By Larry Mason
Copyright © 2019
April 13, 2019
Long Beach, CA – Another delightful day in Long Beach. Perfect sunny conditions with a cool ocean breeze made for fast times on the track with so much more rubber laid down from the day before. The NTT IndyCar Series kicked things off at 9am with Practice 3 led by last year’s winner Alexander Rossi in his NAPA Auto Parts Honda for Andretti Autosport.
In the Firestone Fast Six qualifying, It was all Alexander Rossi as he set the pace over the rest of the field going over a quarter of a second faster than Scott Dixon. Rossi spoke of how hard it was with the competition so tight in the series “This pole was exponentially harder to win than last year’s.” Dixon felt like he perhaps missed his opportunity for pole when he misjudged catching Rossi on his fast lap. “(We) kind of misjudged and (had) a bit of miscommunication, kind of aborted the second lap,” Dixon said.” We started catching Rossi on his lap and thought that was going to ruin us a little bit, and then I thought that (we were) done, but apparently we had another lap. All in all, we left a little bit on the table maybe. Whether we could have got to that pole time, I’m not too sure. ”Team Penske garnered the next three spots with Power, Newgarden and Pagenaud representing Chevy as half of the Fast Six field. Graham Rahal completed the group.
Bubba Burgers Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach
Helio Castroneves led the charge into Turn 1 from pole position but behind him it was Tristen Nunez in the Soul Red # 77 Mazda who had a great start and pulled alongside Juan Pablo Montoya going down Shoreline Drive and dived to the inside of Turn 1. They went two-wide with both drivers beating and banging each other all the way until the aquarium fountain before the Mazda finally gained the position. Also on the opening lap Jon Bennet in the Nissan DPi stuffed it into the Turn 6 wall (driver’s right) and was taken for a medical evaluation and released. Not long after, JPM Jordan Taylor and Jonathan Bomarito got together with Bomarito’s #55 Mazda being the meat of an Acura/Cadillac sandwich and got spit out into the wall in Turn 8.
Meanwhile, in GTLM the Porsche twins were running strong up front to start the race with a big slowdown at the fountain where Oliver Gavin couldn’t slow down enough and punted Laurens Vanthoor’s Porsche which damaged the rear diffuser. That in turn led to Sebastian Bourdais slightly tapping the Corvette in front of him and he was also rear-ended slightly. When the pit window opened up early, Bourdais dived for the pits to allow Dirk Mueller to take over the rest of the race. Another full course caution allowed the DPi cars to pit first and upon exiting the pits the leader Derani lost a right front wheel which would have elevated the Jarvis Mazda to be at the front of the field however Juncos racing decided to leave IndyCar driver Kyle Kaiser to lead the field running a different strategy.
The entire race was full of drama and action but in the end it was a victory for the Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi of Joao Barbosa and Felipe Albuquerque. Barbosa started the race and said “unbelievable result for us here – got caught in the wrong spot in the wrong time stuck on the outside when the Mazda and Acura got together and lost time.”
His teammate Felipe Albequerque added “The car was really really nice to start with” During his stint he had a slow puncture with the front right and after his pit stop for front tires, “I told my manager to leave me alone for a bit” as he wanted complete focus. From there “I just went to the lead. The Penskes changed the rears and I didn’t. I thought I was gonna’ clip the wall because of the oversteer.” Late in the race his team got on the radio and told him to save fuel and tires. In his mind he was saying “What do you think I am a magician?” as he had the Penskes on his back.
Coming back from the early shunt which damaged the diffuser, the number 912 Porsche was able to clinch the victory. Laurens Vanthoor commented, “the track suits our car” and Earl Bamber added “we had a really good stop that got us out one and two.” The win also earned them the lead in the points championship.
The series heads to Mid-Ohio from here.
The Pirelli GT4 qualifying session saw seasoned pro Spencer Pumpelly top the time sheets in his Porsche Cayman narrowly ahead of Ian James in a Panoz. The first Am driver, Matt Keegan, qualified third overall in the sister Panoz. Pro Nicolai Elghanayan was fourth in his KTM X-bow followed by another Am driver who once called SoCal home – Drew Stavely. Of note, Jarett Andretti (John’s son) rounded out the top six. Andretti Autosport also announced yesterday that he will be making his Indy Lights debut at this year’s Freedom 100 race at the Indianpolis Motor Speedway on Carb Day – May 24th.
SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks Competition #1
Fast guys will always be fast no matter what they’re driving or where they start from. A fan favorite because of all of the high flying action as well as banging fenders among other things, these drivers and trucks are a real treat to see. Matt Brabham won this race ahead of Sheldon Creed and Jeff Hoffman. Competition #2 is tomorrow so be there to cheer them on!
Historic IMSA GTO
It was all about Nissan domination just like back in the day when Steve Millen was running the Clayton Cunningham Racing 300ZX twin turbo. This time the resplendent red, white and blue rocket was driven to a flag-to-flag victory by Craig Bennett. It wasn’t a cake walk as former Mazda factory prototype driver Joel Miller followed closely in the four-rotor Mazda RX-7 formerly raced by Pete Halsmer. Rounding out the podium was Ken Davis in a Ford Mustang. Of note in this race was ninth place qualifier and 7th place finisher – Zak Brown. Yes, that Zak Brown from McLaren Formula One fame. He had planned to be at this race since last November in preparation for Fernando Alonso’s return to Indy for the team. He just happened to have the opportunity to get some seat time in his race car which these days only happens two or three times a year.
The NTT IndyCar Series race is tomorrow. Will Rossi dominate like last year? Stay tuned!
Photos by Larry Mason