Grand Prix of Long Beach: There were many winners besides Mike Conway

The grandstands were full, the racing good and the standing start fabulous. May IndyCar never do another rolling start again.

Yes, Mike Conway took the checkered flag Sunday afternoon at the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. However, don’t be swayed by that fact, the Englishman wasn’t the only winner.

It was the second such triumph at “The Roar by the Shore" for Conway, who demonstrated his patience throughout day. There were other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers who failed to just cool their heels long enough to change the outcome. Obviously, they weren’t on the list of winners.

Of course, the City of Long Beach comes out on top of any compilation. A record crowd that will total more than 170,000 after the final audit comes in — again refuting the belief Southern California doesn’t have race fans — hammered the region with an economic impact of untold millions of dollars, although not much of it was spent on clothes due to the great weather.

Many were watching on NBC Sports Network back east, a region just emerging from a brutal winter. The skies were blue and the aerial shots spectacular, million-dollar Chamber of Commerce portraits.

But it just wasn’t the United States that took pride. A look at the finishing order resembled the early Formula One races along Shoreline: A Bit wins, an Aussie (Will Power) places second and a Colombian (Carlos Munoz) takes third. In fact, Graham Rahal was the first American across the finish line, and he took 13th, six spots behind Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin.

“This means so much," said Conway after the race. “This is really a special place. There aren’t many tracks I’ve won twice at, so this is really cool."

That’s a sentiment many would echo about Long Beach.

Another big winner was Ed Carpenter, who owns Conway’s race car. During the offseason, Carpenter determined the best for his team was for Conway to drive the Chevrolet-powered racer on street and road courses, while he drove the ovals. After all, Carpenter won the MAV TV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana in 2012 and finished second there last November.

“We have a good group of people," said Conway, a three-time IndyCar winner. “We have great engineers always pushing. With that drive and hunger, we can achieve anything. We’re definitely making waves."

The IndyCar Series made a big statement about headlining the show in Long Beach. The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach will soon receive a three-year extension and IndyCar, quiet during the early political debate, put on a show that fans will not soon forget.

It was GPA president Jim Michaelian that sought a standing start, and it turned out great. There was no big crash in Turn 1 to mar the show.

Additionally, the cars took plenty of hits and kept going. With NASCAR off on Sunday, many of its fans tuned in and saw contact all day, crashes and drivers talking ill of one another throughout. It was only because of the accents that we knew it wasn’t the good ol’ boys in action.

And, in one case, it was an internal situation as James Hinchcliffe took exception with Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay about an action that resulted in the big crash on Lap 56 that took him out.

“At the end of the day, patience is a virtue and someone wasn’t very virtuous today," Hinchcliffe said on TV about a former series champion. “It was a rookie move."

There were some tweets that were taken down, others expressed dissatisfaction with rulings made during the race. At one point, the race resulted in an NFL game as several incidents were “under review." No need to wait until Tuesday like the stock car set, IndyCar took immediate action.

That’s the kind of action racing fans are looking for, even if they’re not all paying attention to the action on the track. In fact, during the 80-lap, 1-hour, 54-minute, 41.6418-second race, many fans were on the midway, unable to see the racing but well within with the sounds.

Some were in the tent featuring art by talented painter Randy Owens, who has traveled to Long Beach each year since 1979. Owens, from Davidsonville, Md., has a reason to make the trip as he’s designed seven posters or program covers in addition to the art he creates.

He captures memories with his work for those who seek such treasures of the day’s winners. Long Beach Press Telegram

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