A lot of people ask my favorite stop on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. It goes without saying, nothing tops the Indy 500. That said, my bags are packed for my favorite race on the road (or streets): Long Beach.
There are a lot of reasons to love Long Beach – the weather and event history being the top two – but I love my broadcast location for the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. I sit on a lift, about 30 feet in the air between Turns 1 and 6. Literally.
The temporary wall structures along Shoreline Boulevard have a small gap between them. In the middle of the gap is my scissor lift. It's fantastic. I rise up amidst the shopping district of Long Beach, and below to my left I watch the field scream into Turn 1. They move out of my sight at that point and navigate their way around the picturesque fountain before taking a right-handed Turn 5. In doing so, they race toward me on the right-hand side. It's a fabulous vantage point and I am fortunate to take it all in; all just a little bit closer to that California sun.
Part of the infield paddock area for the weekend includes the Long Beach Arena. It's a classic sports arena, perfectly round on the exterior, fairly quaint on the inside. Built as part of the convention center (which hosts the fan zone and media center for the weekend), the arena has a rich history. It was the first home of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, was home to the final game of University of Maryland star Len Bias and housed Loyola Marymount's captivating run to the 1990 NCAA Sweet Sixteen after the passing of Hank Gathers. Walking through the arena is a fun tradition for me.
When I think of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, I always think of Ryan Hunter-Reay. I remember his 2010 win and how much it meant to him. A part-time driver at the time, Hunter-Reay was really coming into his own, and I believe his Long Beach win is what cemented him as a full-time driver with Andretti Autosport. Michael Andretti knows what it takes to win at Long Beach. After all, he and his father did just that three times each.
Zach Veach, the Indy Lights veteran, will be joining us this weekend on the radio broadcast. I know Veach would prefer to be in the cockpit, but he is always welcome in our booth. Zach joined us a few years ago and was like a duck taking to water with the microphone. But he was also very open to critique and wanted to learn. We didn't have to help much, but his desire to be great is appreciated.
I'd love to see him get an Indy 500 ride. I know he's worked hard for that and I think he may be close. Besides, he still looks like a schoolkid who needs his milk.
As always, I plan on some sightseeing in Tinseltown this weekend. I'll let you know what TV sets I crash. That's a virtual given.
Veteran broadcaster Jake Query is a member of the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network team and will offer his musings regularly on IndyCar.com.