LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 19, 2015) – Scott Dixon, who entered the weekend with just one top-five finish in eight Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach starts, won the 41st edition of the historic street race by 2.2221 seconds over Verizon P1 Award winner Helio Castroneves.
Dixon’s victory was his 36th overall, breaking a tie with Bobby Unser for fifth on the all-time Indy car list. Al Unser is fourth with 39 victories. It was the 98th Indy car victory for team owner Chip Ganassi.
When Dixon beat Castroneves off pit lane on the first service stop on Lap 29 to take the lead, he wasn’t to be denied in a race that had only one caution flag during its 80 laps.
During the crucial pit stop, Castroneves was held in his pit box by chief mechanic Travis Law to avoid contact with the incoming No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet driven by Tony Kanaan. The extra second was critical. And though the crew of the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet had a blazing second and final stop on Lap 55, Dixon was six-tenths of a second ahead of Castroneves on his out lap entering Turn 1.
“This is huge,” Dixon said. “I love the event, but as far as coming here and doing well it hadn’t been on that list. That pit stop exchange definitely helped us get to the lead but the car was fast and all we had to do was maintain that lead.”
Castroneves forged his second consecutive runner-up finish and 37th of his career to tie Bobby Rahal for second on the all-time list (Mario Andretti with 56 is first). He closed to three points of Team Penske teammate and championship front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya as the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Barber Motorsports Park for the April 26 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Montoya, who won in season opener at St. Petersburg, placed third in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Simon Pagenaud finished fourth in the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet and Kanaan also earned his second top-five finish of the young season.
Dixon also tied Bobby Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi and Castroneves atop the all-time list with an Indy car victory in 11 consecutive seasons, and he has 13 seasons with at least one victory. A.J. Foyt with 18 is the leader and Mario Andretti with 16 is second.
“Long Beach is never an easy place to win and Scott Dixon did a great job today and so did his pit crew to get him out front,” said Unser, who four days earlier was honored in Long Beach by the Road Racing Drivers Club. “Racing is a team effort and both Scott and his crew earned the win, my congratulations to them.”
DAY 3 NOTEBOOK:
Eleven-time Indy car race winner and former team owner Adrian Fernandez was catching up with old friends in the Long Beach paddock this morning. Fernandez made his Indy car debut on the Long Beach circuit in 1993. In 11 appearances, he had a best finish of second in 2003. He was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame in 2013.
“It’s always fantastic to come here and see everybody,” said Fernandez, who was promoting Mexican beer Tecate at the event. “The competition in INDYCAR is great and I think it’s one of the key things to win the fans. I wish the best for INDYCAR; it’s in my blood.”
Ed Jones (Carlin) captured his third straight Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race to start the season, holding off a charging Spencer Pigot (Juncos Racing) in the closing laps to win by 0.6131 of a second. Pole sitter Jack Harvey (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian) was involved in a Lap 1 incident with third-place starter Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing), taking each out of contention. Jones has totaled 95 points after three of 16 races and holds a 25-point lead over Pigot in the championship chase.
“If I had five more laps, we could be competitive,” Sam Schmidt said with a broad smile.
Schmidt, a car owner in the Verizon IndyCar Series who sustained a spinal cord injury in an Indy car testing crash in 2000 that left him a quadriplegic, drove a demonstration lap of the 1.968-mile Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach circuit in a semi-autonomous Chevrolet Corvette C7 Stingray modified by his team’s sponsor, Arrow Electronics. Schmidt controlled the car’s steering, acceleration and braking through head movements and breathing in and out through a straw, with all movements sent to an on-board computer that instantly initiated the instructions.
“An unbelievable experience. Coming here for 25 years with my parents, I always wanted to race here, but never had the opportunity so it’s a really, really special day,” Schmidt said. “It’s a totally different experience sitting here. There’s bumps you don’t see from the TV and video games don’t do it justice.”
Schmidt initially drove the semi-autonomous cars around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval last May, but today included both left and right turns and additional acceleration and braking. Among the well-wishers in pit lane for Schmidt were racing legend Mario Andretti and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers James Hinchcliffe, James Jakes and Jack Harvey.
“This is probably the most fun and less stress that I’ll see all day,” Schmidt added. “Being on the stand is not as fun as this. To have a little confirmation from a guy like Mario (Andretti) and our drivers is fantastic. It speaks volumes. In the IndyCar Series it’s a team effort and this is a team effort with this group of engineers. It’s pretty nice to being to drive this car again.”
Noel Marshall, a mechanical engineer with Colorado-based Arrow Electronics and the SAM (Semi-Autonomous Motorcar) Project lead, rode along with Schmidt to monitor the performance of driver and machine.
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I feel bad for the Verizon Chevy Team. They worked so hard and me finishing P20 was a result of a bad day in qualifying. I didn’t get it done and it was snow ball effect from there. Today I made mistakes and I stalled the car on pit road during the first pit stop. Was hoping for a top ten finish but it didn’t happen. It makes me more motivated to make up for it the next couple races.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, series points leader): (Was he worried about teammate Simon Pagenaud passing him late in the race) “He had a little less rear wing. To be honest with you, I was surprised my tires were going off and not his. But mine went off and I saw him coming so I just had to not make a mistake, make sure I came out of the last corner (well). He was a little quicker down the straight so just pay attention how close he was and use the button, stuff like that. He was never really that close. He got close, maybe his nose to my rear tires, but that was about it. He never got next to me or anything.” (Was today a good result for the championship picture?) “Absolutely. That’s why I didn’t let Simon by. Third or fourth place, yeah, great we got a podium but it’s more points. It’s about being consistent and being smart. I said as long as I don’t have to risk the car to protect the points, it will be fine. And it worked well.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet): “It was actually nice, the weather. Obviously Southern California is nice. Certainly the track was constantly changing. Every time it gets new tires, reds versus blacks and things like that, it’s about two hours of racing and the track changed quite a lot. For us, we kept constantly changing a little but of the driving style because one lap is good and another was different. The Firestone tires were actually holding pretty good for me. My AAA car was awesome and we were pretty good all the way. (On when his crew held him longer in the pits) “The guys did a great job in the pits and especially the incident between me and Ganassi. It was just perfect. It was better to be safe than sorry, but it was a great job overall for Team Penske. At the end of the day, second place is not bad.”
STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “We had a great start and then the yellow came out. The team called me in for a splash of fuel and it was a really good strategy move, because we were able to pass five or six cars doing that and rejoin the race in 17th. I carried on jumping up tracking positions and got as high as 15th, which was pretty good coming from last but then I had a gearbox problem. I had to come into the pits to repair it and then my race was pretty much over and I was racing on my own. It’s a shame because the No. 4 KV Racing Technology car was really fast and the team gave me a great car, which I showed by setting the fastest lap of the race. We could have easily ended up in the top-10 and it’s another race that ended up like that, but we will keep on working and be ready for Barber next weekend.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “Today was pretty straight-forward. A little too straight-forward, I guess, with just the one caution and not a lot of chance to mix up strategies. We ran our race and did what we could. We got a couple guys on the first round and lost one or two of those in the second. We didn’t get a full tank on that last stop unfortunately, which forced us to save a bit of fuel on the last stint. It would’ve been interesting to see if we could’ve taken the fight to Graham [Rahal], [Sebastian] Saavedra and Carlos [Munoz] but we kept our nose clean. In an all-green race, there’s only so much you can do. Thanks to the No. 5 Arrow Electronics boys for the hard work all weekend. Now we regroup and go to Barber.”
JAMES JAKES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It wasn’t the day we wanted for the No. 7 SPM Launch Consulting Honda. It was a tough day – tough weekend, really – but we’ll work hard and get ready for Barber. Obviously, we’ve still got some reasonable points from New Orleans and gathered a few more today, so we’ll just roll on to next weekend.”
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “A top-10 finish was an exciting way to start my relationship with the team. It helps to have a great car right out of the box and great teammates to support me after being out of the car for so long. This whole weekend was about getting the rust off and adapting to fuel-saving strategies and learning how to get the best out of the red and black tires. Overall I’m going home pleased with the finish. We know what we need to work on and improve for the next time I’m in the car. I’m happy for Scott and his first win of the season and hopefully we can work towards a better finish when I’m back in the car in Indy.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet): “I like coming here, I love the event. But as far as an event and coming and doing well and looking forward to it, it was never really on that list. To finally conquer it- a lot of credit goes to a lot of people. That pit stop exchange there definitely helped us get to the lead, but the car was fast and we needed to maintain it. All in all, this is huge. Long Beach, I finally get to crack this one and I’m really happy. Firestone did a fantastic job. We even started on used (alternate) reds for the opening stint and were able to maintain pace. They are always good and we were able to maintain and look after them. For this weekend, our car was just dynamite on the (primary) blacks.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “We had to use up our tires trying to close the gap, towards the end once you get that close, we didn’t have it. When we got backed up with Montoya and Pagenaud, that slowed us down a bit. Those guys (Bourdais and Newgarden) caught us, but it was under control. Good result for the team, got some good points for the championship.” (On teammate Dixon’s win) “Scott did a great job. He’s a great teammate, had a slow start to the year. He’s a helluva driver, definitely a championship contender. Extremely happy for him.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Chevrolet): “It was a trying weekend, but we hit the reset button and the Hydroxycut machine was good. The guys really did a heck of a job. In one way it is frustrating because we struggled so much in practice and qualifying, but at the same time it is encouraging because we were able to recover. We tried something and it didn’t work, so we really hurt ourselves, but then when we got the car back in the window for the race we were quick. There will be some other weekends like this and we will just have to work hard to capitalize. Thanks to Hydroxycut and Mistic we have a strong package behind us and we just have to keep digging.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Our tough weekend continues but we finally had a good feeling of the car in the morning warmup today. The car’s potential was there before qualifying but we weren’t able to show the performance then due to the red flag which cut short qualifications. We were in the top-10 in this morning’s practice and had a positive feeling about the speed. I was optimistic for the race even though we had to start at the back. We had a good plan but there weren’t many yellows today, so not many chances to gain a lot of positions. At the end, we had a calculation problem on the fuel. I had to give up some positions as well as try to bring the car home. On the very last corner when I accelerated, it started coughing so I coasted to the checkered in neutral. The boys worked hard on the car all weekend and it’s just a shame we couldn’t produce a good result today.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda): “What we thought was an issue with the rear end of the car this morning in warm-up, we thought would go away in the race and unfortunately it didn’t and we struggled with keeping the rear of the car underneath us. It was a major struggle to balance and maintain it which is unfortunate because I was hoping today would be a day where we could make up some points and we squandered the opportunity.”
CONOR DALY (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “It was fun. It was cool. To be at the Long Beach Grand Prix, I mean, this is a race that I’ve come to for the last 8 or 10 years. I love it. I love Southern California and I’m very happy. Obviously 17th is not really great but from what we came from and where we started, I’m very happy. To be that competitive pace-wise, that is the best part to me. We were very quick compared to the other Honda’s around us, so, I just want to do this more often. I did all I could do. I went out and brought the car home and did all of the laps we could do, which was the goal in the first place. I am very happy for the opportunity and thankful for sure. I was hoping this would happen at some point to get a call to race on a road course and I did and it was on one of my favorite road courses.”
FRANCESCO DRACONE (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “We finished the race and stayed away from trouble, which was the goal. It was very hard to modify the pace each and every lap. I tried to be mindful of others and at the same time save fuel. I had a series of feelings that drove me a bit crazy. I tried to be overly conservative with letting all of the lead lap cars by. That is what we do in Europe and it is part of our culture. I am looking forward to the next race since it is a track I’ve driven on before.”
LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “We were going to pit under the first caution, but I had an alarm and the engine switched to safe mode. The engine shut down at that point, so I lost power. The team had to fire the engine up and reset the system in order to restart the car. We lost two laps to the leaders so we had to drive around ourselves, trying to avoid contact and the other cars as to not to ruin their race. It’s a shame because for most of the race we were one of the fastest cars on track. We had probably the best pace on the red tires so it would have been interesting to see what we could have done. At least it was a good practice for us to find a good rhythm. Hopefully next week in Barber we can start with the performance we were capable of today.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “The car was fast. The last pit stop put us a little bit back, that’s when Juan Pablo (Montoya) got us. But all in all, a good day. It was fun, we had a lot of pace in the car. We just had to stop a little further up to win the race. But I’m really happy, was a great fight with Juan Pablo and Helio. It’s not tougher (with teammates), it’s just the nature of who it is. It’s Juan Pablo and Helio (Castroneves), so they don’t give you much room, that’s for sure. I’m starting to understand what I can and cannot do with my teammates, and obviously it’s pretty open. It was good fun, fair racing.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “Today wasn’t frustrating at all. The (aero) package we have right now is what we have. The other (aero) package seems to be better right now, but we are working hard. We started 12th, and I think the main goal was to finish in the top 10, and we did it; I’m happy with that. Our Honda engine is really good and we improved from last year. So now that today is done, we move on to Barber.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “Always nice to be in the top 10, but it’s a bit frustrating because we are sort of maximizing what we are dealt. I can see if we made mistakes and ended up eighth then fine, but I’m not sure that we could have done better today. It will take a bit more development on everything and we’ll work for more in Barber next week.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “Today was a big disappointment for us, probably one of the worst races we’ve had from green to checkered. I had a car I couldn’t drive hard when I needed to. The strategy we went for didn’t work out. Our pit stops did not really work out. Nothing really worked out for us today. I guess sometimes you have those days in racing, but they’re certainly not days we ever want to be accustomed to having. We’ll regroup and move on to Barber.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “It was a tricky race and we thought there were going to be more yellows than there was. The strategy was good but we just didn’t quite have the speed today so we’ll come back at Barber next week and have another go at it.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It was definitely a decent result. Our guys have been working hard and it’s nice to get some consistent results over the last couple of races. Obviously we wanted to be higher. I tried to get by Montoya after that first stop and got into the rubber on the outside of Turn 10. I picked up a lot of debris on the tires and it took me a long time to clean it up. I lost a lot of time to the leader and fell into the clutches of (Sebastien) Bourdais and (Tony) Kanaan and never got back away from them. We had a little bit of trouble in the pit stop as we had to wait for Graham (Rahal) and after that we lost out to Tony and Sebastian. We came home seventh, so it’s disappointing that we didn’t reach our potential. We are pushing hard at CFH Racing. We’ve got a really strong group and we’re close to knocking on the door. We will come back for the next round in Barber and try and one up these guys!”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was kind of a frustrating day for the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet here in Long Beach. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing guys did a great job all weekend with pit stops and making the car better all weekend, so it was just unfortunate that we had a mechanical issue early in the race and then we had to come in to change the front wing. Overall the car was really fast, which bodes well going into next weekend at Barber.”