(Pardon your humble host for posting this a few days after the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Consider the name of this site before passing too much judgement.)
There is a word that can summarize this race rather eloquently. The word is “beatdown”. Technically that may be two words smooshed together to form some compound frankenword, but that’s for linguistic aficionados to ponder. For the rest of you, you know what I mean.
Because after having the fastest time in practice and the fastest time in qualification, Alexander Rossi kept it clean and went uncontested to virtually wire-to-wire in his first victory at Long Beach. Dude has three wins in Indycar: Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, and Long Beach. That’s how you do it.
Now that I re-read that last paragraph, maybe we should start calling him The Dude. I mean, he does have a very dude-like persona, no? It’s at least worth considering.
(“Dude?” – The Spotter)
Also consider the first three races of the 2018 season, a season where a standardized aero kit was intended to bring about more parity in the competition. Yes, the three races so far have all featured different winners, and none of them are named “Robert Wickens”, who looked highly competitive at the first two events.
But realistically, this aerokit change may have unintentionally initiated the Age of Rossi. Yeah, it’s just three races, but he attempted a pass for the lead on the last lap of St Pete, clearly had the fastest car at Phoenix (where he played catch up most of the race after a drive through penalty), and then just drove away from everyone at Long Beach.
If there is anyone this season who looks like they might have something to challenge Rossi it’s ye olde Frenchman, Sebastien Bourdais. Bourdais might not have caught Rossi, but he certainly gave a great show weaving through the field on Sunday, much like Rossi had the week before. And by weaving I don’t just mean making the pass of the year by passing three cars in one clean turn.
But alas, despite what Bourdais would have to say after the race he was undone by a flawed pit strategy. I know I’m a broken record on this, but it still amazes me that teams don’t pit as soon as they hit a fuel window on non-ovals. By that I mean if you can run full for 35 laps then you make certain pit with exactly 35 laps to go, because if you don’t then you run the risk of having your track position obliterated by a yellow.
It happens all the time, and it happened to Bourdais. He was hanging with Rossi, but Rossi made a pit stop two laps before him. On his in-lap a full course caution came out, meaning Bourdais would go to the back. A caution brought out when his teammate crashed. And then he entered the pits when they were closed. And then he had to drive through. And then later serve a penalty for that action.
Which lead to this wonderful post-race quote.
“Unfortunately, as a group, we took a chance to stay out too long and then it went yellow. Race Control could have waited a couple seconds before closing the pits, but they didn’t and we went to the back where we had to race idiots. I was racing (Charlie) Kimball side-by-side and he gives me no room, and he bent both of my toe links on the right side. It was pretty much game over from there. I made a mistake because of it trying to pass him again later into Turn 9. The car wouldn’t turn anymore. Then, in the next corner, Jordan King felt like a hero and took us out. After that, I had to deal with another idiot, Matheus Leist, who tried to crash both of us a couple of times. There really wasn’t much to salvage after that. It’s really disappointing. The car was good. I drove the wheels off it. Passed a bunch of guys and we have nothing to show for it.”
You can scratch Bourdais’ name of several Christmas Card lists now.
Bourdais is 39. Here are other old mean worth mentioning:
Will Power, 37, who finished second despite wheezing through his push to pass and not making a dent in Rossi’s lead late in the race.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, 37, who was going front-to-back-to-front-to-back all day. His race must have felt a thousand miles long.
Scott Dixon, 37, who was overtaken in Bourdais noteworthy pass, which was deemed illegal. So Bourdais let Dixon by and promptly went by him again. No one likes to see a legend embarrassed, even by another legend.
Final Lap: If Giancarlo Stanton hits a 500-foot blast over the foul pole, you don’t review it. You call it fair so everyone can revel in it. Same thing here, Race Control.