Sunday, April 16, 2017

Long Beach fan experiance

By Chanda Healton
Photos by Evan D'Amico and Alaina Afflerbaugh

Today we will try something new. I'm calling it the IndyCar Fan Experience. Though the race was last week I am running behind due to a horribly busy week of my birthday and Easter. The good news is, if you are reading this, there won't be any spoilers!

Alaina Afflerbaugh, who you may remember as Josef Newgarden's biggest West Coast fan, and her brother Evan D'Amico, who you will be meeting when we talk to Graham Rahal fans,
were at the race and were asked their thoughts on major occurrences during the race. All photos are property of Alaina and Evan and were taken by them. This is a fan experience to show how great being there can be! I hope you enjoy reading it.

First lets learn a little about AfflerBaugh and D'Amico:

Evan DAmico, 26
Favorite drivers  Graham Rahal and Will Power.
Lives 1hr 45mins from Long Beach 
11 years going to Long Beach GP

Alaina Afflerbaugh, 30
Favorite driver Josef Newgarden 
Curently located about 4 hours from Long Beach
"I have been coming with My dad to the Long Beach Grand Prix since about 1998 but for the first couple years I didn't attend EVERY year. I started making it a priority at around 2010 when I was older."

Prerace experiences. Did you meet any drivers? Did you buy any souvenirs? If so what and from what driver? Where were your seats during the race?

Afflerbaugh said,"I met ALL the drivers who participated this year!!!
I got a New Josef Newgarden shirt, and a checkered flag which all the drivers (as well as Roger Penske and Max Papis) signed.We just had General Admission tickets so we stood at the fence just out of turn 11 at the entrance to the pits. "

D'Amico said, "Yes I did meet drivers: Jr Hilldebrand, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter Reay, Graham Rahal, Michael Andretti, Mario Andretti, Sarah Fisher, Sage Karam, Jack Hawksworth, Gabby Chaves. Bought my wife a Graham Rahal shirt which he signed.
Our seats were in turn 11 the hairpin."
Now on to the race.  I have written a list of what I feel were major events during the race and will share both D'Amico's and Afflerbaugh's thoughts on them. 

Lap one finds Will Power can Charlie Kimball colliding
Afflerbaugh: "I couldn't really tell live, what exactly happened and my brother was certain it was Charlie's fault so he wasn't dependable in telling me what happened, but we watched the race on TV, I CLEARLY blame Power. There was NO room to pass right there and he should know that, its the same spot RHR caused that huge wreck a few years ago doing the exact same thing."

D'Amico: Power had the line for 2 corners and in my view I think Kimbal cut down on Power causing both the wreck.

Thoughts on Dixon switching from a 2 stop strategy to a 3 race strategy
Afflerbaugh: "I don't have a real thought on this situation, I have never been one to follow what the guys do as far as strategy. After watching it on TV though, it sounds like Scott didn't know about the change though and that seems kind of unfortunate for him."

D'Amico: "Dixon switching strategies was typical, he has used that one before to win in Long Beach. Was surprised few other drivers didn't go on that. "

Thoughts on Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter Reay all going out of the race with issues not involving a wreck?
Afflerbaugh: When stuff like that happens its just the way it goes. Honestly I didn't even notice Marco was out of the race. Sometimes the cars just don't want to do their jobs and the guys can't do anything about that. A LITTLE part of me was feeling some justification after RHR took Josef out of the race a couple years ago. But Ryan has always been a nice guy so I would never wish anything ill towards him. I felt bad for the entire team going out by the end of the race. I'm indifferent to Rossi to begin with, but I think he should be penalized for getting out of his car after he stopped. It's always a bummer when a guy gets bumped out of a race because his car goes out on him though. It was just their bad luck was just sad to see. How could anyone predict that would happen out of nowhere. 3 cars, 3 sudden mechanical issues? But I still think a penalty should have been imposed for getting out of that car! It was unsafe.

D'Amico: "Rossi, Reay, and Marco all were in Andretti cars and really needs to be looked at. Sudden power off? They need to really go back and check with the exception of Rossi who blew his motor up."

Thoughts on final restart with 3 laps to go?
Afflerbaugh: I WAS A MESS during those last 3 laps! with Josef in that top 3 and knowing all the guys are bunched up, I was scared they would be coming for him, and that there could be a wreck, or that someone would overtake him.

D'Amico: Restart with 3 to go I was really hoping Bourdais would run James down. But James had a rocket ship and was fast all day.

Last lap thoughts?
Afflerbaugh: I adore James Hinchcliffe and the thought that we were going to get to watch him win a race that he calls his dream was also getting me emotional, plus Bourdais is my Dad's favorite driver and so this podium finish was pretty much amazing.

D'Amico: Was good everyone in Long Beach were on there feet standing. Didn't see one person sitting and the crowd was loud for the last lap. Was amazing to hear.
Thoughts on final restart with 3 laps to go?

Thoughts on JR Hildebrand running into Mikhail Aleshin?

Afflerbaugh: I feel bad for what happened between Mikhail and JR. They are both guys I like A Lot and I hope it was just an accident. I actually didnt know this happened until I saw Mikhail's car being towed into the pits, and later while in the Garage after the race, JR had his arm in a sling, and now I read that his hand may be broken.
D'Amico: I think JR was carting to much speed and missed the breaking point and that's when he ran in to the back of Aleshin. Typical hard racing contact.

Post race

Did you hang around for the victory lane interview?
Afflerbaugh: We did stay to hear the Victory lane interview. But by the time Hinch got his turn, the next event on the track was setting up so we couldn't hear what he was saying
I was really mad. It seemed rude. Especially since that "race" was only set to be 20 minutes long so they had plenty of time to let the drivers of the Grand Prix finish with their ceremony.

D'Amico: Wasn't paying attention cause I moved seats to see the trucks.

How long did it take you to get away from the track? 
Afflerbaugh: It took us a while to get away from the track. It was almost 7pm by the time we were leaving because we went back to the garages to watch them pack up the cars and to see if any drivers were still around. I'd hoped to congratulate Josef personally, but I never saw him. I got to congratulate Hinch though!!

D'Amico: It took us about 45 mins to get from the track to dinner after the race.

What was your favorite part of the race?
Afflerbaugh: The finish was the absolute favorite part of the race ♡ Our family favorite winning, and then Mine and my dad's driver with him on the podium.

D'Amico: Favorite part of the race was James winning at Long Beach. Again was really awesome to see that happen to him

What was your least favorite part of the race? 
Afflerbaugh: The worst part of the race were all those awkward and random cautions, and Will Power taking out Charlie Kimball

D'Amico: My least favorite was seeing Will Power being taken out early. Yeah they got the car fixed but wasn't fast. That sucked.

What an IndyCar do to improve the race?
Afflerbaugh: Nothing that I can think of.

D'Amico: Indycar doesn't need to do anything, I thing every year the race is great and perfect. Although in turn 11 they need to add a Big screen for us to see just before the foot crossing bridge.

Will you return next year? 
Afflerbaugh:  I always plan to. But we find out next month where we are moving to next. So if we end up in Virginia or Florida (or somewhere else far) I have to hope that doesn't mess up those plans.

D'Amico: Oh yes will be returning next year for the race nothing will keep me away from it.

Any final thoughts?
Afflerbaugh: This was one of my favorite years at the Long Beach Grand Prix!
D'Amico: Andretti needs to look at there equipment better. Make sure it's all good. Glad to see Gabby Chaves in a Indy 500 ride. Wish Jack Hawksworth had a ride as well.

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