Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Preview: 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Indycar comes back to the Streets of Long Beach for the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, round two on the Indycar schedule. This race is accompinied by rampant speculation that Indycar's future at the race may be in question, as F1 is currently in the midst of negotiations to add Long Beach to their schedule. Although I don't think Indycar is going anywhere, it has cast a dark cloud over the event. This shouldn't stop us from enjoying a great race in a pristine location!

Here are some of the headlines heading into Long Beach:

Power Up?
Will Power is off to a fantastic start to the season after collecting a win two weeks ago in St. Petersburg. Power has come up short the past four years in the championship despite being in contention for most of the season. After starting off the season on the right foot, can he continue this success at a track he has done very well at?

Will Power - Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach - Day 3
Power won at Long Beach in 2008 and 2012 [pictured above]
(Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

Bounce Back
Several drivers are looking to bounce back after starting off the season on the wrong foot. Juan Pablo Montoya was maybe the biggest letdown at St. Petersburg given the hype that surrounds him, finishing an average P15. Defending St. Pete winner James Hinchcliffe had an ill car and a miserable weekend, finishing P19. Charlie Kimball did not have a good showing, finishing P20. And Marco Andretti was collected in that restart crash, finishing dead last in P22. Can any of these big names bounce back at Long Beach?


Second Leg 
A number of rookies will be making their second start in the first Indycar campaigns on Sunday. Jack Hawksworth opened up a lot of eyes at St. Petersburg, making some daring moves and showing quick pace before finding himself in that restart crash, ruining his race. Carlos Munoz qualified well but also got a knock in that restart crash that claimed Hawk, pushing him down to P17. Surprisingly, Mikhail Aleshin was the best finishing rookie at P12. Carlos Huertas, who won't be full-time in 2014, finished a modest P18 despite virtually no preparation for the race. Will any of the rookies crack the top-ten at Long Beach?


Servia Makes 2014 Debut
Oriol Servia reunites with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at Long Beach to make his first start of the season. Servia ran one race with them at Indianapolis in 2009. He also teamed up with Graham Rahal later that season at Newman-Haas Racing. Will this relationship, which is set to end after Indianapolis, yield any fruit? Or will Servia fall into the lackluster performances that RLL has had the past 12 months?

Oriol Servia - Indianapolis 500 Practice
Oriol Servia with RLL in 2009 (Photo: Darrell Ingham / Getty Images North America)

Will Famous Long Beach Carnage Be Back?
Long Beach is known for a couple things: Rich racing history, sunshine, fast speeds, and plenty of incidents. There are several places to pass on the track, which also means there are several places to get it all wrong. Add in the fact that there will be standing start for the race, and you get a recipe for destruction. There are crashes on rolling starts in turn one when only a handful of cars are there. What will happen when 23 cars arrive on the scene at once?! Hold your breath.


Here's the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach schedule (all times Eastern):

Friday
Practice 1: 1:00PM - 1:45PM
Practice 2: 5:00PM - 5:45PM

Saturday
Practice 3: 1:00PM - 1:45PM
Qualifying: 4:15PM - 5:25 PM

Sunday
Practice 4: 12:00PM - 12:30PM
Race: 4:40 PM - 7:30PM


Here are the Indycar Driver Standings heading into Long Beach:
1) Will Power - 53
2) Ryan Hunter-Reay - 40
3) Helio Castroneves - 36
4) Scott Dixon - 32
5) Simon Pagenaud - 30
6) Tony Kanaan - 28
6) Takuma Sato - 28
8) Justin Wilson - 24
9) Josef Newgarden - 22
10) Ryan Briscoe - 20


Here's the top-ten finishers of the 2013 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:
1) Takuma Sato
2) Graham Rahal
3) Justin Wilson
4) Dario Franchitti
5) JR Hildebrand
6) Oriol Servia
7) Marco Andretti
8) Simon Pagenaud
9) Simona de Silvestro
10) Helio Castroneves


Here are the ten active Indycar drivers with the highest combined average finishing position in their careers at Long Beach, with the number of races they've started at Long Beach in parenthesizes:
1) Will Power - 5.6 (7)
2) Ryan Briscoe - 7.5 (4)
3) Simon Pagenaud - 8.0 (3)
4) Helio Castroneves - 8.9 (9)
5) Justin Wilson - 9.4 (10)
6) Juan Pablo Montoya - 10.0 (2)
7) Sebastien Bourdais - 10.1 (8)
8) Oriol Servia - 10.2 (12)
9) James Hinchcliffe - 11.0 (3)
10) Tony Kanaan - 11.0 (10)


Here are the past five pole sitters and their lap times at Long Beach:
2013: Dario Franchitti - 1:07.237
2012: Ryan Briscoe - 1:08.608
2011: Will Power - 1:09.064
2010: Will Power - 1:09.318
2009: Will Power - 1:09.710


Lap Record at Long Beach:
Sebastien Bourdais, 1:06.886 in 2006


And finally, here is the entry list for the 2014 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:
#2 Juan Pablo Montoya / Team Penske / Chevrolet
#3 Helio Castroneves / Team Penske / Chevrolet
#7 Mikhail Aleshin [R] / Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports / Honda
#8 Ryan Briscoe / Chip Ganassi Racing / Chevrolet
#9 Scott Dixon / Chip Ganassi Racing / Chevrolet
#10 Tony Kanaan / Chip Ganassi Racing / Chevrolet
#11 Sebastien Bourdais / KVSH Racing / Chevrolet
#12 Will Power / Team Penske / Chevrolet
#14 Takuma Sato / AJ Foyt Enterprises / Honda
#15 Graham Rahal / Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing / Honda
#16 Oriol Servia / Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing / Honda
#17 Sebastian Saavedra / KVSH Racing / Chevrolet
#18 Carlos Huertas [R] / Dale Coyne Racing / Honda
#19 Justin Wilson / Dale Coyne Racing / Honda
#20 Mike Conway / Ed Carpenter Racing / Chevrolet
#25 Marco Andretti / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#27 James Hinchcliffe / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#28 Ryan Hunter-Reay / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#34 Carlos Munoz [R] / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#67 Josef Newgarden / Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing / Honda
#77 Simon Pagenaud / Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports / Honda
#83 Charlie Kimball / Chip Ganassi Racing / Honda
#98 Jack Hawksworth [R] / Bryan Herta Autosport / Honda


Let's go racing!

-Matthew Hickey

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