Frustration for King despite promising performance

Jordan King enjoyed an impressive debut at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach before brake failure late into Sunday’s race forced the 24-year-old to pit from 6th place, eventually having to take the chequered flag a lap down in 18th place.

This weekend marked Jordan’s second-ever IndyCar race weekend and his first-ever trip to Long Beach, California, a legendary IndyCar street circuit with a global reputation. Jordan’s weekend started on Friday with the focus being on track familiarisation and clocking his first miles around the circuit outside of the simulator.

Not completing a lap on Friday on the quicker red sticker tyres, Jordan finished the first two practice sessions of the weekend in 15th and 18th place respectively but remained confident before Saturday’s qualifying session.

In the final practice session before qualifying on Saturday morning, Jordan got his first running on the quicker tyre and posted a 1:07.514 lap time to finish the session in 12th place. Qualification groups are decided by the lap times in the practice session immediately preceding qualifying, and Jordan was drawn into group one for the first round of qualifying as he looked to replicate his stunning qualifying performance from St. Petersburg that saw him break the lap record and make it to the ‘Fast 6’ on his debut.

The 24-year-old started the 10-minute session on a set of black Firestone Firehawks. After two laps, he pitted for a change to a new set of the softer, faster red Firehawks. His sixth lap was his fastest lap at 103.741 mph and had him sixth overall.

Another 10-minute segment was up next for King, Round 2 of qualifications. He improved on his speed from Round 1, this time turning a quick lap of 104.739 mph on a second set of sticker reds. His time was 12th overall, giving him his starting position for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

“I was happy to get through the first session as obviously that’s the first thing you’ve got to do. I didn’t get a great lap in on the second session. I think maybe the crash I had earlier made me have to reset slightly, which didn’t help. We should have been closer to the cusp, maybe not quite quick enough to get through. We should have definitely been better than 12th, 10th or 8th, that kind of region. Overall still a positive run, but from a personal performance I think there was more to be had.”

When the race went green for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Jordan got off well at the rolling start but the race didn’t remain green for long as Simon Pagenaud was bumped off at turn one, bringing out the safety car and promoting Jordan up a place to 11th. As the race was neutralised under the safety car, a few cars made stops, and by the lap 4 restart, King had moved into the Top 10, running in 9th.

Concentrating heavily on saving fuel throughout his first stint, Jordan committed to a two-stop strategy and gained positions as those on a three-stop strategy began to pit and allowing Jordan to rise up the order eight spots and into 4th.

Making his first pit stop on Lap 28, pitting for another set of sticker black tires. Running 4th at the time of his top, he cycled back into 9th behind the cars on the three-stop strategy. Still focusing on fuel conservation, he was forced to let Takuma Sato pass him, but settled back in. Again, he moved into the Top 5 as other strategies played out. He did not pit during the caution between Laps 42-45. Josef Newgarden, who was out on new tires, was able to pass King on Lap 49. King remained just outside the Top 5 for the remainder of his stint, biding his time until he was allowed to run full-rich and begin passing cars.

The full course caution flag flew again on Lap 42 as the car of Zachary Claman De Melo made contact with the wall in Turn 10. Under the caution, King reported to the pit lane that when he pressed the brake pedal, it went to the floor. He had to pit from 6th to allow the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka crew to bleed the brakes. Though they worked as quickly as possible, King too lost a lap to the leaders. For the restart on Lap 66, King had fallen to 17th.

King’s race would not come to a smooth conclusion. Coming to Lap 72, King had a run on lead-lap car Sebastien Bourdais. King went to the inside of Bourdais and made contact, resulting in a three-car pile up as Bourdais came to a stop facing the wrong direction. At the restart, King had to serve a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact, dropping him to 19th. A late race issue for Ryan Hunter-Reay bumped him up a position and Jordan eventually crossed the finishing line in 18th place.

“I’m obviously really gutted. You can see where we were racing, we were definitely on for a podium. We can’t control a mechanical failure like we had, so it was out of our hands I suppose. It is just annoying that we could have been on the podium and got nothing from today.”

Next up for the Verizon IndyCar Series is the 2.38-mile permanent road course of Barber Motorsports Park, the third race in a string of three back-to-back events. King will race at Barber for the first time when he competes at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (20th – 22nd April).