DOORNBOS FINISHED NINTH IN THE TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH WHILE McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL WAS IN PODIUM CONTENTION BUT FINISHED 12TH AFTER A PIT PROBLEM
- McDonald's driver Graham Rahal pitted from second place on Lap 55 of the 85-lap Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach but a miscommunication in the pits caused him to attempt to depart while the fuel hose was still attached which brought on two separate penalties and he ultimately finished 12th. He held his seventh place position at the start and until Lap 16 when second place runner and eventual winner Dario Franchitti pit, possibly as a reaction from Mike Conway making contact with the tire barrier and his team was anticipating a full course caution. Only a local yellow was brought out for that incident but Franchitti and Danica Patrick, who also pit with Franchitti, got a break when a full course caution came out when defending champion Scott Dixon and E.J. Viso collided after Viso attempted to squeeze his car between Dixon and the wall. Viso ultimately retired from the event. That put Rahal in fifth place before he came into the pits on Lap 19 for his first stop and to replace his red alternate Firestone tires with standard Firestone's. He returned to the track in 13th place and held the position until Lap 26 when he moved into 11th after Tony Kanaan and Vitor Meira pit.
He moved into eighth when Ryan Briscoe, Robert Doornbos and Ryan Hunter-Reay pit on Lap 26 and into sixth when Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter made their stops on Lap 32. His climb continued to fifth on Lap 39 when Raphael Matos pitted. He held the position for 11 laps before he moved into third place when Patrick and Kanaan pit on Lap 51. Race leader Franchitti pit on Lap 53, which moved Rahal into second place and he held the position for two laps before his planned stop. Franchitti and Patrick lucked out again when another full course caution came out after each stopped. It was the second one brought out by rookie Conway. When the pits opened, Rahal brought the McDonald's race car in for tires and fuel. His Firestone tires were replaced but once the car was dropped off the airjack, he was waved out by the outside front tire changer before the fuel nozzle was removed. He drug the mechanism a few feet before Team Manager John Tzouanakis radioed for him to stop. He was pushed back so that the mechanism could be removed and then exited the pits.
The miscommunication dropped him back to 15th place but a few laps later IndyCar Series officials ordered him to let three cars behind him pass for track position although it did not change his running place. Officials deemed that he did not do this quickly enough and gave him an additional drive through penalty. From Laps 73-76 a full course caution was out for Moraes who made contact with a tire barrier and Ed Carpenter stopped on track behind him. During this caution seventh place runner Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske ran into the back of Dixon and spun him. This moved Rahal into 12th place which he held until the checkered flag.
The timing of two full course caution periods worked out in Franchitti's favor and he won the event while pole sitter Will Power and 11th place starter Tony Kanaan completed the podium. Twenty-second place starter Patrick was able to move up to a fourth place finish. Rahal collected 18 points to drop two spots to a ninth place rank with 45. Following are Rahal's post race comments:
"I told the guys on the radio that I felt all day that the McDonald's car was the car to beat," said Rahal. "I was hanging with Helio (Castroneves) and Will (Power) easily. I had no problem keeping up with those guys and I felt like we could get one or both of them in a pit stop and if we did that and we got to the front we could control the pace. Once I was on my own and in clean air the car was really good. I felt like if I got on my own I could run the race and it definitely didn't happen. If it was a normal, trouble free race I think a podium would have been absolutely no problem. The pit stop and the penalties killed us. I came in for a routine stop. We just wanted to make sure we got out of here pretty quick because we had some guys that were pretty close. Basically I just wanted to get in and out as quick as I could and when the car was dropped (off the airjack), I was waved out and it wasn't time to go yet because the fuel hose was still attached. The penalty was crap. They told me to let three cars by and I did but then I got a drive through (penalty) because they said I didn't let the cars by quick enough. John (Tzouanakis, team manager) told me on the back straightaway and I didn't hear him but when I did I let them by in Turn 1 so the other penalty was unnecessary. That really hurt us but then we were so far behind because of having to come through the pits that there was no way we were going to be able to catch up."
-Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver Robert Doornbos ran as high as third in the 85-lap Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach but the timing of two caution periods negated the team's strategy and he finished in 11th place after starting 15th. On the start Doornbos passed Dan Wheldon for 14th and held his position while pressuring Ryan Hunter-Reay. On Lap 16 rookie Mike Conway hit a tire barrier and brought out a local caution. Second place runner and eventual winner Dario Franchitti and Danica Patrick were called into the pits in anticipation of heading off a full course caution although the series elected to utilize a local yellow in the area of the contact. A few laps later a pivotal moment of the race came when a full course caution came out when defending champion Scott Dixon and E.J. Viso collided after Viso attempted to squeeze his car between Dixon and the wall. Viso ultimately retired from the event.
Doornbos climbed from 12th to fourth during the caution and held his position on the restart on Lap 21. He passed Hunter-Reay for third on Lap 22 before he made his first pit stop during the next full course caution from Laps 24-27 for a multi-car crash started by Mario Moraes that involved Justin Wilson, Darren Manning and Hideki Mutoh. His crew replaced the Firestone alternate (red) tires for standard (black) tires and fuel before he returned to the track in 15th place. He gained a position from Stanton Barrett to take 14th place on Lap 29. Once Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter pitted he moved up to 12th and closed on Tony Kanaan. On Lap 40 he moved into 11th place when Raphael Matos pitted and held the position for 11 laps before he jumped into eighth place after Danica Patrick, Will Power and Wheldon pit.
He moved up to sixth place as others cycled through their pit stops before another caution period near the pit window came out from Laps 54-57 for Mike Conway who made contact in Turn 8. The timing again hindered the team's strategy and Doornbos made his second and final stop on Lap 55 during the caution and returned to the track in 12th place behind Hunter-Reay. From Laps 73-76 a full course caution was out for Moraes who made contact with a tire barrier and Ed Carpenter stopped on track behind him. During this caution, seventh place runner Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske ran into the back of Dixon and spun him which moved Doornbos up to 10th place.
On lap 82 he again passed Hunter-Reay for position and took the checkered flag in ninth place. He collected 22 points to maintain his 11th place rank in the IndyCar Series point standings with 41. The timing of the full course caution periods worked out in Franchitti's favor and he won the event while pole sitter Will Power and Tony Kanaan completed the podium. Following are Doornbos' post race comments.
"I think we had a very good first stint," said Doornbos. 'I passed three or four guys going into Turn 1 which was nice and then I found myself in the front so I was hoping all of the bad luck this weekend was behind us and we would have good luck with the yellows. The crew was saying 'This can be our lucky shot, keep it up. Your fuel saving is great.' Then the yellows came at the wrong time so I went completely to the back and had to start over again with the fuel saving and passing people. It was fun but I'm just not happy in general with the weekend. Finishing ninth is not why I am here. I hope in Kansas that we have less mistakes and the championship starts there."
- Next Up...The series will meet again next weekend for the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300, April 25-26 at Kansas Speedway.