California: Ocean breezes, suntan lotion, palm trees, the Queen Mary, yachts, sailing, beaches, and surfing... plus the famous hairpin and the sounds of racing engines on the legendary street circuit in Long Beach!
New Track Record - According to information on the Legendary Surfers website, Long Beach, California is often credited as being the site of the first use of Hawaiian surfboards in North America when two world travelers arrived home with boards after a trip to the islands. They started a culture in California that largely defined the West Coast to the rest of the world. And once you add cars and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, you have the beginning of another Endless Summer on the track. With that kind of history, how can you not be totally stoked about the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, dude? And yes, I will be attempting to use surfing slang in this "Surf's up" edition. Since I am landlocked in Indiana, you can assume I will fail miserably.
Pre-race with the boys in the pits was absent human interest, features, and Robin Miller, who seems to be slowly hanging up his NBC longboard. If you are a hard-core fan of racing, the pre-race worked. If you are new to the sport, and the series needs new fans, then NBC Sports did nothing to bring you closer to the competitors as human beings. It is a fine line between simply reporting and telling stories. I think the pendulum moved to the reporting side a little too much this week. I do like the Wally Dallenbach/Townsend Bell track lap better than Robin Miller's grid lurch, though. Wally shooting Silly String in Townsend's ear to disturb his focus while driving was a nice touch.
Dakota Meyer, a Marine Corps Congressional Medal Of Honor winner said the most famous words in racing: "Fire those things up!" OK, he decided, in true California fashion, to do it his way. Anyone with a CMH can say anything he wants for the rest of his life. Semper Fi, Dakota.
The start was gnarly. As long as you have the hairpin at the head of the frontstretch and the flagstand in the same location, rolling starts at Long Beach will always be ugly. Standing starts anyone? The benefit of this line-up is that it strings out the cars before the point break of turn one. Even so, it seems that there is always someone ready and willing to drop in on another driver as they enter the turn. These drivers can be so territorial here in Long Beach.
One thing you don't want to do in the line-up waiting for a set is to drop in on a wave when it isn't your turn. Charlie Kimball did just that to Alex Tagliani at Long Beach, trying to snake under him and wiping out in the same location and in the same way as Sebastian Saavedra did earlier in the race and Ryan Hunter-Reay did near the end. That's what happens when you try to snake a wave, or a racing line, dude.
But the Big Kahuna at Long Beach was Takuma Sato for A.J. Foyt Racing. He carved the corners all day on his way to his first IndyCar win. After the race, team director Larry Foyt said Sato had driven the perfect race. You know what he was doing, don't you? He was in the pocket, riding the front of the IndyCar wave at Long Beach. He was in the zone. He never put a wheel wrong all day. Takuma Sato was soul surfing down Shoreline Drive. The way he drove, he may not be looking to share many waves this year.
Well, it's time to put the longboard back in the quiver and tool back home in the woodie. Until next time, hang loose.