Overheard at Long Beach - Sunday UPDATE #3 In this rumor below we said that Michel Jourdain Jr would drive for the Rahal team at Indy with backing from Office Depot of Mexico. That rumor was confirmed in today's announcement.
04/15/12 Word is that attendance for the race weekend was 170,000 despite Friday's heavy rain.
04/15/12 Word is that the Honda cars are down on mid-range power to the Chevies and that is why Honda wants a turbo update.....Ran into ex-Champ Car President Joe Heitzler who told us he battling cancer of the tongue, and he never smoked. Good luck to him with that battle.........Chatted briefly with Townsend Bell and Michel Jourdain (will Office Depot of Mexico sponsor him again?) and both sound confident that their Indy 500 deals will come together.......Ran into former CART team owner Bruce McCaw who had not been to Long Beach in years. McCaw, who lives in Seattle said his wife won't let him start an IndyCar team again......Ran into former Cosworth operations boss in Torrance, CA. He is working another job not affiliated with racing whatsoever.
04/15/12 A perfect day weather-wise Sunday for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Today's race should be quite exciting with so many top drivers shuffled back 10 grid positions due to early engine changes.
Lotus swapped engines in the Nos. 6 and 22 cars driven by Katherine Legge and Oriol Servia, before the first IZOD IndyCar Series practice session this weekend.
In addition the engine was changed in the No. 7 Lotus Dragon Racing car driven by three-time Long Beach Indy car race winner Sebastien Bourdais following the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 1, and of course Chevrolet changed out engines in its 11 entries in a precautionary move April 12.
All 14 entries incurred 10-spot grid penalties for the 85-lap race on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit April 15 because of an unapproved engine change. Rules 15.5.1 and 15.6.1 outline the penalty for a change-out if the engine that has not reached its minimum threshold.
Chevrolet's decision was made following the tear down and inspection of the engine in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com car of Andretti Autosport that experienced an issue during a team April 9th test at Infineon Raceway.
"We are still learning the limitations of the new engine controls calibration," said Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing's IZOD IndyCar Series program manager. "Through our testing in Sonoma, as indicated by an engine issue, we uncovered a problem that we believe could affect all engines. So, as a result, we feel it is prudent to change all engines prior to the start of the on-track activities this weekend."
For the starting grid for today's race see our Hot News page.
In case you did not catch it, check out our Q and A with IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard on our home page/Feature Articles from yesterday where he updates us on a whole host of issues.
We have the inside scoop on the Honda Turbo issue but we agreed not to publish it yet since the situation/discussions are at a critical stage. Suffice it to say that any story you may have read that it was a turbo-lag issue are incorrect. It is not a turbo lag issue with the single turbo vs. double turbo whatsoever.
IndyCar had high expectations for this season, hoping improved competition and competing manufacturers would provide the story lines needed to grow the audience.
While at-track attendance is up, TV ratings are down through the first two races of the year, and the numbers after the April 1 race at Barber have caused concern throughout the paddock this weekend at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The Barber race drew just a 0.25 on NBC Sports Network, and IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard called the ratings "unacceptable." Bernard says IndyCar must find a way to improve its numbers, and the series and network must work together to increase promotion. The network was promoting Sunday's race on the NBC network during Saturday's NHL playoff hockey games.
We wrote the day it was announced that IndyCar had signed a 10 year (do you believe that? 10 years) deal with Versus that it would be a noose around the series neck. Well even with its renaming to NBC Sports Network, it remains a noose around the series neck. Every race should be on network TV, except maybe China which runs in the wee hours of the morning. Instead of IndyCar getting paid to show its races on a station hardly anyone watches, they would be better off buying the air time on network TV and selling the commercial timeslots to recoup some of the money spent on the time buy. This would increase TV ratings, which in turn will draw more sponsor money to the teams and to the series, and that would mean IndyCar could reduce the money it spends to prop the teams up via the Leader Card program.
We expect a good number of wrecks in today's race as the faster drivers work their way through the field from the back. A change in pit road procedures should make caution periods shorter beginning today. In situations that aren't emergencies, race control will leave open the pits so cars can get service without having to wait behind the pace car. It makes pit road safer due to a lack of congestion and it allows cars a chance to keep what's been earned due to arriving on pit road sooner. However, if say the first 5 cars pass the pit entrance on any given lap and the caution flies, the drivers behind can duck into the pits and actually end up being ahead of the top-5 after the pitstops are all done, depending on where the pace car picks up the leaders.
Bryan Clauson said he is "very close" to confirming an Indianapolis 500 ride with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, which would bring next month's car count to 29.
Other Indy-only cars include:
- Sebastian Saavedra and Ana Beatriz at Andretti Autosports.
- Schmidt Hamilton Racing Second car - Possibly Townsend Bell or Alex Lloyd
- A.J. Foyt Racing second car - Possibly Wade Cunningham
- Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing second car for rookie Luca Filippi
- Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing third car possibly for Michel Jourdain Jr.
- Jean Alesi in a Lotus for Newman Haas Racing.
On another topic, remember when Roger Penske said IndyCar should not be racing overseas in places like China? He said, "I don't see anyone writing a big check for us to go to China." We found this statement to be preposterous, especially from such an astute businessman as Penske. Is he oblivious to the fact China has become, or soon will become, the biggest economy in the world? Is he oblivious to the fact that China is paying IndyCar a significant sanctioning fee, far more than they get for domestic races? Dale Coyne told AR1.com, "We have some big sponsors lined up specifically for the China race. I am glad we are going to China." This of course shoots holes in Penske preposterous statement. He must have an ulterior motive.
Speaking of China, Randy Bernard told AR1.com that we had a very good meeting with the China folks on Friday, so maybe we are getting close to seeing an announcement about the race in China. Until now, the city's website does not even make mention of the race, as if it is not going to happen.
Friday's attendance was negatively affected by the bad weather when a record rainfall for April hit Long Beach. Yesterday's attendance was much better, but still not as big as we have seen it.
Hearing that KV Racing may land a US based sponsor prior to Brazil. Something small, but either way it's money to the team and some entertaining in the Latin America market. Mark C. reporting from Long Beach