Pruett's cooldown lap: Long Beach

Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Pruett's cooldown lap: Long Beach

Insights & Analysis

Pruett's cooldown lap: Long Beach



* Was this the most meme’d IndyCar race of all time? Between Marcus Ericsson’s Turn 6 Park & Chill to Simon Pagenaud’s Parking Atop The Purple Posies at the fountain, social media was given countless gifts to share on Sunday.

* Speaking of Pagenaud, what kind of bill is he going to receive from the City of Long Beach for the illegal parking job and defiling and destroying that gorgeous flower bed? Humor aside, it was a strangely messy race for the Pagenaud and No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing entry. If the 13.9-second pit stop — nearly double the normal length — on his first visit to pit lane wasn’t enough of a setback, the Frenchman promptly locked up and went for a long trip down the Turn 9 runoff before he turned around and resumed the event. Next was the aggressive move into the fountain section where going two-wide into that complex rarely leads to happy results where both cars leave unscathed. The choice to try and do a flick-spin while sitting so close to the elevated flower bed was the capper to an error-filled day as he beached the car and lost four laps on the way to a P19 finish.

* Arrow McLaren SP continues to search for consistency. The story has often been of one driver rising while the other falls, with Long Beach serving as a perfect encapsulation of the trend where Felix Rosenqvist started fourth but sank quickly in the opening stint as his tires surrendered sooner than expected. More issues blighted his chances, but teammate Pato O’Ward charged forward from 11th to fifth, who looked like his old self with some bold passes being pulled. The trend was also seen at Texas. Having both drivers start and end a race in similarly strong positions would be a welcome change.

* The one sound every fan will remember from Long Beach 2022? The Mazda GTP and Group C cars with their four-rotor engines. A broken exhaust on the Mazda RX-792P during Saturday’s race meant the car could be heard from the moon.

Proper race cars. Image by Marshall Pruett

* The Acura Grand Prix had two feature races to offer with IMSA on Saturday and IndyCar on Sunday. Both were taken by General Motors. The next opportunity for Honda to seek event-sponsorship revenge is in June at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix where its IndyCar teams and its two factory Acura DPi IMSA teams can settle the score. After Detroit, Chevy will have the Honda-sponsored Mid-Ohio and Toronto IndyCar races to play the role of spoilers unless Honda manages to defend its events.

* It was a fun event for the Gurney family. Despite losing LBGP event co-founder Dan Gurney in 2018, his wife Evi and sons Justin and Alex continue to attend the race, and Justin, in particular, had an amazing experience as his father old friend Mario Andretti took him for a ride in the IndyCar two-seater on Friday. Despite asking the 1969 Indy 500 winner to take it easy, Andretti buried his foot in the throttle and left Gurney wide-eyed and determined to never go for another ride with the legend in the future.

* The Gurneys and All American Racing’s Kathy Weida also spent some time in the historic IMSA GTP paddock where one of their all-conquering Eagle Mk IIIs from 1991 was located. By chance, AMSP’s Billy Vincent, whose father worked on GTP cars back in the day, rolled up with a pit cart loaded with team members and driver Felix Rosenqvist. Vincent said he wanted to show the amazing cars to the team, and with Justin Gurney standing in front of the Eagle, he entertained the group with stories about the car’s build and success. A.J. Foyt Racing drivers Kyle Kirkwood and JR Hildebrand paid visits to the GTP cars as well, along with IndyCar race stewards Arie Luyendyk and Max Papis. I’m sure there were plenty of others from the IndyCar and IMSA series who came and marveled at the fearsome machines. I hate to admit it, but I was more excited to see the GTP cars last weekend — having grown up with the series and worked in GTP for a brief period in 1990 — than anything else on the card.

* RLL sponsor Hy-Vee debuted a new national commercial featuring Jack Harvey and the No. 45 Honda during the race. Despite being located in the Midwest, the company used the ad to promote a new online ordering option that seemed like a perfect fit for its target audience.

* Sticking with RLL, Graham Rahal has been the lone bright spot for the team with a pair of sevenths bookending the crash in Texas that wasn’t of his making. Like the note about AMSP waiting to have both drivers running up front, I’m sure RLL can’t wait for its new three-car program to deliver in a similarly unified manner.

* The pre-season argument that Devlin DeFrancesco needed more than one year of training in Indy Lights is growing harder to ignore. There’s no question as to whether the Italian-Canadian rookie has the skills to compete in IndyCar, but after two needless crashes in a row, it’s clear that he’s having to learn an awful lot while under fire. Already last among the full-timers in the standings, it’s the lack of race mileage that’s becoming a concern for the Andretti Autosport driver. Having completed just 263 of 433 combined laps, DeFrancesco’s participated in only 61-percent of the three opening races.

* Chevrolet’s gone undefeated this season, which speaks volumes about the intense competitiveness of those within Chevy Racing and Ilmor Engineering. And if you’re a fan of close competition, it was good to see Honda dig itself out of the whole it found itself in on the streets of St. Pete to put up a strong fight with the Bowtie. Unlike St. Pete, there didn’t look like much was separating the best Chevy and Honda drivers in Long Beach.

* Let’s close on something that filled a lot of hearts. With the loss of American Honda motorsports manager T.E. McHale to cancer in December, Honda Performance Development had tribute stickers made at its home race for its IndyCar and IMSA teams that bore Thomas Eugene’s initials which were carried by a number of cars in the races. McHale’s younger brother was also on hand to accept an award given to T.E. by the Long Beach Press Telegram, which brought plenty of smiles to those who knew and cared for the late and benevolent Mr. McHale.

Photo by Marshall Pruett

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