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IndyCar got it half right at the Beach Sunday. That is to say, they almost put on an entertaining show. Well, at least they held a race – sort of.
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“Am I right or am I right or am I right?!”
Before the race, Scott Dixon predicted “an exciting first few laps.” As someone uttered during the broadcast and like almost everyone on Sunday, he too was half right. There were of course a first few laps, followed by the uneventful rest. After a train wreck of a qualification session, in some ways it’s a wonder they managed to pull off a race at all. Even the race winner was left wanting, as the Ned Ryerson of the series Simon Pagenaud had to actively seek out people in victory lane who’d let him spray ’em with champagne.
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The half left, half right race left much to be desired. What else can we write? It was boring. It was predictable. It was a “fuel mileage” race. It was won by a Frenchman. It was still another win for Penske. It was Long Beach.
Incredibly, there were no wrecks, no cautions, no hairpin pileups, no retirements and no mechanicals. Due to precious little passing there also was virtually no entertainment. That’s not to say the grand prix was controversy free, though.
The “carpet pissers” in race control were at it again, failing to make a crucial call against Pagenaud, instead merely issuing a “warning” in a critical race determining situation. During final stops, “needle nose” Pags came out slightly ahead of Dixie and darted across the double yellow lines instead of waiting for the blend line, as the rule states and others had done all day.
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Running second behind Helio and encountering lapped traffic, Dixie had pitted earlier due to a brilliant decision by Mike Hull. He wound up in front of Helio, who exited the pits on the next lap, actually followed the blend line rule and fell in behind. A couple of laps later Pags left the pits, promptly ignored the blend line and edged out ahead of Dixon taking the lead as a result. After a lengthy review, no penalty was meted out and he ended up besting Dixon in the end.
Scott looked less than thrilled as he shook the Frenchman’s hand after the race. His wife was half as diplomatic. Emma Dixon Tweeted during the race: “Penske cheating again . . . Jokers! Same shit different year shame on you #IndyCar #warning”
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The gorgeous Mrs. Dixon later RT’d Dario, who lambasted the call more tamely, saying “that was the race right there.” Much as it pains us, we at IRR have to agree with Franchitti; however, we love agreeing with Emma. She proves that IndyCar wives – like all fans – just love to bitch, although she did quickly back off her comments right around the time Scott got home. Emma eventually Tweeted that her venting wasn’t “aimed at @simonpagenaud . . . I love this sport and want it to continue to go in the right direction.” But later she went on to RT the comment “no shit . . . people are pissed.” Perhaps Dixie’d already fallen asleep by that point.
When the afternoon’s only drama is the wait for “race control” to slap Penske on the wrist with another warning, it isn’t pretty. The non-call sealed the win for Ned Pagenaud, who despite a valiant effort by Dixon never relinquished the lead. It was the LBGP’s closest ever finish, though it still wasn’t very fulfilling. Montoya even got in on the rule breaking fun again, chop blocking Sato toward the end. Of course, no penalty was forthcoming for the Penske pilot as everyone knew.
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In the irony of the race, Paul “rulebook” Tracy happened to be on the right side of the argument. He actually laughed out loud when race control issued a mere warning, saying “That’s one of the biggest complaints that the drivers have . . . enforce the rule. They don’t want warnings . . . That could win him the race.” It did. Townsend Bell called it a “cut and dried” infraction, adding “there’s no question.” IndyCar had to issue another clarifying statement afterwards defending its decision, which also isn’t ever positive.
Sato came in fifth as top Honda, while Sebastien Bourdais and f-ing F1 invader Max “Paris” Chilton both gained five spots as biggest movers of the race. In a Cap’n kinda day, Helio led for more than the first half of the race – forty seven laps in all – yet managed only third after pit stops scrambled the order under green. Michael Andretti was upset with his son‘s car – again – as “Marco Dick” started the race dead last, had trouble maintaining and finished nineteenth, one lap down. Good luck chasing that white whale F1.
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Our pick Josef Newgarden was victimized by yet another slow pit stop thanks to his lumbering Fuzzy’s crew. Newkid wound up in tenth, calling it “a notoriously hard track to pass at. . . . I think we definitely gotta work with the formula to try and make it easier so that we can pass people.”
NBCSN’s Rick Allen (Schwieger) called Long Beach an “incredible viewing perspective, and incredible race.” He was half right. Predictably, Marty Snider gushed that “the atmosphere is incredible.” More down to earth, Tracy was the highlight of the otherwise mundane broadcast, frankly stating midway through that “we’re running a fuel mileage race here.” Unfortunately he also said Long Beach “rivals Indy,” and something about “internet chat rooms” being on fire.
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Clearly peeved, Dixon said of the non-call after the race, “I think he ran all four across. The rules clearly state you have to have two wheels on the other side of the line or you get a penalty. . . . He got a warning. So, there’s meant to be no warnings left. I don’t know what that’s all about.”
Unsettlingly, the drivers almost unanimously apologized for the racing again, including Hinch, Newkid and one of IndyCar’s Three Stooges TK, who’d boasted of his “253rd consecutive start” pre-race. Another stooge, Montoya, summed it up thusly: “it’s so hard to pass, you know?” For once in their ceaseless apologizing, the drivers were all 100% right.
Post Race Quotes –
Simon Pagenaud: “There’s an inch on the race track there, so I’m good.”
Chip Ganassi on “a new group of stewards”: “It was obviously a questionable call. The video shows one thing, I don’t know what the stewards use to make their decision. But I sorta support what they do. But I would . . . I kinda like the NASCAR system where it’s just black and white, there’s a camera there. The camera makes the call electronically. So we’ll see – maybe it’s an opportunity for us to improve.”
James Hinchcliffe: “I think we need to take a good hard look at the length of these races . . . Half that race was under fuel saving. It’s not fun for us, not fun for the fans. We need to make it a bit longer . . . so we can actually push and go racing.”
Graham Rahal called the race “boring,” advocating a longer, “three stop race” and less “topside down force.”
Tony Kanaan: “You know, it was a green flag race, so eventually it becomes really boring for the fans, I think. . . . Maybe we need to extend a few laps. . . . The crowd is unbelievable every year so I think they deserve a little bit better.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “Well I think we were pretty much the only ones who actually made moves on the racetrack.”