Will Power wins final Champ Car race in Long Beach
On a day that was full of emotion for the many people that made Champ Car such an exciting series for so many years, Team Australia/KV Racing's Will Power beat everyone on Sunday to win the last-ever Champ Car race in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Will Power took the lead from the standing start by beating polesitter Justin Wilson into the first turn. From there Power pretty much controlled the pace of the race the entire way but for most of the way he was under heavy pressure from Alex Tagliani and later Franck Montagny.
Mario Dominguez was third for Pacific Coast Motorsports. Rookie Enrique Bernoldi and Oriol Servia rounded out the top-5.
Franck Perera, Alex Tagliani, David Martínez EJ Viso and Jimmy Vasser completed the top-10.
Team Australia team owner Kevin Kalkhoven was delighted with the win.
"And I'm so proud of the team to go from running IndyCars in St. Pete two weeks ago to putting three cars in the top-10 today. It was just a great feeling to see the smiles on all the young guys faces."
Will Power led 81 of 83 laps today, the most dominant performance in this race since Helio Castroneves led all 82 laps in 2001. He explained how his race went.
"I knew it was important to get into the lead early to control the pace so I tried really hard at the start and got the lead. Then during the middle stint I was able to save fuel and still go fast to open up a slight gap over Tagliani. Then after the last pit stop I was in cruise mode just keeping the gap to Montagny at around 5 seconds."
“I got a very good start in the KVRT Aussie Vineyards – Team Australia car, which I knew was really important,” Power said. “The KVRT team did a great job with the car. I was very fast in the race, good fuel saving, great pit stops. I am very happy for Kevin Kalkhoven and Craig Gore, who is the one who gave me the opportunity to race Champ Cars. I am also happy for the whole KVRT team. They have put in so much work over the last couple of months, having been away from their families, it’s great to give them a win because they are the ones who deserve it.”
Polesitter Justin Wilson had a disappointing day after having high hopes of winning.
"We'd hoped to win here, and at the very least get a good points haul, so it's really disappointing", said Wilson.
"I knew there was something wrong fairly early on, because I was finding it a real struggle to hit my fuel mileage target. Then we lost a cylinder and finally it gave up the ghost coming down the front straight. It's a missed opportunity, but we'll just have to put it behind us and re-focus on finding a good set-up on the Dallara at Kansas."
Fourth place Enrique Bernoldi was happy with his 4th place result.
“It was very good finishing fourth. I was close to the podium. I had a really good pace at the end of the race. It was tough though. The race was long and very tiring physically because the car is very demanding. I had a good race and I am happy to score points for the IndyCar Series Championship. I’m really happy, it’s my best result so far this year, hopefully I can keep improving my positions like this.”
There were three full-course cautions thrown during the race. On lap 1 Oriol Servia and Alex Figge stalled on the grid. On lap 6 rookie Mario Moraes crashed in turn 1 bringing out the caution for 3 laps and then on lap 31 Nelson Philippe spun and stalled in Turn 11 bringing out the yellow for 3 laps.
Will Power climbed to fifth in the IndyCar Series points with his victory today. He has 87 points, earning 53 today (50 for victory, 3 for leading most laps).
POST-RACE QUICK QUOTES:
WILL POWER (winner): (About start): I just got a good start. I hooked it up. I did plenty of practice starts in the morning warm-up. We got a good start.” (What does it mean for you to win the last Champ Car race?): “It means a lot. We were looking to win this championship this year, and then suddenly the series changed. This is a great way to finish off Champ Car.”
FRANCK MONTAGNY (second): “Not too bad for first race in Champ Car, first time here. A rookie in a lot of things. It was quite all right. The team did a fantastic job.” (Did you use all of your push to pass?): “No.” (Did you use push-to-pass to pass Tagliani?): “Yes, I did a little bit. I knew how much he had left, and I had just a little bit more.” (Any chance you’ll come to Indy?): “I would like to.”
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (third): “It was a tough race. Everybody was racing hard. At the beginning, I lost some positions at the start and then I gained some, passing people. The team did a great strategy. We saved a lot of fuel. Right at the end, with a few laps to go, I managed to pass a car for third. And it was a tough pass. He sure braked late; he wasn’t giving me any room. He was really close, but thank God I made it. I’m just really glad to give Pacific Coast Motorsports this third place. Very well deserved. They’re a hard-working team. I’m very happy I gave them their best result.”
ENRIQUE BERNOLDI (fourth): “It was tough to pass people. It’s a very long race, and this car is very heavy on the steering wheel. I think I got good points for the championship. I know it was a very good race for me and the whole team.” (About track): This track is very nice. The atmosphere is very friendly. I like it a lot here so far.”
FRANCK PERERA (No. 34 Conquest Racing): “It was a tough race. It was my first big race. I don’t have the experience of Champ Car or Formula One like other guys, so it is not easy. But it was good. I had a good start. I was third or fourth throughout most of the race, and I was keeping up with Montagny and Tagliani. It was tough for me with the fresh tires and the pit stops. It’s not easy to be completely perfect on pit stops since I don’t have a lot of experience doing them. After the last pit stop, I struggled with my last set of tires, and I was not as quick as at the beginning and I was losing a lot. I couldn’t stay with the guys in front of me, and I also had to save a lot of fuel at the end. That’s when Servia passed me. It’s bittersweet, but it’s good for Conquest to have both cars in the top six.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps-Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): “It’s a shame to end the race the way we did because we had a good car. We were consistently turning laps in the 68’s (one minute, eight-second range) and set some of the fastest laps of the race. On the last lap, I was on the car in front of me, hoping he would make a mistake and I could take sixth, and the rears locked up. I was on the brake, off the brake pumping them, and I was locked up and just went into the tires. We worked so hard to catch up after contact with Montagny that you just feel like an idiot for all that hard work to be wasted. It was an up-and-down race; it was frustrating. I had a tough time at the start trying to judge how much fuel the guys in front of me were saving because I could tell the Conquest boys weren’t saving much because there was no way they were going as fast as they were if they were saving fuel. Perera came in a lap earlier than we did anyway. There is a difference between saving fuel and all-out pace. I didn’t have any trouble passing people when I wanted to. If it wasn’t a classic Champ Car fuel-saving race, I think we could have won because we had more pace than anybody else.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team-Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): “If we didn’t have bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck at all. A couple of laps before I stopped, the feeling of the engine changed in the McDonald’s car, so I think we lost a cylinder two laps before. It just got worse, and I had to pull off. It’s pretty disappointing because I felt the McDonald’s car was quicker than anyone else out there today, and I just wanted to make the most of it. Sometimes these things happen. At the beginning of the race, Power got a good start. I thought I had a good one, but he was alongside me before we got to third gear. After that, I just settled in and ran our fuel strategy and tried to pass him later on the restart when I got a good run, but I got forced almost into the wall and into his back tire so I lifted off and settled for second because it was still the early stages of the race. I wasn’t too concerned at that point because the whole race was in front of us.”
ANTONIO PIZZONIA (No. 9 Rocketsports): “We were looking quite good, to be honest, I think we managed to improve the #10 Borla Exhaust/Rocketsports Cosworth/DP01/Bridgestone car by quite a lot from yesterday. We made some big changes to the car, which went in the right direction. Unfortunately, we had the problem with some kind of sensor, which made the car stall during our first pit stop. After that, I couldn’t use the pit limiter anymore, and we had a few other problems with changing gears and with some other sensor issues. In the end, it was just stay out there and finish what we started. It is nice to end the race with the fastest lap. It shows that we had the pace this afternoon, but luck just wasn’t on our side. I would like to thank the entire Rocketsports team for this opportunity. It was a pleasure working with them again and my engineer, John Gentilozzi. It was nice to be a part of such a historical event but sad that this is the end to a great series like Champ Car.”
JUHO ANNALA (No. 10 Pulp Management Agency/Rocketsports): “I had some problem in the brakes. I started to lose the brakes almost 10 laps earlier from when I pulled into the pits, and we decided that our day was over. The (brake) pedal just wouldn’t come back to me when I braked. So basically they failed on us today. It is a shame, it has been a rough weekend, but at the same time such an amazing learning experience for me. I would like to thank Paul Gentilozzi and the entire Rocketsports team for giving me such an amazing opportunity to run with them in a Champ Car and the final Champ Car race. It was a good weekend overall. I had a good time working with the team and having the chance to drive a Champ Car on this amazing circuit.”
NELSON PHILIPPE (No. 4 Minardi/HVM Racing): “Today is not a day reflective of my Champ Car career; it was a pretty disappointing day. The car was very difficult to drive. The steering was too heavy, and I have big blisters on my hands. The first stint was OK. I had on the red tires and they went off too early, so that didn’t help us. Right before we were supposed to pit, Viso took me out and pretty much ruined my day. It’s too bad because the number-one rule in racing is, ‘Don’t take out your teammate.’ After that, it was quite hard running the race by myself a lap down. In the back of my mind, I was a bit angry. I did the best I could, and at the end of the race, I tried to do two laps to see how quick I could go, and got the eighth-fastest lap. Again, thank you to Keith (Wiggins) for trusting me, and I hope we can do this again. Thanks also to all the Champ Car fans who came out in support of us today.”
E.J. VISO (No. 33 PDVSA HVM Racing): “Well, we finished ninth, and this is what happens when you qualify in the back. That is why qualifying is very important. Other than that, I am very happy with the behavior of the car. During the middle of the race, I had on the red tires, and my car was very slow. Then we put on the black tires and I was flying, nobody was quicker than me on the track at that point. In one of the pit stops, I had a problem coming in and stalled the car, which didn’t help me, either. I feel bad that while in slower traffic I came upon Nelson (Philippe), and we just clipped each other and he spun. I do feel bad, as he’s my teammate, but this is racing.”
ROBERTO MORENO (No. 14 Minardi/HVM Racing): “Overall, we had a great weekend because coming here without driving for a few years was tough, and I think I caught up very quickly. The team helped me to do that. They put a car together for me very quickly. There are some good sides and bad sides to the weekend, however. On the positive side, it was very good to be back racing and see how quick I could get up to speed. On the bad side, I can see that all that is missing is the opportunity. I am chasing the opportunity to drive, and my next goal is to try and do (the) Indy (500).”
MARIO DOMINGUEZ (No. 96 Pacific Coast Motorsports): “It was an amazing race. Everyone was racing really hard, and to be on the podium in the final Champ Car is a great honor. I started in Champ Car in 2002, and it was a childhood dream of mine to compete here. I have to thank Tyler Tadevic and Pacific Coast Motorsports. The team gave me great communication today. We saved a lot of fuel and drove hard. It was great. I passed Tagliani for third right toward the end, and it was an exciting moment. This was the home race for my team and to see the joy on their faces was very rewarding. Also the fans, it almost felt as if I was driving in Mexico today. As I made the parade lap, they were yelling my name. I have so much support here; it is an incredible feeling. It is a sad moment for me because I will miss Champ Car. I loved Champ Car, and I will always be so proud to have won in Champ Car. But there has to be one series – that is very clear. The future is bright. I am sad but at the same time happy. In the end, the fans will be the winners, and that is terrific and I hope to be part of that. This is where I made my name and this is where I made my career, but my future starts right now.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 KV Racing Technologies/Plantronics/HP): “It was a crazy race. I stalled at the start, which wasn’t ideal and not part of the plan. I then came from last to fifth, and it was a good race. We had good pace, and I was able to overtake. I am really happy for Will and the whole KV Racing Technology team after the huge effort they have put in. We showed speed at the last race in St. Petersburg and now a win for him and fifth for me is great for the points and a great start for the season.”
JIMMY VASSER (No. 12 Plantronics-KV Racing Technology): “Where do I start … Winning the race with Will and three KV Racing Technology cars finishing in the top 10. I obviously wished for a better finish for myself, but I put the KVRT Plantronics car in neutral in the hairpin and lost four or five spots, which really hurt. I had to burn a lot of fuel to catch a back up, which was too bad. All credit to the KVRT team and Mark Johnson, our general manager. They have all put in a huge amount of work, it’s all starting to pay off.”
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