and one in the pouring rain) have come and gone, and the racing world is starting to pull out of Southern California. If I didn't already, I'd know the race was over because of the increase in the number of private small jets taking off from the Long Beach airport between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m.
Surprisingly, even the appearance of F18s taking off from the airport (30 min before scheduled flyover time) isn't unusual; we get those every weekend (the jets, not the flyovers--or maybe it's that they do flyovers at my house EVERY weekend).
The race weekend was short (rain-shortened this year), packed with storylines, and full of amazing racing. I assume all of you watching will agree?
First, the ALMS race. I ran into Doug Fehan, program manager for Corvette Racing in the paddock on Saturday morning and asked him how everyone would deal with so little on-track time before the green flag (maybe 45 min of wet running Friday morning and about a lap of puddles during qualifying; that was it). Fehan assured me they weren't too worried, as "Corvette is usually pretty good right off the truck." Boy, was he right. Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner in the #4 carried a commanding lead to the checkers, and even the troubled #3 (missing a hood after a first-lap incident) almost held on to the podium, ultimately finishing fourth.
The battles were fun to watch, the passing was well done, and there was only one full-course caution. Well done, boys! (The photo above was taken from my vantage point in one of the apartment towers overlooking the course, looking down onto the back straight and around to the hairpin.)
Then the main event.
The story of the weekend for IndyCar was of course the engine changes for all teams running Chevrolet motors, and associated 10-grid-position penalties. Most drivers took it philosophically, as growing pains for the new car and engine packages they're working with this year. And in the end, Chevy drivers needn't have worried: they filled seven of the top ten spots, including the top step of the podium (go, my fantasy pick, Will Power!). The IndyCar race featured passing, wrecks (but nothing drastic), fuel strategy, pit lane strategy, post-race penalties, a roadblock in the hairpin as the second half of the field tried to take the checkers, and some unbelievable driving (I'm lookin' at you, Simon Pagenaud). A little something for everyone.
And I even got to see the cars up close (pictures above and below). I still think they're weird looking, for instance, that back wheel is only nominally "open." What do you all think? And what did you think about the weekend's racing?