LONG BEACH, Calif – A few years ago, the NTT IndyCar Series drivers were asking the series and Long Beach track officials to do something with the race duration. See, from 2013 though 2016, the race was 80 Laps in length. These races were fuel strategy events.
Some debated making it in three stops which meant stopping the pit sequences early to jump on new tires. Others, were going with a two stop strategy which meant full fuel save mode throughout the race.
Scott Dixon leads Sebastien Bourdais in the 2018 Grand Prix of Long Beach – INDYCAR Media Site
When the two stop strategy became the preferred race pace, it made Long Beach a high speed follow the leader parade. Why use push to pass to advance? Why push you car to waste fuel when you’re hoping to make it to the end?
Well, everyone listened and lengthened the race five additional laps in 2017. Still, the race is a two stopper as the second and third place finishers from Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach were saying that they made it to the end rather easily on two stops. Credit the new car for that.
“This is honestly a very straightforward race,” said runner-up Josef Newgarden. “Maybe it needs a small adjustment. The tires are pretty friendly here. It’s a pretty simple two-stop. All that added together, you’re not going to get as much action as you get at other tracks. Yeah, maybe there’s a little bit of room to think about it.
“I think it’s just because it is a straightforward race. There’s not a lot you can do strategy-wise to mix it up that’s effective. I think that’s why it produces what it did.”
Third place finisher Scott Dixon agrees noting that he thinks they should lengthen the race a little more.
“It almost needs to be a longer race,” said the Chip Ganassi Racing driver. “I think INDYCAR were trying to make it a longer race, but they kind of got turned down on that effect. It is an easy two-stopper for everybody, so it makes it pretty bland. Both tires are good. You see a little more deg on the reds if you use a used set. All in all, they make the 30 laps, if you need to get them, pretty easy.
“I think the race in general is a little bland just because of the strategy options. You can catch somebody pretty quickly. Again, I think even what we saw with the manufacturer aero kits, it’s still pretty hard to pull off a pass, especially with overtake, if you can use it to defend.
“But I think towards the end there with deg, we were able to pick a couple cars off there. It’s just it’s hard, right? For Firestone, they can probably make a tire that’s got a lot of deg, but nobody’s really going to like it. Maybe that’s what they need to the future here.”
Despite all of that, Long Beach is just typically a tough track to pass on in general. Alexander Rossi became the 10th driver in the last 12 years to win the race from a top four starting position. Plus, Rossi was just that good. I don’t think it mattered where he started, he was going to wind up in victory lane one way or the other.
Rossi, led 80 of 85 laps and had the largest margin of victory in nearly a quarter century. Newgarden says, that’s a byproduct of the race and the track.
“I mean, he (Rossi) was quick today,” the Tennessee native continued. “He started on pole. It’s a straightforward race. I think that’s what it produces. “We’ve all had those days, like you said. Scott (Dixon) has had those days where he’s rapid, starts on pole, kind of walks away. Same with me. So, I don’t know.
“They’ve been very strong here. I think Andretti in general have had a very fast car here. Alex certainly knows his way around this place. I mean, it’s just good ingredients. Straightforward race. If that’s the type of race, you want to start on the pole.”