IndyCar – Round 3: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview

800px-Long_Beach_Street_Circuit_svgWhat: 39th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Where: Streets of Long Beach, California
Who: Defending race winner Will Power of Verizon Team Penske looks to get back to his winning ways despite early season dominance by Andretti Autosport drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe. Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing leads the Honda charge along with impressive rookie Tristan Vautier and the much-improved Chip Ganassi Racing Teams driver, Charlie Kimball.
When: 1:45pm Pacific Daylight Time (4:45 Eastern Daylight Time) on Sunday, April 21.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is a previous winner on the streets of Long Beach. This time, he comes into the weekend off a dominating victory at Barber Motorsports Park. RHR won pole, dominated the early third of the race, and then held off Scott Dixon to get his first win of 2013. Andretti cars had had success at Long Beach over the past few years, having won two of the previous three events.

Last year, “Rookie” Simon Pagenaud led the most laps and secured a second place finish in only his third start for Schmidt Hamilton Racing. Simon was able to use this finish to propel himself to a Fifth Place overall result in standings. This year he comes into GPLB off an excellent run at Barber after suffering a mechanical problem at St. Pete.

Close behind Pagenaud is fellow Frenchman and teammate, Tristan Vautier. The reigning Firestone Indy Lights champion has made the Firestone Fast Six in both of his IZOD IndyCar Series starts, ran in the Top Five at St. Pete before ending his day with a mechanical, and ran second at Barber for much of the early stages before pit stop issues and driver error relegated him to 10th place. Vautier will win in this series; the question is simply when?

Helio Castroneves comes into GP Long Beach as the current points leader. He finished second at GP St Pete, losing the lead to James Hinchcliffe on a late race restart. at Barber, Helio led for a good portion of the mid stages of the race, ending up third behind Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon. Helio’s only win at Long Beach came way back in 2001 in a Reynard-Honda for Penske Racing. Can Helio leave Long Beach with his points lead intact, as well as another trophy?

GP Long Beach could be considered a home race for Charlie Kimball, who was raised in Camarillo, CA, which is roughly 50 miles away. No matter what, Kimball has experienced an excellent start to the 2013 season, having made his first ever Firestone Fast Six at Barber. Charlie also brought home the mail at Barber, getting his second career Top Five finish. You can bet Charlie is looking to perform well in front of the home crowd.

By The Numbers
1-Number of wins by Will Power since his victory at Long Beach last season
2-wins by Andretti Autosport in the last three races at Long Beach; Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2010 and Mike Conway in 2011
3-Wins by Sebastien Bourdais at Long Beach, all in Champ Car
4-Andretti Autosport drivers currently in the Top Ten
6-Previous winners at Long Beach starting the race this Sunday; Will Power, Mike Conway, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dario Franchitti, Sebastien Bourdais and Helio Castroneves
7-Chevrolet drivers currently in the Top Ten
12-Will Power’s starting position in the 2012 event. He would lead 15 laps and win the race.

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