CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach final comments

1995 TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH PPG Indy Car World Series Race No. 4 APRIL 7-9, 1995 FINAL THOUGHTS, NOTES, AND THANK YOU'S by Robert Heathcote, for SpeedNet If your already thinking about 1996, the hot tip for hard core spectators is...

1995 TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH PPG Indy Car World Series Race No. 4 APRIL 7-9, 1995

FINAL THOUGHTS, NOTES, AND THANK YOU'S by Robert Heathcote, for SpeedNet

If your already thinking about 1996, the hot tip for hard core spectators is the "Super Photo Ticket," even if you're not interested in taking pictures. The $195.00 price is a bit steep, but this includes general admittance for three days and ACCESS TO PITLANE for every Indy car session except for the race. Of course, you also are allowed to shoot pictures from one of the many photo towers around the circuit.

My hot tip for parking is the underground garage at the Sheraton Hotel, located directly across the street from the main entrance to the Long Beach Convention Center. For the third consecutive year, prices were $10 for Friday, $15 for Saturday, and $20 on Sunday. You can of course pay about half as much for pre-paid "Shoreline Parking" from the Grand Prix ticket office, but you will also have to walk four times as far to get to the heart of the circuit. If you have seats in the area between Turns One and Four, get the Shoreline Parking and save $25.

Speaking of walking, if you followed my intenery for Friday and found you could not get to the Convention Center by the mentioned access-way next to the Hyatt Hotel, I owe you an apology. Because the Convention Center's new wing is complete, this access-way is now closed to the public.

Another apology for Christian Danner's name on my "official entry list," but it was not my fault. I had no idea Franck Freon was driving the #64 car entered by Project Indy until he came past my position at Turn One Friday morning and I recognized the bright pink helmet. And when I arrived at the media center, the newly published entry list still showed Danner in the car.

Note: Almost 1/5 of the race was run under yellow (20 of 105 laps).

Unser's win at Long Beach was his 28th career Indy car victory, and the 19th to come on a temporary street circuit.

Scott Pruett's 2nd place finish at Long Beach ties a career best finish: Detroit, 1989. Teo's Fabi's 3rd place finish placed him on the podium for the first time since 1990, when he finished 3rd at the Meadowlands Grand Prix.

When asked after the race what his team's strategy was, Eddie Cheever said, "The strategy was, don't run out fuel..." Eddie ran out of fuel. "I had three gallons (shown) on my computer (but) the engine went 'blurp-blurp,' and I thought, this is not good."

But Cheever did have good things to say when all was said and done, and here he gave a summary of his weekend: "We had problems in qualifying, because we didn't run as much in the winter. But A.J. (Foyt) and the engineers gave me a car that was very good for the race and the boss told me to run consistently. That's what we did and he was right, everybody kind of came back to us. We've been beaten over the head in qualifying this year, so it was really important that we had a decent result. The team did a great job."

One thing I failed to report was an engine change was needed on Michael Andretti's car after the morning warmup. That was to be, of course, his race engine. After the race Michael said the new engine "was way down on power (and) after I lost first gear, I was just crawling out of the hairpin."

On Saturday, Andretti did a "one-on-one" interview after the pole-position press conference with myself and a few other members of the media where we talked about his racing relationship with Paul Tracy, his Newman-Haas Racing teammate.

Mike said it was "frustrating" to work so hard on the car and to know Paul's car is being prepared just as well. "It's really tough, (working like that)," he said. Phoenix was really the first time Mike and Paul had raced wheel-to-wheel and when asked about that experience, Mike was quick to tell us how much he likes racing with the young Canadian: "He (Paul) is a very clean racer and I enjoy racing with him. I've never had a problem racing with Paul."

Add Phoenix: Michael also said one thing that caused problems and led to some confusion at PIR was that fact that it was race engineer Lee White's first oval race with the team. "He was a rookie," said Andretti.

Andretti was very gracious with the media for the two days he talked with us (after both Friday and Saturday qualifying). He spent a long time with us; something easily overlooked until Unser won the race and stayed just long enough to tease the anxious throng - many with pending deadlines. As Jr., ran for the door, someone shouted to the him, "Hey, you're not trying to sneak out of here, are ya?" The Penske driver replied, "You betcha," and never looked back.

Most of the press also had a bone to pick with Penske's engine supplier, Mercedes. While the PR folks at Ford were busy after every session providing quotes and notes, Mercedes virtually ignored the proceedings, even after their first IndyCar-sanctioned victory.

Delco Electronics received thank you's from Unser for fixing the "electronic gremlins" which have plagued the Penske team since taking delivery of their first Mercedes engine.

The well-funded PacWest team received a new toy Sunday morning that will help speed things up during pit stops: A new special two-stage fitting for the air hose makes connecting 450 psi to the air jacks effortless. Previously, the man running the air hose had to push the old fitting down very hard to mate with the car's fitting. Now, as the operator said, "It's like butter."

The easiest way to tell the 1995 Lola from the Reynard: Look at the rear wing support. The Lola uses a single upright made of carbon fiber while Reynard employs the usual twin upright of aluminum construction.

The Lola also has another new feature: Barn doors, made famous by the McLaren Formula One team in 1993. Different teams use these in different configurations. Rahal-Hogan had trimmed theirs to about eight inches long while it appears the stock piece is about 1.5 feet, and begins inside the front wheel and wraps around the rear of the wheel and out to the sidepod. Each feature a small height of about six inches.

One of the most often pieces of equipment discussed by Indy car fans over the last year is the "shark fin," introduced by Penske at Phoenix in 1994. Some teams have them and some don't. Some have sponsorship on them and some don't. Some teams have taken extra care to construct their= =

fins with a special shape and/or length.  Do you still think the fin is
only for psychological purposes?  Think again.

Two things I noticed the Penske team had others didn't: 1. A telescoping fuel rig that allows the team to actually move the tank up and down. I was not in the pit lane for the race, so who knows, maybe this thing shakes, too, just to get every drop. 2. Instead of the usual wheel nut, the Penske's use one with gear-like teeth, instead of eight flat sides.

It is well known that Penske employs telemetry on each wheel to check tire pressures back at their pitlane scoring stand while the car is on the track. What you may not have known is how it works. On each wheel, opposite the valve stem, is a cylindrical device about 2.5 inches long with a diameter of approximately one inch. This device connects to the wheel much like the valve stem, and of course has a sensor which reads the pressure inside the tubeless tire. Connected to the sensor inside the cylinder is a small, wireless transmitter which sends the data to the electronics on-board the chassis. This information can then be sent back to the pitlane computers with all the usual transmitted data. It is also possible for the driver to check the pressures himself by selecting the proper display on his electronic dashboard. According to several members of the media, word from the Penske team =

came down early in the week: Emmo would have had enough fuel to win the race at Phoenix without that final splash and go.

When asked about the increased competition this year, Unser said, "IndyCar is always trying to make the series more competitive... I just wish they wouldn't have done it so soon!" In testing over the winter, Unser said the '95 Penske car went quicker on every circuit than the '94 car, so he was a bit surprised by how quick other teams had reached common ground with the championship team. "I was kinda hoping things would be more like last year," said Unser. "That was fun!"

Regarding his contact early on with Gil de Ferran, the 1994 champion said, "We went into Turn One and I got him underneath and he went on around the corner with me... he's definitely a very good driver. Turn Two goes to the left and he was on the inside and moved back up one me and I got in the gray a little bit and the right rear went out and bumped the fence. I was trying to stay with him and he was trying to stay with me a little bit because he was on the throttle. And then when I dinked the wall, that was as far as I could go, so we hit each other."

Saturday night, Newman-Haas Racing sponsor Budweiser threw a party in a banquet room of the Long Beach Convention Center to celebrate their being named "Official Beer of IndyCar." IndyCar supplied a hilarious picture featuring Andretti, Tracy, Carl Haas, a Budweiser PR man, IndyCar President Andrew Craig, and, Paul Newman, sipping from long neck bottles. Newman plays "the cool guy" in the picture: The only one attending the party not in a three-piece suit, collar flipped up, glasses out to the end of his nose, and he's hanging on his cohorts like he just drank a case of the fine brew himself. :)

One of the special moments of the weekend came at the very end of the day on Sunday. I was scheduled to do an over-the-phone report for local radio station KMPC on Steve Parker's Motorsports Show, but was bumped by Grand Prix winner Unser, when he called in to file his own report! I'll trade jobs with you anytime, Al!

The best view of "Turn Bud" was from the rearward facing camera on Paul Tracy's car, after he collided with the unfortunate Gil de Ferran (though, too bad the action in view was under full course caution). Not having a straight-on view of this corner was about the only thing missed by the staff of Grand Prix Teleproductions (the guys who set up EVERYTHING so the big boys at ABC can work their own magic). But I was =

very pleased to see an extra camera set up along the backstraight which had not been there in previous years (much better than looking 1000 yards down the track with a "long" lens.

According to my best estimate, after talking with several of the GPT =

engineers, approximately 250,000 feet of cable connected all the audio and video devices around the circuit. Not including the public address system.

Since the Argentine Grand Prix was on ESPN Monday night, I did not have a chance to view very much of the ABC television network coverage of the Long Beach Grand Prix. But I did pop the tape in for a moment, and what I found was a pleasant surprise compared to the closed-circuit television feed I watched within the media center, directed by god knows who. From what I saw of my tape, the ABC director chose the right shots at the right time, and didn't miss much if any of the action (remember I only saw the first 15 minutes).

SPECIAL THANKS I would now like to thank all the people who contributed to -- in one way or another -- all the reports I have submitted up to now:

Mr. Chris Pook for inviting me; TGPLB PR Director Rick Lalor for following through on Mr. Pook's request and approving my credential; Steve Parker of KMPC 710/Talk Radio -- the only Motorsports Show in Los Angeles, runs from 5-7pm, every Sunday -- for introducing me to Mr. Pook; Chuck Reilly, John Repczynski and Jerry (?) from Grand Prix Teleproductions for their hospitality and Toyota Pickup/Altantic qualifying fun; Howard Handy for allowing me to work in the deadline press room - if only just barely; Mike Hollander of Racing Information Systems of Compuserve for help with Mr. Handy; Kelvin Fielding of Racing Into The Future for sending reports from the Argentine Grand Prix meeting; Steven Heathcote for driving me to the circuit every day and providing the results sheets (and for being my father and taking me to the first F1 Grand Prix here in 1977); Aaron Rommel for sniffing out the stories and attending the press conferences when I couldn't; Jeff Angell for his reports and for doing whatever it took to make this whole thing work -- including a large cash infusion and the loan of a laptop computer; my wife Janet, my daughter Patricia, and my son Christopher -- who allowed his father to attend the 1995 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach even though Saturday was his birthday.



--- =FE OLX 2.2 =FE SpeedNet: Motorsports at the speed of thought! (310-641-= 9627)

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Steve Park , Christian Danner , Eddie Cheever , Gil de Ferran , Paul Tracy , Scott Pruett , Franck Freon , Paul Newman , Carl Haas , Chris Pook , Mike Holland