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NTT INDYCAR Series

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview

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After a week off to catch your breath, the Verizon IndyCar Series returns to the streets of Long Beach, California for the Toyota Grand Prix.

A staple event on the schedule, the street course has been the source of great racing in the past.

Simon Pagenaud hopes his solid season continues this weekend as he currently leads the points standings after a pair of podium finishes to start the year. The Team Penske driver ran well at Phoenix, running solidly in the top five all race long. The driver of the No. 22 Chevrolet is also one of the best on the streets of Long Beach, boasting the second-best average finish of active drivers at 4.8. Pagenaud has never finished worse than 8th at Long Beach.

Not far behind is Phoenix race winner Scott Dixon, who only trails Pagenaud by four points. The four-time series champion is also the defending race winner. Dixon’s victory last year was only his second top five on the streets of Long Beach.

So far this year, it’s been a battle between Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing, with each organization earning a victory. Juan Pablo Montoya won for Penske at St. Petersburg while Dixon won for Chip Ganassi Racing at Phoenix.

Montoya is looking to give Team Penske the advantage this weekend after a disappointing outing at Phoenix. The Columbian dominated the early stages of the race only to have a flat tire under green, resulting in an unscheduled pit stop, but he rebounded for an eighth-place finish. The return to a street course suits the driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet as St. Petersburg was a street course, and he flat out dominated. Beyond that, Montoya’s average finish of 3.5 is the best in IndyCar.

Penske teammate Will Power won the pole for St. Petersburg but sat out the event as a result of a misdiagnosed concussion due to an inner ear infection. Following a third-place finish at Phoenix, the Australian will certainly be a driver to watch this weekend. He has two wins and five top fives in eight starts at Long Beach.

Although Chevrolet has dominated so far in 2016, Honda could sneak in and steal a victory. The manufacturer was able to do just that last year, with Graham Rahal surprising on a couple of occasions.

Takuma Sato pulled off the surprise at Long Beach in 2013, playing the right fuel strategy all the way to his first career victory. Since that season, though, he has struggled to put himself in contention to score a win. After a disappointing 18th-place finish at Phoenix, the A.J Foyt Racing driver is hoping to repeat his success from St. Pete, where he finished sixth.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is currently the highest-ranked Honda driver in points, sitting fourth in the series standings. He also calls Long Beach one of his favorite tracks, and will be doing double-duty this weekend in running both the IndyCar and IMSA race. Since winning on the 11-turn course in 2010, he has only scored one top 10 in five starts.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularopenwheel.com

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Ashley McCubbin is currently studying journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber while writing for multiple websites. She also serves on the managing staff for a select few. Born in North York, Ontario, McCubbin currently lives in Bradford, Ontario and spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area where she enjoys taking photos and working on websites.

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