Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview

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The Verizon IndyCar Series is on the west coast this weekend for the 40th running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Long Beach race is arguably the biggest IndyCar race on the schedule next of course to the Indianapolis 500.  I would say out of the road and street races on the schedule, this is the one that the drivers want to win at the most.

Brief Race History

The first Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach happened in 1975 as a Formula 5000 event. From 1976-1983, it was a  Formula One event. IndyCar’s have raced at Long Beach since 1984. Newman-Haas Racing has won more Long Beach races than any other team with six wins (three with Mario Andretti and three with Sebastien Bourdais). Al Unser, Jr. has more wins than any other driver at Long Beach with six (1988-1991, 1994-1995) giving Little Al the title “The King of the Beach”.

"The King of the Beach" Al Unser, Jr. Six time Long Beach winner (photo courtesy of GPALB)
“The King of the Beach” Al Unser, Jr. Six time Long Beach winner (photo courtesy of GPALB)

 

Circuit

The Long Beach circuit is 1.9 miles that includes 11 turns and two long straightaways including the scenic Shoreline Drive. The signature turn of the course is turn eleven which is a tight hairpin turn that goes to Shoreline Drive.

Photo courtesy of myracingcareer.com
Photo courtesy of myracingcareer.com

Stories that I’ll be watching at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:

Can Power Continue the Hot Streak?

Counting the last two races of 2013 at Houston 2 and Fontana and two weeks ago at St.  Pete, Will Power has won three races in a row. Power is a two time winner of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and has been a pretty consistent finisher on the Long Beach circuit. Four wins in a row is a strong possibility. Drivers that have won four straight IndyCar races include Al Unser, Jr, Alex Zanardi, and Sebastien Bourdais.

Two in A Row For Sato?

Takuma Sato enters the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach as the defending champion. Sato and A.J. Foyt Racing  got off to a solid start to 2014 by winning the pole at St. Pete and led for a portion of the race and finished a strong seventh. The Long Beach circuit I believe rewards aggressive drivers like Sato and I believe he’ll have a good chance to become the first back to back winner at Long Beach since Sebastien Bourdais won three in a row from 2005-2007.

Can Sato go back to back at Long Beach? (photo by Chris Jones)
Can Sato go back to back at Long Beach? (photo by Chris Jones)

Montoya Returns to Long Beach

Juan Montoya makes his first visit to Long Beach since 2000 when he drove a Lola powered by a Toyota for Chip Ganassi Racing. Montoya won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in 1999 also driving for Chip Ganassi. Will a familiar circuit get Montoya back to his old self? I would say there is a possibility. Out of his eleven IndyCar wins, only two have come on street circuits and Long Beach is of course one of them.

Juan Montoya in the 1999 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. (Photo by Phil Sedgwick)
Juan Montoya in the 1999 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. (Photo by Phil Sedgwick)

First Time Winner?

Two out of the last three Long Beach races have seen a first time series winner. 2011 saw Mike Conway driving with Andretti Autosport and last year saw Takuma Sato with AJ Foyt Racing. Will Sunday make it three of the the last four? I believe it can happen. Which drivers do I believe have a good shot of winning at Long Beach for their first IndyCar win? I’ll go with Josef Newgarden and Carlos Munoz.

Oriol Seriva

Oriol Servia will make his 2014 debut at Long Beach with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Servia previously raced with the team at the 2009 Indianapolis 500. Servia was teammates with primary RLL driver Graham Rahal for four races with Newman-Haas during the 2009 season. Servia is scheduled to run with the team through the Indianapolis 500. I believe if Servia can have some good finishes, it’ll be possible he can remain with Rahal Letterman Lanigan past Indy.

Paul Tracy Joins NBCSN Booth

Paul Tracy will be at this years Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, but not as a driver. He’ll be in the booth for NBCSN with Leigh Diffey and Townsend Bell. Tracy is scheduled to appear in the booth for six races with NBCSN. Tracy is sometimes known to speak his mind and I think he’ll be an interesting addition to the NBCSN team. Maybe somebody should ask PT if he has gotten his Baby Borg trophy yet (too soon?).

The Standing Start

For the first time since 2008, the standing start makes it return to Long Beach. Standing starts made its return last season at select races and will once again be at select IndyCar races including the Inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. I think the standing start is good at Long Beach because the flying starts at Long Beach have been strung out most of the years. I think the standing start will give us a more exciting dash to the first turn.

 

2008 was the last time the standing start was used at Long Beach (photo by Getty Images)
2008 was the last time the standing start was used at Long Beach (photo by Getty Images)

Remember you can watch Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this Sunday on NBCSN starting at 2:30pm with coverage of  the Indy Lights race. Coverage of the Verizon IndyCar race starts at 4:00pm. You can also catch qualifying on Saturday on NBCSN on a tape delayed basis at 6pm eastern time.  IndyCar Radio will have coverage of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach all weekend with coverage of practice, qualifying, and the race. You can listen to IndyCar radio on your Verizon phone with the IndyCar 14 app. You can also listen online at indycarradio.com or you can check out which stations carry the IndyCar Radio Network right here. Sirius and XM satellite radio subscribers can listen to IndyCar Radio on channel 209. 

You can follow along with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Twitter with  @IndyCar, @ToyotaGPLB, and the hashtag #TGPLB40

You can follow MTAF Wheels on Twitter at @MTAFWheels, fellow MTAF Wheels IndyCar writer Shay @Shayzen, and myself @sklein31. If you use Google Plus, MTAF Wheels is also there.