LONG BEACH, Calif. – There were a couple incidents during Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach that drew some headlines and some angry messages from participants in the second Verizon IndyCar Series race of the year.
#INDYRIVALS has been retired from active usage by IndyCar’s social media team, but still seemed prevalent on Sunday.
POWER VS. KIMBALL
The opening lap contact between Charlie Kimball and Will Power was the second between the two of them in a four-race span, albeit spread over seven months since Watkins Glen on Labor Day last September and now Sunday in Long Beach.
Power blamed Kimball then for contacting him and did so again on Sunday after the two collided exiting the fountain section, Turn 3 into Turn 4. Power was alongside Kimball on corner exit of the fountain but Kimball got a better run on exit to the outside. Although Power was far enough alongside going into Turn 4 on the inside, Kimball turned in and naturally, they collided.
This was Kimball’s second first-lap incident in as many races to open the 2017 season after also having contact with Graham Rahal at St. Petersburg.
Power went off on Kimball to Autoweek’s Bruce Martin: “This guy is a big problem,” Power told Autoweek. “He always has been.”
Kimball, when told of Power’s comments, told Martin: “He’s upset with me? If Will wants to talk to me he can come talk to me. He was behind me at that point wheel-to-wheel, right-rear to left-front. It’s hard to know he is still there, having gotten the better drive off of turn three.”
BOURDAIS VS. FLYING DEBRIS
Sebastien Bourdais finished second on Sunday but had one heck of a first lap. A piece of wing end fence flew off from another car, which forced him to duck in his car. Meanwhile within the same lap, Bourdais was two cars behind the Power/Kimball incident. His No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda incurred rear wing damage which forced their hand and required an unscheduled stop for repairs.
“At the end of the day, we had a good start. Unfortunately, a big piece of endplate or whatever it was flew off, and I ducked it,” Bourdais said. “But the rear wings couldn’t do the same, so it took pretty much the whole left rear of the rear wing and endplate and left rear winglet off.
“We were, like, debating in the pits whether we were going to stop or not, because obviously at that point we’re, like, 10th, something. It’s like, Man, that really hurts. But we really didn’t have a choice, there was too much damage to the car.
“We came in, changed the whole rear assembly, put on the red tires, the red Firestone tires, and filled the car up. So from there we had a bit less fuel saving, but not obviously much. We just, you know, decided to stick with our two-stop strategy, then kind of made it work. Made steady progress through the race.”
ALESHIN VS. KANAAN, HILDEBRAND
Rightly or wrongly, the “Mad Russian” Mikhail Aleshin is declaring his candidacy to be the series’ new “black hat” after two rounds of contact himself in the first two races, both times with the same guy.
His and Tony Kanaan’s collision at St. Petersburg triggered a pivotal caution flag there that changed the running order of the race and effectively inverted the field.
A second collision occurred Sunday at Long Beach, leaving Kanaan with a flat left rear tire.
Kanaan didn’t mention Aleshin by name in a tweet he wrote Sunday night but left no doubt who he was referring to: “Getting hit by the same guy 2 races in a row it’s getting old.”
The contact between Aleshin and JR Hildebrand on the last lap, meanwhile, triggered a blocking penalty and a one-spot dock for Aleshin after the checkered flag. Meanwhile Hildebrand sustained a broken bone in his left hand from the contact.
Kanaan wasn’t the only Ganassi person frustrated Sunday – Emma Dixon posted but later deleted several tweets during INDYCAR’s six-lap yellow to remove Alexander Rossi’s stopped car – in a day where Ganassi’s team lost another potential win to start 2017.
Scott Dixon explained the frustration to NBCSN after the race: “(Two stops) was always the plan. I’m not sure what changed. Maybe the team thought a caution would come out. You play with fire. We gave the race away at that point. It got a little bit tougher with the NTT Data car later in the race. No one passed unless there was slower lapped traffic. It’s hard to swallow that one. It was going to be an easy victory otherwise.”