The drivers, teams and standouts that impressed and embarrassed in equal measure at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Scott Dixon – calm and quick. After two horror races, Long Beach was the starting point of his season. As is so often the case, the Kiwi looked like taking a while to kick-start his season after St Petersburg and NOLA. Usually once the shaky start is done with, Dixon becomes a freight-train gathering pace and points as the season counts down so his rivals should start getting worried right about now.
Montoya – hard charging as always, his move to take Pagenaud for third was JPM at his ‘all or nothing’ best. Subsequently fending off Pagenaud in the closing laps was a master-class in street circuit defensive driving. He’s still worthy of his (slim) championship lead despite getting out maneuvered by Dixon and Castroneves on the first lap. Looking forward to seeing him at Indy.
Conor Daly – chucked in at the deep end by taking over a seat that didn’t even fit him at the eleventh hour. 17th place might not sound like much but it was a solid performance that confirms Daly is more deserving of a race seat than some of the other rookies on the grid right now. Hoping the rumours about another couple of races are true.
Will Power – a rookie mistake in qualifying snowballed Sunday in to a 20th place finish and a 39-point deficit. Given how tight the point standings will be at the end of the season, Power could be kicking himself on this one. Expect him to blow the doors off the rest of the field at Barber as he lets off some steam.
Francesco Dracone – out of his depth and fast becoming a safety risk. The Italian is simply not good enough to race in IndyCar and the quicker Dale Coyne can get Huertas and Daly signed up for the season the better. Watching faster cars lapping Dracone was heart in mouth stuff every time and he certainly compromised Sebastien Bourdais’ chances of challenging Kannan for fifth.
IndyCar – Huertas being dumped for Moran Jnr, Daly getting the eleventh hour call and Dracone trundling around Long Beach were a stark reminder that teams are still in a perilous financial state. IndyCar needs to do more to wean smaller teams off of below-par pay drivers.
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Your analysis on IndyCar is right on point. The sharp end of the grid is also feeling the pinch because of declining sponsorship dollars. How long will Penske continue to fund a car out of his pocket? How long can Ganassi continue with 4 cars with only 3.5 cars funded and be saddled with an underacheiving driver whose sponsorship is tied to his medical condition. Andretti Autosports is also clearly underfunded. Even with an improving economy sponsors don’t see value in I/C because of the anemic TV numbers.
Until I/C improves the product will this turn around. People are tired of hearing this from me but the answer is seperation of the IMS ownership/management from series ownership/management and a gradual transition from spec cars to open design and engine diversity.
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Not sure I’m on board with the open design concept but splitting from IMS I’m all for. The operators of one race – even if it is the world’s most famous race – shouldn’t be responsible for the whole series.