Weekend Round-Up Long Beach, Talladega And China

Randy Bernard and the IndyCar hierarchy can thank their lucky stars for comeback driver, Mike’s Conway’s stellar drive over the last ten laps or so of the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix. Conway’s inspirational drive overshadowed a race full of piss-poor restarts (and initial race start) and driver blunders.

Conway showed glimpses of brilliance last year while driving for the Dreyer & Reinbold team. However more often than not, he ended up in the wall. He season ended last year in a horrific accident not entirely of his making at Indianapolis.

“His comeback is now complete,” said team owner Michael Andretti, whose first and final Indy car victories came at Long Beach. “The first time we put him in a race car, I could tell he had potential. I’m just so happy he was able to (win) this early and win one of the greatest races here in Long Beach. I’m just so proud of him and the whole Window World Cares team.”

Earlier in the day, Sam Schmidt Motorsports won the Firestone Indy Lights race with American, Conor Daly behind the wheel. Daly inherited the lead when the car of teammate Josef Newgarden nosed into the Turn 8 tire barrier of the 1.968-mile, 11-turn circuit and went on to win under caution. Newgarden declared he hit a drainage ditch. Well, perhaps a manhole cover over a drainage ditch. If an Indy Lights car would hit a drainage ditch, I shudder to think of the implications. Earlier in the race, leader Peter Dempsey also nosed into the Turn 8 tire barrier. Live and learn lads.

On the plus side, the crowds were very healthy and I’m sure Jim Michaelian and his staff were happy with the gate receipts. On the down side, the field for the Toyota Celebrity race was not A-list or even B-list. The one B-lister, Stephen Moyer of HBO’s “True Blood” fame, ended up not competing in the race. On Friday he flipped his Scion in a spectacular crash during qualifying. The producers caught wind of the “star” racing cars refused his entry. However Moyer won $15,000 for his pole position for his charity.

Who raced? Returning 2010 winner, Brian Austin Green from “Desperate Housewives” and “Beverly Hills 90210,” former NFL FOX Sunday and current “Good Day LA” host Jillian Barberie-Reynolds, “CSI Miami’s” AJ Buckley, Kim Coates from “Sons of Anarchy;” William Fichtner (“Armageddon,” “Black Hawk Down,” “Contact” and “Crash”), Daniel Goddard from “Young and the Restless,” actor Djimon Hounsou from “Amistad” and “Gladiator.” Also in the field were Musical heartthrob, Kevin Jonas, Former Indy Lights driver, Frankie Muniz (“Malcolm in the Middle”), fighter Tito Ortiz, actress Megyn Price, actor Michael Trucco and the pros Ken Gushi, Chris Rado and USAC star Kody Swanson.

Who won? William Fichtner who actually has been to several races and declares himself a fan.

How many people know or care that the first Long Beach Grand Prix was a Formula-5000 race in 1975. For those who don’t remember, F-5000 was a great road racing series with open cockpit cars (a bit lighter than Indy Cars if I recall correctly) with naturally aspirated stock block engines. Just another one of the great road racing series that the SCCA killed.

Jimmie Johnson passed below the yellow line! That’s what many were shouting, especially those who aren’t fans of the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. However, it was very minimal and there are no replays, we’ll not on the last lap, for out of bounds calls. Did he? Perhaps, but NASCAR is smart enough not to ruin a great finish. It is after all entertainment.

The Grand Prix of China was one of the best Formula One races well, since perhaps last year. F-1 which has been quite entertaining these last three years put on a duesey in the Far East. Thanks to Pirelli, the tires drop off within their stints on track. Thus, creating pit strategy and tire management. Lewis Hamilton had the best and passed the hottest driver in F-1, Sebastian Vettel. Congratulations to McLaren. They had a dog in pre-season testing and turned it into a thoroughbred.

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