Brian C.'s Saturday Long Beach Notebook
I had an opportunity to speak with a few Verizon IndyCar Series drivers after today’s qualifying session. One of the topics I was looking for input on was their opinion on standing starts for tomorrow’s 40th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. But more on that shortly…
|Good day for Josef Newgarden in Long Beach. |
We’ll start with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Josef Newgarden, who qualified fourth earlier today, a career-best. Now, you might remember Newgarden started second at Long Beach two years ago during his rookie season. However, keep in mind Newgarden actually qualified seventh, as that weekend numerous Chevrolet teams changed engines, resulting in a shuffled grid. So while the 2012 Long Beach race was a career best start today was a career-best qualifying effort.
You might also remember that Newgarden struggled with his qualifying last season, and two weeks ago started 22nd in the season-opener at St. Petersburg.
I asked the Hendersonville, TN native if there was anything specific that could explain the impressive leap forward. Very confidently, Newgarden said it was simply a function of both he and the team having a “cleaner weekend,” than in St. Pete.
Remember, Newgarden put on an impressive drive at St. Pete coming from 22nd to finish ninth. And considering the race form he showed in the opener, and the speed he has showed all weekend, it’s not unreasonable to think the third-year driver can contend for his first career Indy Car victory tomorrow.
Like Newgarden, Charlie Kimball posted a disappointing qualifying effort in St. Pete, starting 20th. Sadly, unlike Newgarden, Kimball had another frustrating day and will start 19th tomorrow.
I asked the Camarillo, CA native if he knew the source of the issue. He didn’t seem overly-concerned. Citing the depth of the field, and how just a few tenths make a world of difference, Kimball simply noted that the team was “close,” just not there yet.
I also caught up with Bryan Herta Autosport owner Bryan Herta. I asked what the chances were of a second BHA car at Indy this year, and he said the team “tried hard,” to make it happen, but the chances are “highly unlikely.” One of the reasons Herta says the team is not going to go forward with a second effort is because things are going really well with rookie Jack Hawksworth, who qualified fifth today.
Herta has been very impressed with Hawksworth, noting that “he blew us away,” in the first test the team conducted with him at Sebring. “Jack is very self-assured, and not overwhelmed with data of IndyCar.” And when I mentioned that Hawksworth had something of an unlucky DNF at St. Pete, Herta citing a bad pit-stop that dropped Hawksworth out of the top-10, noted “it was sort of our fault, he was back there.”
Hawksworth was also one of the drivers I asked about tomorrow’s standing start. Of course, we at AutoRacing1 have long been proponents of IndyCar using standing starts at more of their venues, Long Beach in particular.
With the rolling starts, the field has historically had great difficulty getting lined up for the start coming off the hairpin onto Shoreline Drive. Further, with a rolling start the cars carry great speed into the tight first turn where the heavy breaking increases the likelihood of an incident.
Now, one driver did somewhat jokingly say something to the effect of “ask me after turn one tomorrow.” However, overwhelmingly the sentiment was glowingly positive with some mild indifference mixed in.
One simply said, “I love standing starts.” Two drivers noted that they thought standing starts further highlighted the diversity of the series. Another said that he thought the spectacle of having the cars lined up on the grid together would greatly add to the show.
As for the indifference, one driver pointed out that standing starts didn’t “change anything.” And I wasn’t really sure what that meant.
One pointed out something I found quite interesting, saying that the challenge of standing starts is working with a car that “has electronic and mechanical packages which weren’t designed with [standing starts] in mind.”
Brian C. reporting from Long Beach