Kanaan, Power and Rahal call for longer Long Beach race

IndyCar stars are left annoyed that they were on fuel-save mode in Sunday’s Toyota GP of Long Beach, as all teams aimed for a two-stop strategy for the 80-lap race which went caution-free for the first time since 1989.

Kanaan, Power and Rahal call for longer Long Beach race
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Tony Kanaan ran fourth in the first stint, behind the Penske-Chevrolets of Helio Castroneves and eventual winner Simon Pagenaud, and his own Chip Ganassi Racing-Chevy teammate Scott Dixon. He would drop to sixth at the checkers, as he encountered gearbox issues, with inconsistent upshifts.

Kanaan told Motorsport.com: “Once our tires were warmed up, the order stopped changing, right? I know I wasn’t going to try a risky move on my teammate. So I was fuel saving from about Lap 3. We all were.

“So a two-stop strategy is best because track position is so important at Long Beach. OK, I get that, but because the race went without any full-course yellows, that meant we had no way to save fuel and then have a chance to charge. We had to make our fuel last at racing speed, which means we’re not on the limit and our racing is done in the pits.”

The 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner said the solution to the problem was a simple one and needed to be done for the sake of the fans.

“We have to force this race to be a three-stopper by extending it,” he said. “That gives us enough fuel to go racing. It’s a bit strange to have no cautions, especially at Long Beach! But we have to be prepared for that.

“This race has such a history, it’s important to IndyCar, and I think the fans deserve better than to see a race decided by how quick your pitstops are.”  

Power proves Kanaan’s point

With a troubled second pit stop, as the fuel hose wouldn’t lock onto the buckeye, Team Penske’s Will Power lost an extra four seconds in pitlane dropping him from fourth to seventh place. But he was unable to charge back because he was conserving fuel.

“It’s stupid, isn’t it?” he told Motorsport.com after the race. “Everything was won and lost in the pits.

“I mean, it’s hard enough to pass around here, but if you’re held back because you’re having to go easy on the throttle, then how are you supposed to race the car in front?”

Power said the lack of cautions was both a cause and a result of the fuel-mileage racing.

“There’s two things. I think we don’t see as many cautions at a lot of these races because the overall quality of the drivers has gone up. We’ve been saying that a while and I honestly think it gets better every year.

“But the other thing is that if we’re driving to a fuel number [target miles-per-gallon] we’re not on the limit so there’s going to be less mistakes so less cautions.

“I guarantee that if they had made this race longer so we had to stop three times, but just a bit longer – 10 laps, I’d say – so we had plenty of fuel, we’d have been charging along, there’d have been more flat-out driving, more racing between cars and more mistakes and then some caution periods.

“Do you see? It all comes back to getting away from fuel mileage races,” concluded Power. “I think being able to save fuel to go one or two laps longer than the guy in front so you can then go flat-out when he pits and you have a clear track – that’s great. It’s part of racing. Tactics are part of racing.

“But having everyone cruising around at the same speed with the same target fuel mileage is boring for us and the crowd.”  

Rahal: ‘IndyCar should have predicted the problem’

Graham Rahal, who fell to 15th in the final stint of the race as he desperately tried to conserve fuel, agreed with Kanaan and Power. He told Motorsport.com: “This race needs to be 90 laps, minimum, to have an exciting show for the fans. That would force us to go for three stops and give everyone a chance to mix up strategies.

“We were coming from 17th on the grid – OK, that’s our fault for getting it wrong in qualifying – but we were doing it with one hand tied behind our back because we didn’t have enough fuel.

“The last 20 laps I was in fuel-map 8 [the leanest setting] trying to get a fuel number that was legitimately impossible. And it’s so frustrating because we had a fast car all weekend, pretty much.”

Rahal said that the Long Beach race, which dropped from 85 to 80 laps in 2013, should have been extended again.

“I’m sorry but IndyCar should have seen this coming; we have the technology to make these predictions,” said Rahal. “You know, these engines get more efficient each year and if we, as a team, see a way to save time by making fewer pit stops, then we’re going to take it.

“But the problem is, all the teams think the same way. So force our hands, make us stop three times, and the problem goes away.”

Rahal, who finished second at Long Beach three years earlier, said he was worried that first-timers in the crowd this year wouldn’t come back.

“We cannot afford this race to be a bad show for the fans,” he said. “It’s one of our best events, and honestly, I hadn’t seen it as busy as this for many years. So why risk giving them a bad show?

“IndyCar has got to fix this. We’ve all got to be smart about our sport and how we present ourselves to spectators who maybe only watch us once a year.”

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IndyCar drivers quotes after the Long Beach race

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