Hooniverse Motorsport News For The Week Of April 16th, 2012

Welcome to the Hooniverse Motorsport News. After an Easter Weekend, on which nearly no motorsport was run, this past weekend served up a wide selection of four wheeled fury.  The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach brought IndyCar, American Le Mans, and World Challenge to the table, while Formula One ran in China, and NASCAR drove under the lights at the Rock. The  excitement was never ending this weekend, and the action proved unstoppable.  Each of these races served great wheel to wheel action, fuel conservation, pit strategy, or a combination thereof. This report is aimed at telling you what you missed, and what you will miss in the near future.  This round of Motorsport News will be filled with more spoilers than a high school parking lot.

This week:

  • A full on “Indy went down to Long Beach” trip
  • Formula One orders Chinese take-out
  • American Le Mans Series action on the mean streets
  • World Challenge gets street smart 
  • NASCAR does a Texas Two Step
  • A few for the road…

Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach

Even though Toyota has had nothing to do with racing in Long Beach for several years, they still remain the title sponsor of the event.  The race was first contested in 1975 by Formula 5000 cars, replaced the next year by Formula 1. Long Beach remained a round of the F1 world championship until 1983, at which time it was phased out in favor of Cart/IndyCar.  This, in turn, made way for the split Champ Car series, which ran the circuit until it’s demise in 2008.  Now one of the rounds cherry-picked by IndyCar from the Champ Car calender after the “merger of inequals”, the Izod IndyCar series headlines the show.  
Before the race even started, there were four separate wagers related to hair, either grown or cut.  James Hinchcliffe had made a bet with Wade Cunningham that if he were to score a podium finish, he would show up to the next event clean shaven.  After placing third, Hinchy upped the ante by vowing to shave the remainder of his head with a victory at Indianapolis in May.  Unrelated, before the race began, Barrichello and Kanaan, longtime friends, made a pact together that if the pair finished a race on the podium together, they would each grow out their hair (Barrichello a beard, and Kanaan the top of his head).
Now that you have had your mini history lesson, and some hair related pop-culture, lets get on with the action.
The race itself was extraordinarily exciting.  Firstly because the dominant Chevrolet engines were even more dominant in Long Beach. After a test session a week ago, Chevy discovered a problem with their Illmor-produced engines when one of them exploded.  Wisely, Chevy decided to pull and replace each of the 11 powerplants.  This incurred a 10 grid spot penalty for each of the drivers using Chevy power.
The penalty did not seem to matter, in the scheme of things, as Chevrolet drivers placed 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th, with Penske Racing’s Will Power taking the win after some serious fuel conservation in his final stint.  Honda driver Simon Pagenaud was driving on a serious charge from seconds position over the final half-dozen-or-so laps after pitting for fresh tires.  Pagenaud was gaining nearly 2 seconds per lap on the leading Power, and was stuffed right up his gearbox as the two crossed the finish line.  With another lap, Pagenaud surely could have won his first IndyCar event.
While the action at the end of the race was exciting, there was some chassis-on-chassis carnage after a mid-race restart.  Filing down into a tight right-hander, Marco Andretti touched a front left wheel to Graham Rahal’s right rear.  The resulting aftermath had Rahal missing a rear wing, while Andretti destroyed his front suspension, lifted all four wheels off the ground, and came to rest hard in the tire barrier.  Watch the video below. 


In the aftermath, Rahal stated something to the effect of “By the time he popped out, I was already turning in for the corner.  If he hadn’t hit me, he would have ended up down the escape road.  There is no way he would have made that corner.”, while Andretti said something like “HE COULD HAVE KILLED ME!  I don’t know what his problem is, he chopped me.  I had a clean pass on him!”.  You decide.

Formula 1 UBS Grand Prix of China

 After a long three week break, it seems that Mercedes has now caught up to and possibly passed McLaren while Red Bull has dropped to somewhere around Ferrari.

– Nico Rosberg scored his first pole position on Saturday, leading to his first race win.

– Jenson Button raced to a second position with a long pit stop likely costing him a chance at contesting the win.

– Tires seriously matter…  Kimi Raikkonnen, during his final stint, was in the second position.  His tires evidently went off, as he found himself in 12th just two laps later, finishing 14th.

– After his third third, Lewis Hamilton now leads the points standings.

– Only one failure in the entire race came when Michael Schumacher retired with an unseated rear right wheel nut following a botched pit stop.


Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the ALMS race on Saturday, you can now catch it on AmericanLeMans.com.  Now, on to the spoilers. 

The first few laps of this event were a carbon fiber crunchfest with contact left, right and center.  

Muscle Milk Racing took the win in the P1 class after an early race battle with the Dyson Racing machine.  Once the HPD chassis passed Dyson’s Lola, the game was over, and Greg Pickett’s team pairing of Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf just drove away.

In the GT Class, Corvette’s Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin paired to take the victory, Milner’s first ALMS win, and the first for Corvette since Mosport last year.  The battle with the BMW of Mueller and Hand was one for the ages, and with 46 minutes remaining in the race, Gavin took advantage of a bobble and took over the point, leading to the finish.

Level 5 won the P2 category, CORE autosports took the PC category, and GTC was won by Green Hornet.  Congratulations to all involved.


World Challenge Streets of Long Beach

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the World Challenge race on Sunday evening/afternoon, you can now catch it on World-ChallengeTV.com.  Now for your regularly scheduled spoilers.

Randy Pobst scorched away from an amazing standing start, with his Volvo’s AWD system getting him away ahead of everyone else.  The advantage would only last a few laps, however, as Andy Pilgrim soon got by in his Cadillac CTS-V.R.  Pilgrim would continue through to the checkered flag, taking the GT victory.

While the Volvo got a great start in GT, the GTS pole sitter, Peter Cunningham got a less great start, and found himself behind Jack Baldwin into the first corner.  Baldwin himself commented that he didn’t think he had anything for Cunningham’s Acura at the start, and must have been quite surprised to find himself in the lead.  In just his third World Challenge start, Baldwin took the victory in his HotWheels Porsche Cayman over a charging Justin Bell’s Ebay Motors Mustang Boss 302.


NASCAR Samsung Mobile 500

 I didn’t see this race as it went down, all I know is Greg Biffle won.  

A few for the road…

I don’t have much to note here this week, except a short favor of our constituency.  I will be conversing with the aforementioned Graham Rahal (IndyCar driver, Daytona 24 hour winner, all-around good guy) later this week.  If there is anything you have been dying to know about him, leave the question in the comments, and I will try my best to work it in to the “interview”.   Whattaya say?

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