Newgarden crashes from lead handing Lights win to Daly
American Josef Newgarden led from the start but was under constant pressure from Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Conor Daly. But Newgarden appeared to be able to hold off Daly for the win but with two laps to go, Newgarden ran wide in the right-hand Turn 8 as Daly sped by into the lead and the win.
Justin Wilson's younger brother, Stefan Wilson, was 3rd behind polesitter Esteban Guerrieri.
Daly scored the biggest win of his career. Daly proved to be the fastest car on race day and in a display of speed, discipline and patience, he worked his way to the front from a fourth place starting position.
“I can hardly believe I’m standing here as a winner in Long Beach” said Daly. “I’ve been coming here since I was a young boy and just love everything about race weekend. I struggled a little with my rev limiter that was coming on before the end of the straight but otherwise I tried to attack when the time was right and conserve when the time was right”.
Daly moved to third place when leader, Irishman Peter Dempsey crashed at turn nine. On the re-start Daly went down the inside of Argentinean, Esteban Guerrieri in the brake zone at turn one to take second place. After reeling in Newgarden, he spent several laps attempting to find a way past, almost touching Newgarden’s gearbox at the hairpin at one stage. In the closing laps Newgarden made a critical error and Daly was through.
Daly missed all of Friday’s practice as he was returning from three days of GP3 testing in Barcelona, Spain that took place between Barber, Alabama and Long Beach. “I had good information available from my team mates for Saturday and my engineer, Chris Finch, knows what I like in the car set up. This morning in the final warm up session, we had to do a fine tune adjustment on the ride heights and we were ready for battle. The last thing Sam Schmidt said to me on the grid was to have patience - that paid off for me”, said Daly.
“Without a doubt, Conor is an exceptional American driver and we at Modspace are proud to support him”, said William Mann, director of Modspace motorsports. “His first three Indy Lights races should make people sit up and take notice”.
Ironically, Daly now leaves the Indy Lights series as the points leader as he will move to Europe to tackle his primary 2011 season program, the Formula One support series, GP3. His first GP3 races will be in Turkey, May 7th- 8th. He will do two more Firestone Indy Lights races later in the season in Trois Rivieres, Canada August 7th, and on the streets of Baltimore, September 4th.
Afterward Daly said, "I was having problems with my transmission between 3rd and 4th gear and wasn't sure if I would have gotten by Newgarden, but I was applying pressure and then I saw he began locking his front tires. That is when I knew he was in trouble and then in Turn 8, which was difficult all race long, he went off."
Asked if racing both Indy Lights and GP3 helps him as a driver, he said, "Absolutely. Even though the cars are totally different, the more seat time you get as a driver the better. And after doing three races here I now go to the GP3 opening race in Turkey in May with race time under my seat, something the other GP3 drivers don't have yet this year."
||Best Lap Time|
||Juan Pablo Garcia
Winners average speed: 83.802
Time of Race: 1:00:35.2947
Margin of victory: Under caution
Cautions: 4 for 8 laps
Lead changes: 3 among 4 drivers
Lap Leaders: Guerrieri 1, Dempsey 2-9, Newgarden 10-40, Daly 41-43
Point Standings; Daly 109, Newgarden 99, Wilson 89, V. Garcia 86, Guerrieri 85,
Dempsey 83, Grenier 82, Krohn 76, Goncalvez 71, Ostella 71.
CONOR DALY (No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/SSM, winner Grand Prix of Long Beach): "It's pretty unbelievable. You know, I got here late and didn't get to practice Friday. I wish I could have run the first session but just missed it. The car was fantastic, again, the Sam Schmidt Motorsports team does a great job what they do preparing the cars, and that made it just a little bit easier to kind of jump in and find the limit. The whole race I was really just learning the track still. I kind of saw a few things Josef was doing, and my car was really consistent through the whole race, so I was able to kind of find little bits here and there and just be able to start putting quicker and quicker laps together. And when I got up right behind him, I was kind of worried because when I had the best run my car skipped third gear and went to fourth and the next lap it did the same thing. So it was a bit of a stressful situation because I saw Esteban closing on me pretty quickly when that happened, and I just had to really concentrate on getting the car from third to fourth gear. Eventually I caught back up to Josef, and he unfortunately went off, and it was tough to see that when Sam Schmidt Motorsports was in that position for one, two, three, but I'll take it."
ESTEBAN GUERRIERI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsport, finished second): "I had a very good start. I had a good run in the first corner, but straight away, I started suffering a lot of understeer and I started to push instantly from the beginning. I got passed and I got passed again, so I was third. I got into a pace, and it was OK, but still I wasn't the quickest out there. I was just trying to maintain my rhythm. In the end, there was a restart and I didn't have a very good traction, so I got passed, so I was fourth. There were crashes for Josef and Dempsey so I got up to second. It's not too bad to finish on the podium, but you want to win when you start up from pole, but it's not every day you can do it."
STEFAN WILSON (No. 5 Andretti Autosport): "We had a bad qualifying session yesterday. We looked like we were in good shape, and we definitely felt like the car deserved to be much higher than a P 6 starting position. Anyway, a few quick laps would have put us on the front, and unfortunately the yellows caught us out and we had to start from P 6, and really going into the race really wasn't quite sure what to expect. I knew that turn 1 would be crucial and I thought it was going to be very tight, and I'm glad that I was able to maintain my position through Turn 1, and then we had a good race car and were able to pressure guys into mistakes. Right at the end there I was keeping up with Esteban on the cold tires, and I felt if we had an extra couple laps we could have had a chance to get by, and then it turns out the next corner Josef made a mistake and went off, and that elevated me to a podium finish and took away the rest of the race. All in all, I'm very pleased. The second consecutive podium in two weeks, so I'm pleased with that, and it's good points, and it's just nice to be here on the podium at Long Beach."
DEREK DALY (Former driver, Conor Daly's father): "I'm just thrilled he gets to surround himself by such great people and good equipment and he gets this opportunity to learn and display his god given talent. And at a place like Long Beach where there was an option for him to drop the race from his schedule because he was still in Barcelona (Spain) on Friday. He said 'No. This is such a mega event, I want to be here. I don't care how much travel and how tired I am, I want to be here.' And he was rewarded for it."
SAM SCHMIDT (Team owner, Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "It's a bittersweet moment. We got the victory with Conor and that's fantastic. We got a win for the Mazda Road to Indy program. I'm just disappointed for Josef who worked so hard to get to the front and had led most of the race, and he didn't get to finish at all. He's obviously a phenomenal driver. He'll have his opportunity for time in victory lane. I'm also proud of Esteban. He showed great patience and brought it home in one piece on the podium. And I'm proud of Victor as well. He started 11th and advanced to sixth which is his best finish of the year. We just need to get him up with the other guys."
PETER DEMPSEY (No. 36 Pulse/O2 Racing Technology): "I just missed the downshift into the corner on the back straight. I got into neutral and didn't have any engine break. It was my own mistake and I want to apologize to my team 02 Racing Technology because it is my own error and they worked so hard all weekend to give me a good car. I don't even know what to say. I feel bad for the guys on my team who performed well all weekend. We were leading with three Sam Schmidt Motorsports cars behind me and pulling away comfortably and pushing the limit to be there. Unfortunately I just made my first mistake of the season at the most unfortunate time. Apart from that it was a great start to the race today and the Firestone tires were working great for us. I need to move forward and look to the ovals now."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 11 RoboPong/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "This is probably the toughest moment I have had in my career. It is not something you can plan for. It is certainly the first time this has happened to me and it isn't a fun feeling to have. I think I just caught the drain ditch and it popped me up on the ground. I hadn't hit it all weekend, so it caught me off guard when it happened. It just caught the front end up and it was very difficult to save it. It is too bad for all the guys. I thought we were going to have a great weekend here and it is unfortunate that it finished the way it did. There is a long season ahead of us and I am anxious to test on an oval this week."