PODIUM FINISH ELUDED HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER RAHAL WHO FINISHED 13TH IN THE TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH; McDONALD'S DRIVER WILSON RETIRED WITH PROBABLE ENGINE FAILURE
- Hole in the Wall Camps driver Graham Rahal was unable to capitalize on a possible podium finish in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Champ Car series finale and finished 13th after two separate incidents, one while attempting to take third place from Franck Montagny. He made an excellent standing start and gained two spots from his ninth place qualifying position to take over seventh place. Fourth place runner Paul Tracy succumbed to a mechanical failure possibly caused by contact and dropped back which enabled Rahal to move up to sixth place. When teammate and second-place runner Justin Wilson's engine forced him out of the race, Rahal moved into fifth place for the next 15 laps before he moved into fourth as the first round of pit stops began on Lap 28. While piloting one of the fastest cars on the track, Rahal stretched his fuel two more laps and pitted on Lap 30. He regained fourth once the field cycled through their stops and stayed under one-second behind third place Franck Montagny and kept the pressure on him. Rahal pulled alongside and then in front of Montagny in Turn 10 and Montagny's right front hit Rahal's left rear and sent him into a spin. By the time he rejoined the field he had dropped to 12th place. He maximized the potential of his fast race car and began a charge through the field. He set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 49 and bettered it again on Lap 52. As the field cycled through their second stop he moved into seventh before he came in on Lap 58. He returned to the track in ninth place and steadily closed the gap to those ahead of him and passed two more cars to run seventh on the final lap. He was putting the pressure on sixth place but his rear tires locked up entering Turn 9 of 11 on the final lap which resulted in contact with the tire barrier and he dropped to a 13th place finish. He collected 17 points for his finish and dropped from fourth place in the IndyCar Series standings to ninth. Following are his post race comments:
"It's a shame to end the race they way we did because we had a good car," said Rahal. "We were consistently turning laps in the 68's (one minute, eight-second range) and set some of the fastest laps of the race. On the last lap I was on the car in front of me, hoping he would make a mistake and I could take sixth and the rears locked up. I was on the brake, off the brake pumping them and I was locked up and just went into the tires. We worked so hard to catch up after contact with Montagny that you just feel like an idiot for all that hard work to be wasted. It was an up and down race; it was frustrating. I had a tough time at the start trying to judge how much fuel the guys in front of me were saving because I could tell the Conquest boys weren't saving much because there was no way they were going as fast as they were if they were saving fuel. Perera came in a lap earlier than we did anyway. There is a difference between saving fuel and all-out pace. I didn't have any trouble passing people when I wanted to. If it wasn't a classic Champ Car fuel saving race I think we could have won because we had more pace than anybody else."
- McDonald's driver Justin Wilson started from pole and was in second place in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Champ Car series finale when he succumbed to probable engine failure after completing only 12 laps. He made a good standing start but fourth place starter Will Power got by two cars and was alongside Wilson heading into Turn 1. He was confident in the opportunity of a good finish so he backed off to ensure his race car was able to continue. He held second place through a caution period to remove the crashed car of Mario Moraes but his race car lost power and he pulled off course near Turn 1 on his 13th run around the circuit. Following are his post race comments:
"If we didn't have bad luck, we wouldn't have any luck at all," said Wilson. "A couple of laps before I stopped the feeling of the engine changed in the McDonald's car so I think we lost a cylinder two laps before. It just got worse and I had to pull off. It's pretty disappointing because I felt the McDonald's car was quicker than anyone else out there today and I just wanted to make the most of it. Some times these things happen. At the beginning of the race, Power got a good start. I thought I had a good one but he was alongside me before we got to third gear. After that I just settled in and ran our fuel strategy and tried to pass him later on the restart when I got a good run but I got forced almost into the wall and into his back tire so I lifted off and settled for second because it was still the early stages of the race. I wasn't too concerned at that point because the whole race was in front of us."