The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is one of the best races in the 2018 IndyCar season. Here’s what to watch for in IndyCar from Long Beach.
The Verizon IndyCar Series doesn’t get much better than the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Short of the Indianapolis 500, this is the best race on the 2018 IndyCar season schedule, and it happens Sunday.
Long Beach is memorable for its picturesque location and great Southern California weather, but it’s also produced great racing. Last year, James Hinchcliffe got a long-awaited victory here, and he’ll be looking to top that this weekend, especially as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports seems to have all the momentum after two events.
As the second of three consecutive IndyCar races over three weeks, Long Beach also has the potential to be huge for the 2018 IndyCar standings. Between Phoenix, Long Beach and Alabama there will be a major shift in points, and then the next races up after that are the pivotal Month of May. So are you ready, IndyCar fans?
Let’s break the race down in our Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach preview.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
- Pit lane: We saw in the Phoenix Grand Prix how mishaps on pit lane can alter the outcome of race. Considering how much of an effect pit stops had last week, it’s worth watching to see if teams are extra careful with them this week.
- The pit lane blend line: Separately from pit stops, the blend line (the line where drivers roll off pit lane and back onto the active race track) has played a role in Long Beach races past. Most notably, the battle between Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon where Dixon just barely got by as Pagenaud was rolling off pit lane. It’s a small detail, but one worth watching.
- The weather: Because it’s amazing. Seriously. This will be one of the most beautiful races you’ll ever get to watch this season. Unless you’re in the car, then you’re probably sweating buckets, but fans will enjoy watching it.
THREE DRIVERS TO WATCH:
- James Hinchcliffe: Hinchcliffe won the 2017 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. But more than that, he and his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Robert Wickens are both driving like men possessed right now. This is the season SMP has been waiting for, and having Hinch get back-to-back wins would be a feather in their cap. Hey, Sebastien Bourdais did it at St. Petersburg!
- Josef Newgarden: The reigning IndyCar champion is also the current IndyCar points leader. He finished on the podium last year and hasn’t been outside the top 10 in this race since 2013. It’d be really hard to argue against Newgarden right now, so we won’t.
- Alexander Rossi: Rossi (and his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay) ran strong at Long Beach last year before mechanical gremlins wrecked Andretti Autosport’s day. Both will be back with a vengeance, and Rossi has the hot hand with two podium finishes over two races. Check out our interview with Alexander Rossi for more on his Long Beach outlook.
- If you’re in Long Beach on Saturday, former IndyCar stars Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves will both be racing in the IMSA Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix. The two Team Penske stars are part of the organization’s new sportscar team, and they’ll be well worth watching. Here’s a quick primer on IMSA for the unaware.
The 2018 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is Sunday, April 15 at 4:00 p.m. ET. For full coverage of the 2018 IndyCar season, follow the Motor Sports category at FanSided.