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New Zealand’s Scott Dixon triumphed for the first time in nine tries in his storied career at the Long Beach Grand Prix. Surprisingly, the Target driver’s best previous finish and only top ten at the track nearest his homeland was a 4th place in 2010. It’s the “Ice Man’s” thirty sixth IndyCar win putting him fifth all time behind Al Unser and Michael Andretti, whose records are both well within reach. Dixon passed Castro-Neves during pit stops as Helio hesitated waiting for Tony Kanaan to enter his pit box directly in front, and then opened up an insurmountable lead.
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The Penskes swept positions two through four with Helio, Montoya and Pagenaud, the former two battling it out to the very end. TCGR’s Kanaan took fifth, followed by KV’s Sebastian Bourdais and CFHR’s Josef Newgarden in 7th. Marco Andretti rebounded at Long Beach with an 8th place finish and top Honda after starting 10th. His team mate Carlos Munoz finished ninth while Sebastian Saavedra came in 10th in his first race back since a disappointing 2014. Penske’s 2014 Champion Will Power struggled all weekend, starting 18th and finishing twentieth after stalling on pit road. Hoosier Conor Daly jumped into the Coyne car as a late substitute and raced from 21st to 17th, making the biggest gain of the race.
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Fan reaction was split in regard to Long Beach, which is an improvement compared to the overwhelmingly negative reception the first two races enjoyed. Some deemed it the third snoozer in a row to open the 2015 season while others seemed to enjoy the almost entirely green flag show, particularly after the largely run under caution St. Pete and NOLA stops. The phrase “fuel saving” cropped up far too often during the race, which rarely translates into compelling viewing.
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Our view is that the race could have used a late caution period to bunch up the field, as the only yellow came out early for debris caused by rookie Gabby Chavez banging into Jack Hawksworth‘s AJ Foyt Racing car. With no other interruptions the leaders quickly checked out from the field, allowing for little drama the last half of the race much less passing on track. At least there were no manufactured debris cautions a la NASCAR, although admittedly one would have made the finish more exciting.
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Robin Miller broke some Indy 500 news, reporting that there will be bumping in May and AJ Foyt Racing’s third entry will be piloted by Canadian Alex Tagliani. NBCSN’s coverage was adequate, though newby Brian Till once mistakenly referred to Sebastian Saavedra as Sage Karam, who he replaced in the car. Ouch. Till also sounds a lot like Townsend Bell on air, which can be a bit confusing. Canuck Paul Tracy with all his faults adds some needed color to the broadcast, including ribbing Townsend and calling out the drivers, saying they’d “stepped on themselves two races in a row” prior to the clean and green Long Beach race.
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An amusing post race occurrence saw Dixie’s team mate Kanaan show up and literally nose his way into victory lane to congratulate his friend. The quote of the race belonged to Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais. He was asked about syrupy slow rookie Coyne driver Francesco Dracone, who held him up toward the end of the race. In characteristically blunt fashion the ever impolitic Bourdais said, “He’s just slow. He doesn’t even know how to get out of the way.”