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Canadians making mark felt in IndyCar
James Hinchcliffe at Long Beach
Bob Heathcote/AR1.com
One thing that came out of the IZOD IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was that Canadian open wheel race car drivers are -- and belong -- among the top performers in North America.

How else can you explain that James Hinchcliffe, in just his second IndyCar ride, puts the No. 06 Newman Haas Racing Honda-powered Dallara a breath away from a podium finish.

His fourth place at Long Beach deserves to be celebrated.

And veteran Alex Tagliani, who bears the burden of being part of a one-car effort at Sam Schmidt Motorsports, brought home the No. 77 machine in fifth place in a field of 27. 

Then there was Paul Tracy, making his season debut at Long Beach for the No. 8 Dragon Racing team of Jay Penske. While at first glance Tracy's 16th place finish may not look impressive, it indeed was.

After all, Tracy hasn't been behind the wheel of an IndyCar in almost a year -- dating back to the Edmonton Indy last July.

To finish on the lead lap is, in fact, a huge accomplishment under such circumstances.

The performance of all three sets up both the Honda Indy Toronto and the Edmonton Indy -- both temporary courses like Long Beach -- for some great home-grown racing this summer.

Listening to Hinchcliffe after the race, you could just see him licking his chops as he looks ahead to the Canadian events.

Alex Tagliani
"The Sprott car was awesome, it was really consistent," Hinchcliffe said of his Canadian-based Sprott-sponsored car.

"This finish speaks volumes for what this team can do and the car they are giving me."

Except for a messed-up re-fuelling stop, Tagliani could well have left Long Beach with a podium finish.

"We had our share of moments out here," Tagliani said. "We had one refueling problem. Other than that, I think we executed our race well."

Paul Tracy at Long Beach
Bob Heathcote/AR1.com
Tracy clearly was using Long Beach as more of a test than anything else as he looks ahead to five more starts -- four with Dragon and the Indianapolis 500 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Canoe.ca

"The weekend as a whole was a warm-up for Indy, getting my head back in the game," Tracy wrote in his diary for Racer Magazine. "Obviously, what we learned this weekend won't have much of a bearing on my next two races -- the Indy 500 and Texas -- because they're ovals. But I think then, my engineer Eric Zeto and the team can think hard about Toronto so we can make a better stab at getting the overall balance of the car right for the different tires."

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