The Long Beach Grand Prix: Day 3

The rain was all but a memory as everyone dragged themselves back to the GP circuit for the third day. The ALMS teams had packed up and gone, leaving their paddock empty save a smattering of show cars and classic Ferraris. But excitement was still in the air, as the weekend’s main event was still to come: The 38th running of the Long Beach Grand Prix.

The 2012 cars are much different from previous years. The contoured front wings and radically swooped aerodynamic side pods are the most obvious changes to the chassis design.
There are also small bumpers behind the rear wheels, designed to prevent the often catastrophic consequences of wheel-to-wheel contact. Cars can get launched way up in the air pretty easily, and often land upside down.
Perhaps the best change is the engines. Teams now have a choice of a Honda, Chevrolet, or Lotus 2.2L V6 twin turbo, producing between 550 and 700hp, depending on what the team needs for a particular race. They sound a whole lot better than the naturally-aspirated Honda V8’s that had been used in Indycar since 2006. Teams and drivers are just happy that more competitiveness has returned to the sport.
Life Blasters is hosted on, but that’s not Danika Patrick driving. She’s full time with NASCAR now, so 2011 rookie of the year James Hinchcliffe is in the driver’s seat.
This might be the 38th grand prix in Long Beach, but it’s only 29th as a CART/Indycar race. The first race in 1975 was Formula 5000, followed by eight years of Formula 1.
Pit stops are always fun to watch. The crew has to be super fast and super precise. Changing tires and adding fuel is an art form.
Hinch landed a career-best third place finish and his first Indycar podium.
French driver Simon Pagenaud also snatched his first Indycar podium, though his was for second place.
In the end it was Aussie Will Power who got the checkered flag. Third in points going into Long Beach, he’s now in the lead and just that much closer to the championship.
But wait! There’s more! During the break, the drifters came out again. Pat Mordaunt was looking good in Turn 5.
…But Jeff Jones had seen better days.
Finally it was time for the last race of the weekend. Randy Pobst, who had won four championships in the last decade, had the pole position in World Challenge.
Second qualifier Andy Pilgrim had Pobst in his sights though. The Volvo’s AWD gave Pobst the advantage on the start, but Pilgrim only needed nine laps to get around him.
As if American LeMans wasn’t enough, James Sofranas was driving for GMG in World Challenge as well. Busy weekend for that guy.
Lou Gigliotti was a last-minute entry, taking time off from his congressional race. Unfortunately he blew 4th gear and got a black flag penalty but still managed to finish 8th in GTS. “That’s racing,” he said later.
Here’s a shout out to the flaggers. What a grueling job in the heat. At least they get front-row seats for all the racing action.
The late Larry Miller’s son Roger was driving a predictable white Mustang in the race. Larry owned the Utah Jazz, Miller Motorsports Park, and many other businesses before he died in 2009. It seems like everywhere you look in Salt Lake City there’s a Larry Miller car dealership.
Pilgrim held onto his lead, trying to pull away from Pobst.
Pobst didn’t fall too far behind though. The race was anything but over. Pilgrim couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.
He squeezed by Gigliotti, who was three laps down toward the end of the race.
Pilgrim crossed the finish line first, with Pobst trailing by six seconds, and fellow Cadillac driver Johnny O’Connell another four seconds back. That’s not much of a gap over a 45 minute race!

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