A crown jewel of American open wheel racing will be showing its luster and sparkle this weekend as the IndyCar series makes its first full visit to the streets of Long Beach.
Unification happened too late last year for there to be any chance of a real combination of the CCWS and IndyCar calendars. The most unfortunate victim of this incident was the Long Beach Grand Prix which was scheduled on the same weekend as Motegi, both of which were understandably unwilling to give up their dates. So Long Beach was celebrated last year as the finale of the CCWS/CART era and the last time we would see the beautiful Panoz DP01 in action. Both Motegi and Long Beach paid points for the IndyCar series championship.
Long Beach has played host to Formula 5000 (1975), Formula 1 (1976-1983), and CART/CCWS (1984-2008) along with other featured series such as ALMS, Trans-Am, Atlantics, Indy Lights, Formula D Drifting and the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race in it’s venerable 34 year run so far. But this year, the newly merged IndyCar series makes its first visit to venue on the 35th anniversary of the first race.
Although the series is new to Long Beach, the drivers and teams are not. With many in the field having contested this event in the past (as recent as last season). But with teams like Penske, Ganassi and Andretti making their first visit in many years, it is sure to add a little extra sparkle to an already brilliant weekend.
As at St. Petersburg, the IndyCar series does not allow as much development on the road course package as compared with the oval car, which reduces the aero advantage that the big three teams have attained. With the level playing field in effect, the talented drivers really rise to the top at the street course events especially.
As for predictions, Kanaan is always good in a street fight, but his capabilities really haven’t shown through at Andretti Green for a while. Penske is always likely to pull out a win and Briscoe seems the most likely podium topper for Roger’s duo as Power tends to always have good speed but an unnatural knack for finding walls. Ganassi has two of the most well rounded and talented drivers in the paddock, so they also cannot be discounted. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Justin Wilson have to be considered after their strong performances at St. Petersburg. In the end, I think recent experience (both team and driver) at Long Beach will be the deciding factor in this race though.
I will call it for Graham Rahal. After his disappointing punt from pole at the hands of Tony Kanaan, Graham has to be that much more motivated to make a statement at Long Beach. Look for Graham to be sitting on the top step at the end of Sunday.
Qualifications – Sat, April 18 – 6 pm EST on VERSUS
Race – Sun, April 19 – 3:30 p.m. EST on VERSUS