SEEN & HEARD IN LONG BEACH ON SUNDAY
2014 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Apr 13, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story by Brian Kennedy
Pictures by Gabriela Moya
The buildup to an IndyCar race can mean as much as the race itself, maybe more. That’s because you can’t really hold a weekend extravaganza which is comprised exclusively of one two-hour event. Who would come? Okay, maybe people would come, but would they spend the kind of money that modern professional racing asks for a ticket? Hardly likely.
For that reason, the Long Beach weekend, like any other of its type, crowds in a number of other feature events to keep the fans entertained. For Long Beach, that means drifting, a truck race, sports car racing, and various celebrity appearances.
Sunday was no exception. The day began with Indy Lights, a, or perhaps “the,” feeder series to the big cars. In years past, the fields for that have dwindled to next to nil. Last year, to my recollection, the race at the Beach was ten cars, though it seemed even less. It’s a big track—and cars get spread out fast.
This year it was slightly better subscribed, with a dozen entries and ten of the cars finishing all 45 laps. More on that in a minute.
Not too long after that race ended, Roger Daltrey of The Who, along with several drivers in the IndyCar series as well as a number of teen cancer survivors, appeared in the press room to announce an effort, headed by Daltrey, to raise money for hospital units dedicated to the needs of teenage cancer survivors.
Daltrey’s reasons are many, and it’s an effort that he’s been working on in the UK for more than a couple of decades (yes, that’s a “generation,” for fans of his music). To let him speak for himself. “The effort is for the 13-25 year-olds. The system needs to recognize that there are needs unique to that age of cancer patients.”
By the end of this year, the UK version of this initiative will have built or equipped 32 hospital units in Britain, filling what Daltrey called “a glaring hole in the system.” In terms of the US effort, he said, “I’ve been banging on doors for twelve years, trying to get the American hospital system to realize that there are needs.” He was quick to point out that this is in no way a criticism of the kind of care that is available stateside.
“The idea is that if kids can have a unit that has teddy bears and adults can have lounges where they can interact as adults, then why not teenagers, with their own social needs? There is nothing of space where a teenager can be cared for as a teen,” he indicated. The effort in the UK is Teenage Cancer Trust UK, online at teenagecancertrust.org.
As he went on, he said that it’s not easy raising money for such an effort. It’s possible to raise money for children, because, “You put a child in a photo, and the eyes reach out to you with the Bambi effect,” but, he said with no irony, “You put a teenager on a poster, what with their haircuts and some of what they do,” and it’s not so easy. But teens need specialized care. “A teenager sees the terror in the eyes of the parents,” and that’s not an easy thing to deal with. Kids don’t always know the implications of such a situation, but a teen knows, and also has a sense of moving on with life and what he or she wants to become.
This is a wonderful initiative, and Daltry has a lot of star power, obviously. So check out that web address and follow what’s going on.
But here’s something you don’t know—mega superstar Daltry seems like a genuine, decent, and caring person. After his talk, he hung around for a while, chatting and taking pictures with people. Note that these were the dreaded “press people”—leeches, freebie hounds, in a lot of people’s estimation—these aren’t folks who are likely to donate a wad of cash to any cause. But Daltry wasn’t hanging out with the press. He was just being a normal guy, and when people asked him to take a photo, he let them take one, arm around the subject, looking them in the eye when they asked questions, etc. He didn’t seem at all impressed with his celebrity. He was patient. Call it the mellowing of age if you want to. I call it being real.
Tracing things through the day, the next big event was the Super Trucks race, a gimmick to be sure, but a very, incredibly, cool one. Trucks that remind me of the kind that race Baja roared around the track attacking the tight corners and navigating jumps in various places including in the short chute between turns 9 and 10 and after turn 11 just as the front straight started.
Silly? Not when you see four trucks fly in quick succession over a ramp, all four wheels dangling airborne and nothing but air underneath them. And not when you see them come into their paddock after the race’s end with body damage, half-missing fenders, and cracks in the (faux) truck bed at the back of the pickup bodies.
The Indy Lights, race, to go back to that, was just under an hour. It had an average speed of 92.885mph and was run without pit stops except for one car that had problems. There was one lead change, Gabby Chavez taking the front spot from Zach Veach on lap one and leading it all the way home.
No cautions were thrown, and at the end, Chavez took Veach by .6344 seconds. The next car, Matthew Brabham, found himself nearly four seconds back, and behind him at nearly half a minute back was Jack Harvey.
Actually he and Luiz Razia had a good battle going for fourth and fifth spots, the difference between them at the end of the racing being just half a second.
That was kind of how the field was. It was the first three cars in a pack at times, fourth and fifth together, seventh and eighth together, and ninth and tenth also. So if you were the kind of fan who doesn’t just watch the lead, there were four battles going on the track. The only shortfall—on a street circuit where a lap takes about 75 seconds, having the slowest car on the lead lap 67 seconds behind the first one makes for a lot of gaps between thrilling moments.
The only retirement on the day was Ghirelli Vittorio, who had handling troubles. The eleventh-place car, Lloyd Read, was eleven laps down at the end of the day, but back on track after a long pit stop.
After the race, LA Car had the chance to talk with a couple of drivers, winner Chavez and runner-up Veach. Chavez said that “I got a love tap early, but that gave me a bit of an advantage on Zach, and that put me ahead. Thankfully, I think we’re all experienced enough to know when to tap someone and when not to, and that’s going to help us sort out who’s first.”
V, and we’ll get ready to go there.” I asked him whether he uses racing simulators to train, and he said, “I used to, but I kind of got out of that, because I found that I’d have to get used to the simulator, and then get used to the car. I do a lot of visualization practice to get ready for the track.” He said that he finished school “an April ago” and that he’s not going to university. “I’m getting my pilot’s license, and I’d like to concentrate on that and do aviation, because I really like the course. But I have a championship to win, and that’s taking one hundred percent of my focus.” I asked him how long he plans to do this, since he’s about twenty. “Until I’m forty-five,” he responded right away. “Until I’m forty-five, and I retire to sports cars. I want to be able to say that I spent my entire career with Andretti Autosport. That’s the goal, and that’s very hard to do in this organization, but it’d be a very nice goal to be able to say I did that.” So back to the everyday, for a race car driver. What does he plan to do with his second place Long Beach trophy? “I just moved to my condo in Indy five days ago, so right now, my St. Pete [the first race of the year] is sitting on my kitchen table, and I guess that’s where this will go to.” With that, he laughed. Nice kid. The Indy day in Long Beach continued with the Verizon IndyCar series race, but that’s the matter for another story. Also part of Brian Kennedy’s coverage of the 2014 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach: I Saw it for Myself in Long Beach [nggallery id=lbgp2014b]