Verizon INDYCAR Series
2018 Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview
Momentum? The best thing about the Verizon Indy Car Series in its present incarnation is that just about everyone has a chance to win a race. Right now, no one particular team or driver seems to have momentum.
Look Out For? Long Beach has quite a history of multiple year winners such as Will Power and back-to-back victors like Sebastien Bourdais. Look also for drivers who’ve done well in the past – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and James Hinchcliffe to take the checkers Sunday.
Sentimental Favorite? Two come to mind – Japan’s Takuma Sato who has a huge Long Beach following, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who met his wife Beccy Gordon and got engaged to her during Long Beach Grand Prix weekends. The race day crowd is incredibly devoted to its heroes, who have included greats such as Al Unser Jr and Mario Andretti.
Challenges? Weather is not normally a huge factor at The Beach, as it’s usually warm and sunny in April. This weekend will be hot especially Saturday and humid Sunday. Both are bound to have an impact on drivers and pit crews beyond what usually happens.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “What a win for Team Penske at Phoenix. We feel that coming off that win, we’re going to be strong heading into Long Beach. The crew has worked hard on our street course program since St. Petersburg and we’re ready for the challenge. I know that it’s a race my team and I really want to win and we’re ready to put the No. 1 Verizon Chevy in the best spot to make that possible. Street courses are always fun but Long Beach is really special with the history of that place. It’s also awesome that Team Penske’s IMSA program will also be racing this weekend which gives fans even more to be excited about and we’ll all be cheering them on.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda, 2017 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach winner): “I always say this, but we look forward to Long Beach every year. It’s one of the greatest events on the calendar, one of the longest-running events, one of the best attended… it’s definitely a highlight of the year. Last year was obviously pretty special taking the win! The entire team has had a really strong start to the season, and St. Pete went well for us, so we’re cautiously optimistic that our street course package is going to be strong. That said, Long Beach is a different racetrack than St. Pete, and with this new car, everyone is constantly improving, so we’re certainly not taking anything for granted. We’re going to have to work really hard to get the Arrow Electronics car at the front this weekend, but the team’s been doing an incredible job so far and hopefully, we can keep the momentum going.”
ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “Life right now in INDYCAR is pretty good. I definitely can’t complain with how competitive we’ve been in the first two races. Long Beach is going to be a new challenge. We’re going to have to start from zero again, but I’m really happy with where we are as a team and how we’re working together. Hopefully, we can keep this little run of performance going and try to score some good points in the Lucas Oil car.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Long Beach has such an amazing history. It’s a truly iconic American event that started gaining a lot of popularity with Formula 1 back in the day. With the layout of the track, it’s one of the best street circuits anywhere around, and more importantly, you actually get to race there. It took me forever to get to victory lane there but we managed to accomplish that a few years ago, and I hope we can return to that form again this year in the PNC Bank car.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “It’s the second race weekend in five days and this time it is one of my favorite tracks on the calendar. It is hard to beat the atmosphere and energy of Long Beach. With it being a Southern California race, it is sort of a home race for me, so I will have lots of friends and family down for the weekend. We will be looking to finish what we started last year and hopefully, we can put the NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda on the top step.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “Long Beach is one of my favorite races of the year. It’s one of the cornerstone events for the series with a great fan base and great racing. We have a win there from 2010, started on pole in 2014 but still feel like we have unfinished business after last year with the car shutting off on us while running up front. We have some work to do. We have two top-five finishes so far this year, but we’re not satisfied with that, which is a good thing.”
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenwheel.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.