Green Flag To Checkered Flag - #TGPLB42 Was One For The Record Books
The story of the 42nd edition of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race in Round 3 of the Verizon IndyCar Series was told without pause (Yellow Flag) for debris, accidents, or just to take a breath.
From the drop of the Green Flag to start the contest between 21 Honda and Chevrolet powered open-wheel race cars featuring three main leaders (Penske Racing's Verizon Pole Award winning Helio Castroneves, Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, and Penske Racing's Simon Pagenaud), the race did not see another flag wave until the record-setting end when Simon Pagenaud held off an always charging Scott Dixon to the Start/Finish Line, crossing it as the Checkered Flag flew with a 0.3032 of a second margin ... the closest finish in the 33 Indy car races held at Long Beach and the fastest ever with an average speed of 100.592 mph.
This was Simon Pagenaud's first win since joining Team Penske as it's fourth driver with Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Helio Castroneves. By crossing the line ahead of Scott Dixon under controversy of a violation of Rule 126.96.36.199 (found on Page 97 - highlighted in post-race comments below), it gave Pagenaud five career Verizon IndyCar Series wins overall.
|Driver relation discussions begin on Parade Lap around the TGPLB42 circuit. Image Credit Edmund Jenks (2016)|
This excerpted and edited from TRANSCRIPT - Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Post-Race Press Conference -
Q. In the drivers' meeting, what was the rule regarding your right-side tires and the yellow blend line coming out of the pits? What did they tell you you had to do with your right-side tires?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I will not go into that. I don't know. I don't remember to be honest what they said. But certainly in practice we have to look -- what we've got to do. I don't recall.
Q. It's rare for a street race to go green the whole way. Would you like to see a longer race next year?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: You're right, it's very rare. I guess that's one of the things related to the aero package. It's very difficult to get close to another guy, at least I was having this issue. I'm not sure about Scott. But I feel that probably those are the scenario. So if you don't get even close, you can't take a chance, or young drivers cannot make mistakes, and the yellow doesn't come up. I don't think it's a matter of long distance. I think it's just a matter of that kind of scenario, and that's why it was very difficult to pass.
|After a conversation with Simon Pagenaud, Scott began to adjust his gaze toward the real culprits to his P2 finish behind the Penske Racing driver. Image Credit Edmund Jenks (2016)|
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome the second-place finisher today, Scott Dixon, driver of car No. 9, the Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet, reigning series champion, with a second-place finish today. Still second in the points, 14 behind Simon Pagenaud. Take us through your day today, please.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it was definitely a pretty fierce battle up front, a bit of lapped traffic, some pit stop sequence, people trying to pit short, go longer, etc, etc, so it was quite exciting, I think, for ins and outs and when to use your overtakes and things like that. I think on the last one we got caught off guard a little bit before the pit sequence had already been finished, and then to hear when we're coming down the straight that the 22 was just coming out, we had actually backed off already and started saving fuel. With the gap that we had on Helio, I really didn't think we had to worry about too much and didn't get any warning from the pits. Obviously that scenario was a lot closer than we anticipated, and then when we got to Turn 1, it appeared that Simon turned a little early and crossed the line that you're not meant to cross. But it is what it is, so second place today, and Team Target did a hell of a job, and pit stops were clean, and I think we had really good pace, but personally I think we should have won the race.
Q. Scott, I'll ask you the same question that was asked of Helio. Coming out of the drivers' meeting, how did you understand that yellow line at the end of pit road, how was that supposed to work for the drivers?
SCOTT DIXON: This one is always very clear and is always mentioned, and we have two drivers' meetings a weekend, and it was clearly stated. I think if you look at the PDF, it's even in the PDF view that everybody gets, and I believe in the first one on Friday, it was asked several times about that. By all means any time you could not put more than two wheels over the line, and that was my understanding. I thought we were done with warnings and all this sort of wish wash stuff and we're going to stick to hard rules, but obviously that wasn't the case today.
THE MODERATOR: If we can clarify at this point, the rules violation that was put into effect was Rule 188.8.131.52, which is lane usage, which reads, "Failing to follow designated procedures entering or exiting the pit area, including the proper use of the acceleration and deceleration zones." Now, within the new penalty guidelines that were established this year for the race stewards, they do have the capabilities of issuing just a warning under that guideline, and that was a decision of the race stewards that it was the best decision in that instance to issue a warning.
SCOTT DIXON: In defense of that, I thought we had outlawed warnings. Yes, a warning was clarified at some point, but this was the problem we had in the offseason with people getting warnings all the time, especially when you're using it to your advantage when it's the last pit stop sequence or anything like that. If you're just going to get a warning every time you're going to do it, that's why this was discussed so deeply in the off-season, and why there was about 40 or 50 warning zones in the rule book removed. Obviously a few topics of conversation after this weekend. I don't even know why we discussed the pit lane exit if we're not going to stick to rules. Everybody else abided by it.
Q. My question is kind of on the same tone. The way I understood you say that is that for that particular rule there's a warning in effect, so what rules have warnings and which rules don't?
THE MODERATOR: There was a guideline, penalty guidelines document that was issued prior to the Phoenix race a couple weeks ago, and as I said, this one does have the ability for the steward to issue either a warning or to order a car to the back of the field for what they determined a mid-level penalty or a maximum penalty, which would be a drive through and/or a stop-and-go penalty. The race steward decided to issue the warning in this instance.
|#TGPLB42 podium - P3, Castroneves - P1, Pagenaud - P2, Dixon. Image Credit Edmund Jenks (2016)|
Q. Scott, you're pretty collected; is that Kiwi reserve, or do you have a speed bag at home to take out some frustrations?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, I was pretty mad once I got out of the car even with the last sort of 15 laps waiting for a drive-through or at least a swap of positions. I was even a little mad at Simon after the race, but it's not his fault. You've got to try to take advantage whenever you can, but he doesn't make the rules or put the rules forward. Huge credit obviously to Simon. He raced a fantastic race, and it was a great win for him and the team. You know, I can't be mad at him, so I'll direct my anger some other direction.
Q. Could you see the violation? Did he not appear where you thought he would as you're coming down the front stretch?
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it definitely seemed a lot closer. When you're coming down there and we go through this scenario every practice session, every qualifying, etc, etc, and typically when you see the car, they still have to go down quite a ways to then turn back, which tries to stop the cars merging or hitting each other on the exit, and it seemed closer than normal. But when you're in those confines and going at the speeds you are, it is sometimes a little hard to judge.
Q. You've been to a lot of racetracks around the world; can you imagine some sort of physical barrier, rumble strips or whatever, not to block the track for people not pitting, but can you imagine some barrier that would take away the whole idea of a judgment call there so you've got to go around it or you don't?
SCOTT DIXON: It shouldn't be a judgment call. It's a rule, so that's what it comes down to.
Q. Scott, I'm curious what it's like for the driver in the cockpit, just how far in front they can see with the way the front wing is, because when Simon was interviewed after the race he was asked about that exit and the warning, and he said, well, the rule was as long as I kept my right-side tires to the right of the dots, I was fine, and he clearly missed like about three feet of those -- there's some little things down there just to the right of those yellow lines, so he thinks he didn't violate anything until he'll see the video, but I'm just wondering what you can actually see in the cockpit.
SCOTT DIXON: You know, I don't know how many times we go in and out of the pits over a weekend, but a lot. You can see it pretty clearly, yeah.
|"I won. I'm happy." stated Simon Pagenaud at the post race press conference. Image Credit Edmund Jenks (2016)|
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome to the podium the winner of today's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, driver of car No. 22, the PPG Automotive Finish Chevrolet for Team Penske, Simon Pagenaud. Simon earned his fifth career victory today, his first with Team Penske, his first win since Houston 2014. He extends his championship lead. Simon, congratulations.
Q. When they said your pit exit was under review, was there any time when you were wondering, oh, can I have my magic moment kind of hindered here?
SIMON PAGENAUD: No, I actually didn't know. Nobody mentioned it. (Strategist) Kyle (Moyer) didn't tell me on the radio. I just focused on the job. I really honestly didn't know it was that close. I wouldn't have changed anything honestly. We're talking -- to make it like an easy call to say it's no penalty or no warning, it would have been that much more. So it just made it great for TV and for you to understand, but actually INDYCAR has made it really clear this year what you can and cannot do, and it was certainly on the verge of being a stronger penalty, but I did get a warning. I only did it once in the race. Same for Munoz. Munoz did the same thing, so I guess it was a clear understanding for race control.
Q. Simon, I know you made it clear, you said IndyCar has made it really clear what you can and can't do, but are you concerned that going forward warnings are kind of a gray area and if you're on the losing end you might get bit by somebody that gets a warning type deal?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I mean, no, I thought it was -- they've done this manual. They've done a manual that they actually sent to all the drivers, and the drivers' association and IndyCar and the teams actually worked with IndyCar to understand what was going to be a warning, what was going to be a minimum penalty, so a warning, mid-penalty and higher penalty. Each one of those levels has a different consequence.
You know, going into the race, I know the rule book, so I know that that line, I know you can take risks. I know you can get on the limit. It's just racing at the end of the day, and quite frankly, like I said, another inch to the right wouldn't have changed the outcome of the race.
Q. Remarkably this race stayed green, which is the first time it's happened in many years, and a lot of the drivers are saying it was too quick, and they would like a three-pit race, a lengthened race. What's your take on that?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I won. I'm happy. (Laughter.)
No, I don't have any -- it was very quick. I mean, it was like -- after 50 laps, I was like, wow, we're almost done here. The pace of the cars are really fast nowadays compared to 10 years ago. The pace is really, really strong. We brake really late. We carry a lot of speed through the corners and pretty fast on the straights, too. We go up to 190 on the straight now.
So yeah, there's a lot of speed. I don't know, personally it was fun for me as a driver because it was pure racing. It was about doing a perfect out lap, being on the limit every lap, so it's certainly not as exciting from outside, but I thought the pit sequence made it exciting. I'm a happy person. I thought our strategy worked out well, so personally I think the job is done.
|Pagenaud's No. 22 Penske Racing Dallara bounces across rumble curbing through Turn 9 past the colorful "Suite Row" while leading Scott Dixon at the #TGPLB42. Image Credit Edmund Jenks (2016)|
Q. Somebody was talking the other day, and they said that part of their problem with passing in a lot of corners is the brakes are so good that you brake way later than you used to and everybody can do it because the brakes are that good. Is that, in fact, a problem when you want to pass where you used to and now it's not so easy?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, I think the cars are just -- I mean, actually before the weekend, I study a lot, as you guys know, so I reviewed a lot of onboard cameras from this track, and I reviewed Bourdais's lap from 2003 compared to Helio's lap from last year in qualifying, and it's incredible the difference.
I suggest you guys look at it because our cars are really fast these days. They're a lot faster than we say. Certainly the braking zone is really short, and the aerodynamics are really high, so it's difficult to follow a car.
But this track here has got a long straight, so it allows you to draft and get past in Turn 1. I did it two times today with two fast cars, so it's possible. It's just you kind of have to find different ways to make the car work in straight line.
Race Control by a committee is not a solution because no one really ever knows when a rule is ... not a rule. Hard targets are never hard when no one wishes to have the will to actually enforce a rule, especially when the race outcome is at hand.
To be clear, all decisions from Race Control are in the opinion(s) from three on-track race stewards that report to a President (as follows top to bottom - assumed) - JAY FRYE - President, Competition and Operations, INDYCAR | Trio of race stewards - Dan Davis, Max Papis, and Arie Luyendyk - race director Brian Barnhardt does not have a vote.
One suspects that this (above) is where Scott Dixon, team owner Chip Ganassi, and Ganassi Racing Managing Director Mike Hull will direct their collective - as Scott Dixon put it ... "You know, I can't be mad at him [Pagenaud], so I'll direct my anger some other direction."
|Takuma Sato led the way for Honda Sunday, finishing, as the first Honda-powered Dallara DW12 IndyCar, fifth at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit Edmund Jenks (2016)|
OFFICIAL BOX SCORE - Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach >>>
When racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, everything on the track is open to interpretation and the only hard targets that exist are concrete walls, catch-fencing, corner tire cushions, and, of course ... cars plus the debris from parts that come loose after the Green Flag flies. Thank you Race Control by committee for this operational clarification.
As for the series points championship after three rounds of sixteen scheduled, Simon Pagenaud (who finished second in each of the first two races) takes a 14-point lead over Dixon into the next event, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on April 24 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
... notes from The EDJE
TAGS: Helio Castroneves, IndyCar, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato, Team Penske, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, #TGPLB42, The EDJE, Verizon IndyCar Series, Race Control, Race Steward, Rule 184.108.40.206