By: Kevin Neely
What? Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Where? Streets of Long Beach, California
When? April 15 3:30pm EDT
Who? IZOD IndyCar Series
Why? Why not!
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach circuit is a 1.968 mile street course running through the Long Beach community near Los Angeles. The circuit consists of eleven turns surrounding the Long Beach Convention Center. The frontstretch and pit area are located on Shoreline Drive, falling right after the iconic hairpin turn, Turn Eleven. The current circuit used by the IZOD IndyCar Series mostly follows the former Formula One circuit used in the 70’s. This area was once home to an amusement park known as The Pike.
Track Record(Overall): 1:06.886 by Sebastien Bourdais -Lola B02/00-Cosworth, 2006 CCWS
(IICS): 1:09.0649 by Will Power -Dallara IR-03/Honda, 2011 IICS
Most Wins: Al Unser, Jr. (6)
Most Wins, Active Driver: Sebastien Bourdais (3)
Most Poles: Will Power, Gil de Ferran, Michael Andretti, Mario Andretti (3)
Two races. Two winners. Two Pole winners. The only connection? Two masterful efforts by Team Penske. At St. Pete, Will Power takes the pole with a spectacular lap while Helio Castroneves uses top notch pit strategy along with consistency he hasn’t shown in years to get his first win in over a year. Reset the scene to Barber Motorsports park, just reverse the roles. Castroneves on pole, Power uses pit strategy to get the win. Can Ryan Briscoe enter the Penske equation at Long Beach, or will Castroneves and Power continue to dominate?
Sebastien Bourdais is the Lotus machismo at the moment. The last time he raced at Long Beach, he took the win before departing for the Toro Rosso ride. He took his dog of a Lotus all the way to second place in St. Pete and then left Barber with Lotus’ first Top Ten. Anything short of a Top Ten at Long Beach has to be a disappointment for Bourdais, but can he break through and get their first podium finish?
Who currently sits last in IZOD IndyCar Series points? Shockingly, it’s Tony Kanaan. His Chevrolet powered Dallara suffered from electrical gremlins(The de facto problem with the Chevys it seems) which prematurely ended his day in St. Pete. At Barber, it was shock absorber issues which took several pit stops to repair. We’ve seen Kanaan dig himself out of deeper holes, but he needs to have a good finish at Long Beach to get back on the right track.
Scott Dixon has two runner up finishes this season, well ahead of his defending champion teammate, Dario Franchitti. In fact, it seems as if for every stroke of good luck Dixon has, Dario gets reciprocal bad luck. Ever since Dario came back from his NASCAR vacation, Dixon has been playing second fiddle. Could this be the year Scott finally upsets his teammate and brings home another title? Will Dario’s bad luck continue, or can he turn things around this weekend at Long Beach?
The Final Word
Chevrolet has clearly been the engine to have so far this season on road and street courses. Even though the Chip Ganassi cars have shown good pace, Honda seems to lag behind the Chevys so far. I know Honda has supplied engines to the series for quite some time, but Ilmor Engineering actually built the engines. Honda has decided to place their IndyCar engine development with their own HPD brand. Everyone jumping on the Honda bandwagon early might be regretting it now, but I wonder if the big straight on Shoreline Drive might lend to better performance by the single turbo Honda engines. Honda absolutely needs better performances on road and street courses, or else their teams are going to be very much behind the eight ball in the championship fight.