Race Report: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Carlos Munoz recorded his first top-10 finish for the ABC Supply team with his seventh place finish in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Sunday afternoon on the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit in the port city.
Munoz, who started 14th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, moved into the top 10 after the first lap crash involving Will Power and Charlie Kimball in Turn 4 of the 11-turn circuit. It was the second straight race that Kimball was involved in a lap 1 accident.
Unlike the first race of the season in St. Petersburg, Fla. where Munoz was hit by Kimball after Kimball’s steering was knocked out in an incident with Graham Rahal, Munoz was able to navigate through today’s accident scene without trouble.
He pitted early in his fuel window, thus committing to a three-stop fuel strategy which is what most of the field did except the race winner James Hinchcliffe, who did it in just two stops. Munoz was rarely out of the top 12 and he popped into the top 10 when Alexander Rossi stopped on course bringing out a full course yellow on lap 62.
Munoz was running ninth when Rossi’s teammates Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay also slowed on course with less than 10 laps to go in the 85-lap race. Although Munoz was ahead of Sato at the time, Hunter-Reay’s woes allowed Munoz to gain a spot. He claimed seventh when Graham Rahal had to duck into the pits due to a punctured tire with eight laps to go.
“Finally got some good points for AJ Foyt Racing, finishing 7th after a hard weekend,” said Munoz. “We think that’s the best position we could have had. We improved the car a lot but it’s still not there. We still need to improve it but I’m really happy with my crew and my engineers. The guys did an awesome job in the pits—it was their first race doing pit stops together and they did a really good job. Hopefully we keep it up all year long.”
Starting 17th, Conor Daly started his race with a bizarre twist as he spun in the Turn 11 hairpin coming for the green flag. He hit the wall and damaged the rear wing which the ABC Supply crew was able to replace without losing a lap during the full course yellow for the Kimball-Power accident.
Daly eventually did lose a lap to the leaders before the halfway point but only after a valiant fight to stay on the lead lap in the hope that a yellow would come out.
Unfortunately when the full course yellows did come out, they were of little benefit to Daly. He placed 16th.
“I have no idea what happened at the start, it was just massive power delivery and I
just lost it,” Daly said afterwards. “It was probably my fault but it was really unexpected. We’d been okay out of there all weekend long, just a mistake on my part. The rest of the day we struggled with some intermittent electrical issues. The car was pretty decent handling so maybe we could have fought for that top 10. Once we fell behind it was hard to make up. But, we’re finishing races and still learning.”
Hinchcliffe, whose fame took a major leap forward after his stint on Dancing With the Stars last season, scored a popular victory from his fourth place starting position. Second through fifth were: Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud.
The teams head to Texas Motor Speedway this week for an Open Test on Wednesday at the revamped and newly paved 1.5 mile oval track outside of Fort Worth. In two weeks the Verizon IndyCar Series returns to the picturesque Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. for round 3 of the 17-event schedule. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network starting at 2 p.m. Central Time.