Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach: Flashing Back - Looking Forward
Known as one of the "Jewels in the Crown" in it's heyday, the weekend at the famed circuit still holds up as such, and is always filled with as much action off the track as on. And with five different racing events happening this weekend, including the always entertaining Stadium Super Trucks, fans will have more than their fair share of activities to keep them busy and entertained.
What Happened Last Time Pole: Helio Castroneves Podium:Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves
This would be Pagenaud's first win of the 2016 season, which would see him dominate throughout, and eventually capture the championship. This win was not without controversy however, the scene of the much debated "only got a warning" moment for his improper pit exit. The race itself would also make a little history with closet finish in the history of the race, and the entirety of the race being run under green. Virtually unheard of on a street course, especially one as storied as Long Beach.
The tight, twisty street course is known for being a bit of a scrappy ride, with at least one driver making an… "ambitious" *read: questionable* move at some point, that pisses another driver off in a big way. Lots of… waving.. in this race. The race distance has also been bumped up to 85 laps, while the turn 8 complex got a repave, making it sleek and grippy. Look for both of these to factor into the results.
The key to winning here is clean, smart driving, and clean, smart, fast pit stops. And luck. Lots and lots of luck.
As far as the drivers go, this is a favorite track for the majority of the field, and we get the sense that everyone is ready to just "go for it" this week following the long break between the St. Pete's opener and now.
Reigning Champion: Sebastien Bourdais
2017 Points Leader: Simon Pagenaud
2017 ROTY Leader: Ed Jones* (duh)
2017 Manufacturers Leader: Honda (!)
Who's the Favorite?
Sebastien Bourdais(3) and Will Power(2) have won here multiple times, with Castroneves, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Montoya, Pagenaud, and Sato also hoisting the winner's trophy.
Rahal, Munoz, Kanaan, and Hinchcliffe have all been on the podium here as well, so with luck and patience, they could contend as well.
Who could surprise?
Newgarden. He's always been good on this track, but his luck not so much. This year however he is in a new ride, with a new confidence. Look for him to come out swinging. (provided the Chevys figure out their set up) If, IF, Marco can qualify well, he will be a force. He is focused and fast, he just needs to get the car to the pointy end of the qualifying stick. And for fun… lets toss Rossi into the mix.
If we had to pick just one?
hmm… well Bourdais seems to be on a role, and has won here 3 times. So he's the easy pick. But… well, let's roll the dice for Marco