Bryan Herta and Dario Franchitti drove the XM Satellite Radio Acura to a sixth-place finish at Saturday's Grand Prix of Long Beach after an ill-fated bout with timing while leading the race.
From the opening lap of the event, it was clear the XM Satellite radio machine was very quick and a challenger for the overall race victory.
In Andretti Green Racing's third ALMS start, Franchitti started the race on the overall pole, a first for AGR and Acura. Franchitti led the first 30 laps of the event, and 40 of the 74 laps of the race. However, it was some unfortunate timing that cost the team a probable podium finish.
The one-hour, 40-minute event came under full-course caution near the 30-minute mark of the race. Under IMSA rules for the Grand Prix of Long Beach, one driver had to complete at least 30 minutes of the timed event and the other driver could drive no longer than 70 minutes or the car would be disqualified.
As Franchitti led the field under yellow-flag conditions, he was forced to pass the pit lane entrance just prior to the passing of the 30-minute mark. Most of the cars behind Franchitti were able to make it into the pits right after the 30-minute point, change drivers and refuel, all under yellow-flag racing.
Without another caution flag, Franchitti and Herta made their driver-change pit stop under green-flag racing. Herta exited the pit stop in sixth place and gained time on the field over the remaining laps.
Running low on fuel, Herta had to make an additional splash-and-go stop with less than five minutes remaining, yet still managed to hold on to the sixth-place finish.
"It's disappointing because the XM Satellite Radio Acura was the best car in the field,” reflected Herta. “We just didn't win the race. Luckily we have a race next week we can concentrate on [in Houston] and forget about this race.
“I had a good battle with one of the Audis. They are fast on the straights and we are fast in the corners. Unfortunately you can pass on the straights but really can't pass in the corners here. This is a good team and we'll be ready to race for the win at Houston."
"Well, I think we showed the XM Satellite Radio Acura was the car to beat today,” added Franchitti. “We sealed our fate when we pitted under green. We were looking for a second yellow-flag period. As long as I have raced at Long Beach, I would have bet you that there would be more than one full-course yellow. But it didn't happen and we were set in the middle of the field.
“You learn those things in sports car racing. AGR is a tremendous operation and we'll come back and race for the win again. As a driver, you just don't have opportunities like this one today. I had a blast today and loved every minute of it but this in not the result we were hoping for."