Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview
By Larry Mason, Copyright 2018
April 12, 2018 —
The wind was howling throughout the streets of Long Beach today as teams and drivers went through final prep for the weekend racing activities starting tomorrow. Two Indy 500 winners were there early to be inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame on Pine Avenue just in front of the Long Beach Convention Center. As is turns out both drivers are driving for the same team owner and have both won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya were grateful to see their plaques unveiled. Both will also be busy racing their Acura Team Penske IMSA prototypes on Saturday. A media luncheon was held afterwards and many of the stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series were present to answer questions and share stories with their fellow competitors.
One driver who seems to have a permanent smile on his face these days is Takuma Sato who is still relishing his win at the Indy 500 last year. He’s also happy as he won his first IndyCar race here at Long Beach in 2013. I spoke with St Pete winner and Phoenix polesitter Sebastian Bourdais and he was very focused on finding the right setup for Long Beach. He admitted that it was a fortunate win in the first race of the season and he’s eager to find a bit better setup that rewards a more precise driving style than having to man-handle the car to make the speed.
Rookie Robert Wickens has been lightning-quick all year, has also stood on the podium at Long Beach back in 2007 in the Formula Atlantic race. He said that he’s treating every race as a brand new event and even if he’s had success here in the past, that was a long time ago when he was very young. Conor Daly was meandering around the IndyCar garage area and said that he’s very excited to get back on track for the Indy 500 in the U.S. Air Force Dale Coyne car. The good news is that he’ll be back racing. The bad news is that he’ll have zero test time before he jumps into the car at the Speedway. As always, he carries his helmet and driver’s suit with him just in case somebody gets injured or can’t race for any reason.
Former Mazda Road to Indy racer Scott Hargrove is leading the points championship in the Pirelli World Challenge in his Porsche 911 GT3 car and is looking forward to making his debut on the streets here. He’s been getting sim time on iRacing.com and hopes that will help him be successful in getting to Victory Lane. Another PWC racer and former champ Alvaro Parente had a rough start to the year at St. Pete with his Bentley suffering major damage. His big concern with his big race car is getting around the hairpin and the fountain since those sections are so tight. If he can manage that, he feels like he can be competitive here.
For those fans that are coming to the Grand Prix and wish that they could be racing, and believe that they have the skills to get the job done – good news! K1Speed Karting has a track set up just outside the arena. Andrew Sweeney is one of the instructors that can help you find your inner Helio as he’s been with the company for over three years. By the way, he also races 410 non-winged sprint cars that have about 1,000 horsepower so he knows about speed!
It’ll be super busy this weekend with lots of action both on and off-track. Stay tuned for updates throughout the weekend and some technical feature content following the race.