IndyCar / Stephen King

View from the pits: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

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Today, the NTT IndyCar Series has its final race before the Month of May with the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on the streets of Long Beach, California.

Alexander Rossi claimed his 5th career pole on Saturday, and will look to become the first repeat winner at Long Beach since Sebastien Bourdais’ run of 3 in a row from 2005-07. It’s worth noting that Rossi has converted three of his previous four poles into wins, including his victory last year at the Beach.

You can catch the action today at 4pm ET on NBCSN, the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com. In the meantime, IndyCar on NBCSN pit reporter Marty Snider checks in with his thoughts on the weekend…

Long Beach never disappoints. The crowds are fantastic. The racing is outstanding. The atmosphere is unrivaled for a street circuit. Sunday, there will be people watching from rooftops, from boats in the harbor and on TV. This is a race that really should be on every race fans bucket list.  It is truly, not just a race, but an event.

The “event” at Long Beach takes such a center stage, that people forget how unforgiving the racing can be here.  Narrow streets, tight walls and the potential for chaos all around the circuit. Several drivers have been off course or just barely grazed the wall in practice and qualifying so far this weekend. The consequences could be even harsher on Sunday…beware turn one on the start!

Pit strategy will be key. While Alexander Rossi had the best car in last year’s race, it was the call by Rob Edwards to pit him earlier than the other leaders that really gapped him from the rest of the field. On the first set of stops last year, Rossi gained five seconds by pitting four laps earlier than Will Power. So when you pit for fresh Firestone rubber tomorrow could decide who wins this race. On a warm Southern California day…tires will matter tomorrow.  

Popular wisdom is that Alexander Rossi is the guy to beat on Sunday. Hard to argue against that. But something tells me this is a Scott Dixon kind of a day. I think Dixon quietly has the best car for Sunday and Dixon’s uncanny ability to create speed during in and out laps around a pit stop could be the difference.

Even though it has not been one of his best tracks over the years, Scott Dixon is my pick to win his second Long Beach GP on Sunday.

Enjoy the event, race fans…this is one of the best on the motorsports calendar.

O Canada! Why plaid has been rad for Pfaff Motorsports at Daytona

Courtesy of IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In Canada, plaid is beautiful.

In the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona, it’s also extremely fast.

Pfaff Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3 R has been one of the most colorful sensations this January at Daytona International Speedway. The Toronto-based team has been a checkerboard blur of black and red in the GTD division, winning the pole position with Zacharie Robichon and leading the first four hours Saturday.

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But it also is turning heads with its stylish paint scheme and firesuits, all of which are in a classic plaid pattern.

The “Plaid Porsche” has a nice ring to it, and the team embraces the label even if its outfits might seem more appropriate for a grunge rock band or a lumberjack convention than an elite motorsports event.

“It’s great for people to call us that,” Robichon said. “You’re laughing about it, because it’s funny, but that means you’re talking about it.

“A lot of teams and car liveries, they all blend in together, and it’s a good way to stand out and a fun way to stand out. If you spend some time with the Pfaff Porsche team, you’d see a lot of guys are there and all happy to be there and everybody’s having fun. So having something that’s kind of funny and joyful associated with the team, I think is really good.”

The No. 9 team celebrated after Zacharie Robichon won the GTD pole at Daytona (courtesy of IMSA).

Car liveries typically offer a prominent display of a sponsor’s colors, and the team was able to incorporate the silver branding for new sponsor Motul on the lower rear of the car. “It was kind of best of both worlds,” Robichons aid. “They loved it because people talk about it.”

It’s the second consecutive year that the team has sported a plaid paint scheme at the Rolex 24. Last year, it took delivery on its car with only a week before the Roar before the Rolex test session.

The team was scrambling to assemble the car on Boxing Day in Canada (two days after Christmas) when Pfaff marketing director Laurance Yap was struck by a bolt of inspiration.

“All the crew guys at the shop, they were there over the holidays, and they were were wearing plaid because it’s just kind of what you do at home,” Robichon said. “In Canada it’s quite popular. I’ve got like six or seven plaid shirts, and I’m not embarrassed to say that. You go on a ski hill in the winter, and half the people, that’s what they’re wearing.

“It’s just something that a lot of people wear. We were trying to figure out what to do for the livery, and Lawrence said well, why don’t we just wrap the car in plaid. It was a joke, and we ran with it because we didn’t have any other ideas. And it was really only for Daytona, but everybody loved it, so we just had to stick with it for the whole year.

Zacharie Robichon

This year, Pfaff decided to up the game with plaid firesuits – and bringing the team in line with others that hail from the Great White North.

“The Canadian ski team has plaid jackets,” Robichon said. “Even curling in Canada, the guys wear plaid. If you’re not from Canada, you don’t necessarily make that association, but anybody who is Canadian immediately makes that connection, which is what we’re going for.”

Robichon, who hails from Ottawa and lives in Montreal, is the team’s only Canadian. But teammates Lars Kern (Germany), Dennis Olsen (Norway) and Patrick Pilet (France) have bought into the “plaid is rad” conceit.

“We adapted pretty quick,” Kern said. “We are not Canadian, but we feel like the Canadian national team, so it’s cool as a German to be on the Canadian national team.”

It would be even cooler for the Pfaff drivers if they can match their plaid garb with a Rolex watch.

Robichon liked the team’s chances after a strong week continued into Saturday’s green flag. After crashing and finishing 16th in class last year, he and his teammates managed to maintain pace and the lead through the first four hours.

“My job was to keep the car clean and out of trouble and play it safe with the traffic, and luckily we did that,” Robichon said after his first stint.

The No. 9 of Pfaff Motorsports started on pole in the GTD division of the 2020 Rolex 24.