Good morning race fans! After only one race in the month of March we are treated with three Verizon IndyCar Series events in April. The second of those three events is this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, a historic and respected race on the IndyCar calendar held annually on the streets of Long Beach, California.
Following last weekend’s thrilling finish at ISM Raceway which saw defending series champion Josef Newgarden snatch victory from rookie Robert Wickens, the plot will thicken with 85 laps on a pounding street course before the teams shift their focus to the beautiful, flowing road course at Barber Motorsports Park next weekend.
To get you ready for this weekend’s festivities we have our race set-up filled with informative facts on the weekend, storylines to follow, and more!
Fresh off his victory at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, defending series champion and Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden leads the Verizon IndyCar Series points standings with two races complete. Hot on his tail, though, is Andretti Autosport pilot Alexander Rossi who is fresh off of two podium finishes in those first two events.
Just five points back of the champ, Rossi is looking to capitalize on his strong runs early in this campaign and break through with his first victory of the year and his first victory on a street circuit.
Let’s not forget about the man currently sitting third place in the standings, though, as Sebastien Bourdais is a three-time winner in the streets of Long Beach and is only seven points back of Newgarden. Bourdais and his Dale Coyne Racing outfit won the season-opening race on the street circuit in St. Petersburg and are validating their early season pace from 2017 with another strong start to 2018. Look for Bourdais to avenge the miscue that cost him a chance at finishing well in the desert.
Bourdais is also the latest driver to win the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach from the pole, having done so in both 2006 and 2007.
Who else could be in the running this weekend? For starters, anyone would be naive to discount Robert Wickens’ speed in the first two races of 2018 thinking that wouldn’t translate to Long Beach. The IndyCar rookie’s biggest learning curve will be understanding the track and its nuances, so expect Wickens to pick up pace over each session this weekend.
Also important to note: Wickens will have a good teacher to learn from and lean on as teammate James Hinchcliffe is the race’s defending winner while sitting a stout 6th place in the current point standings.
In any IndyCar race, consideration should be given to Will Power as well. Power picked up victory in Southern California during the 2008 and 2012 seasons and is part of the Team Penske brigade that has won seven of the last nine pole position awards at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Absent from this weekend’s festivities are fan favorite Helio Castroneves, who had won the last three pole positions in Long Beach and last year set the track record.
Finally, the rookies are back! After seven took the green flag in St. Pete, five rookies were on hand for last weekend’s race in the desert with Wickens finishing the highest of them all in 2nd. This weekend there are seven rookie drivers on the grid once again: Matheus Leist (Foyt), Wickens (Schmidt-Peterson), Zachary Claman de Melo (Coyne), Jordan King (Carpenter), Zach Veach (Andretti), Kyle Kaiser (Juncos) and Jack Harvey (Meyer-Shank).
Keep an eye on England’s Jordan King and see if he takes to the streets of Long Beach just as well as he did at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where he set the track record during qualifications. Kaiser, Claman de Melo and Harvey will each be making their second starts of the season after less-than-stellar debuts. Look for one of those three to surprise this weekend.
Event Dates: Friday, April 13 through Sunday, April 15
Track: 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street course (clockwise) in Long Beach, California
Race distance: 85 laps / 167.28 miles
Entry List: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (PDF)
Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.
Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate. Rookie drivers are allowed one extra set for Practice 1.
Twitter: @ToyotaGPLB @IndyCar, #TGPLB, #IndyCar
Event website: www.gplb.com
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com
2017 race winner: James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda)
2017 Verizon P1 Award winner: Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet), 1:06.2254, 106.980 mph
Qualifying lap record: Helio Castroneves, 1:06.2254, 106.980 mph, April 8, 2017
NBCSN race broadcast: Sunday, April 15 (4 p.m. ET)
NBCSN qualifying broadcast: Saturday, April 14 (6:30 p.m. ET, live)
Leigh Diffey will be the play-by-play announcer for NBCSN’s broadcast of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller are the pit reporters.
Radio broadcasts: The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network is led by chief announcer Mark Jaynes with analyst Anders Krohn. Turn reporters are Jake Query and Nick Yeoman, with Rob Howden and Michael Young reporting from the pits. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.
Race Weekend Schedule
Friday, April 13
10-10:45 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com
2-2:45 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com
Saturday, April 14
10:45-11:30 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #3, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com
3:30 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (three rounds of Verizon IndyCar Series qualifications); NBCSN (live)
Sunday, April 15
9-9:30 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series warm-up, streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com
1:00 p.m. – NBCSN on air
1:35 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines” command
1:42 p.m. – Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (85 laps/167.28 miles), NBCSN (live)
Images and Fast Facts courtesy of IndyCar Media.