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Race Report: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. –Auto racing is about results but sometimes the most inspiring runs are those that can’t be defined by the boxscore.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was such a race for Tony Kanaan.

Nicknamed “Ironman” because he is a triathlete in the off-season and holds the record for consecutive INDYCAR starts (now 304), Kanaan proved once again why he is deserving of the title. Starting 21st in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, Kanaan competed despite a sore left knee and a deeply bruised lower back, a result of his hard crash into the tire barriers during qualifying yesterday.

It didn’t help that he got rear-ended on the first lap by his teammate Matheus Leist as Kanaan swerved to avoid the crash ahead of him in Turn 3 involving Jack Harvey, Marcus Erickson and Spencer Pigot. The impact forced Leist to pit for a new nose assembly because of the damage to his left front wing. Kanaan continued on without pitting.

What Kanaan (and the team) didn’t know was that the impact broke his underwing and tore off the strake which left Kanaan with little downforce and a car that was off the pace. Still he soldiered on, fighting off eventual winner Alexander Rossi to stay on the lead lap for the first part of the race. Eventually he would get lapped when he pitted under green on lap 36 of the 85-lap event. He would get lapped again towards the end, owing more to the torrid pace set by Rossi, who lapped up to the 11th placed car. Kanaan placed 19th.

Tony Kanaan peels off his helmet after the race.

His frustration at the end of the race was evident in his post-race quote when he said, “I’m ok (physically) but I feel bad, because we don’t have it. We have to figure something out. Very disappointing, very disappointing.”

When asked about his injuries (for which he did receive an injection for pain from the INDYCAR medical team prior to the race), he answered, “It was alright. My injuries were the least of my problems for sure.”

Upon learning of the broken car, the “Ironman” was relieved to know there was a valid reason behind the slow pace.

“When the car got back to the garage, the team discovered that the underwing and the strake was broken and that is a big part of the downforce of the car so it made me feel better because we had a pretty big struggle in the race. That happened on lap 1, so we raced the entire race with a car that was broken.”

Leist struggled in practice and qualifying but started 20th in the row ahead of Kanaan. However, when the green flag dropped, Kanaan passed the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet going into Turn 1 which set up the situation in Turn 3. Kanaan continued on, Leist dropped back to become the last of the cars on the lead lap when he had to pit for a new nose. Although he ran a good pace throughout the race, he was not able to pass anyone on the tight 11-turn street course. He finished 15th one lap down.

“I think if you look through our weekend our race result was not that bad compared to the practice sessions and our qualifying,” Leist said afterwards. “Of course we’re not where we want to be. Definitely shouldn’t be happy and we are not happy with P15. I’m just looking forward to improving the car as much as we can, mainly for the road courses and the street courses – that’s where we’re struggling the most. I’m looking forward to the month of May now, I’m more than excited. We all know we have a good car there. Bring it on.”

Alexander Rossi won the race from the pole for the second straight year. Josef Newgarden finished second. Scott Dixon was awarded third when Graham Rahal was penalized a position for blocking Dixon in the closing laps. Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top five.

The teams will have an Open Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 24th in preparation for the Indianapolis 500. Prior to the 500, they will compete on the IMS road course on May 11th which will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 3 p.m. ET.

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