Apr 17, 2012
Heat Index looks at the driver(s) who made up the most positions in the race. For the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Tony Kanaan and JR Hildebrand both advanced 15 spots to score top-five finishes.
What a strange weekend for Kanaan, who was driving the No. 11 Mouser Electronics | GEICO – KV Racing Technology car. He qualified a season-low 10th and started 19th after a penalty was levied against all 11 Chevrolet- and three Lotus-powered teams for changing out an engine that had not reached its minimum mileage threshold.
But the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion finished a season-high fourth (he placed 25th at St. Petersburg and 21st at Barber). Kanaan, who was on the move from the green flag of the 85-lap race on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit, benefitted from a 30-second penalty assessed to Ryan Hunter-Reay – who was dueling Takuma Sato for third -- on the final lap for avoidable contact.
“After two very bad races, it’s great to have momentum going into Brazil,” Kanaan said. “We have moved up in the points quite a lot (15 spots to 11th), which is very important. It was a fun race. I got to drive fast and it was a fantastic result for us.”
Click it: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach box score
Kanaan has finished in the top 10 six times in his nine starts at Long Beach.
Hildebrand, who started 20th in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car because of the engine change-out penalty, also recorded his first top-five finish of the season. He moved from 19th in the championship to 10th.
Hildebrand climbed as high as second before making his second/final pit stop on Lap 56, and after the pit stop cycle reached as high as fourth position with five laps remaining. His pace decreased in an effort to conserve fuel to the end, he was passed by Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe and Kanaan in the closing laps.
“We had our own trials and tribulations throughout the weekend, with the penalty and I slapped the wall in qualifying and screwed up our starting spot anyway,” he said. “The guys picked a two-stop strategy and we had really good pit stops and I ended up having to save more fuel at the end of the race than some of the guys around us and we lost a couple spots. But we’re just stoked to be able to come from that far back through some on-track passes and good strategy. We’ll take this and move on to Brazil.”
Also making major moves were Rubens Barrichello, driving the No. 8 BMC | Embrase KV Racing Technology car, from the 22nd starting spot to ninth for his second consecutive top-10 finish, and James Hinchcliffe in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com car for Andretti Autosport who scored his first podium finish (16th on the grid to third).