LONG BEACH, California – It’s laden with history, tradition, pageantry and a sexy appeal. Drivers love it, teams love it, fans love it. And now they’ll get to see more of it.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is an iconic racing event entering its 43rd year this weekend. Indy cars will scream around the 1.968-mile temporary street course in Southern California for the 34th time. Only the Indianapolis 500 has more staying power among tracks on this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series calendar.
“It's an event that everyone wants to win,” said Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden. “The Indy 500 is the crown jewel of the schedule, but Long Beach is right up there, too. I love the crowd at Long Beach because it's always exciting and a fun atmosphere.”
TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH: Weekend schedule; Spotter's guide
Compared to some, Newgarden is a Long Beach novice with five Indy car starts at the track heading into this weekend. Six drivers have been in at least 10 races here, led by Tony Kanaan with 13 starts. Helio Castroneves has raced 12 times at Long Beach before, Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power 11 times each, and Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal 10 times.
Long Beach has been a career- and life-altering venue for Hunter-Reay, whose 2010 win cemented his status with Andretti Autosport. Hunter-Reay also became engaged to his wife Beccy at Long Beach.
"The Long Beach Grand Prix is certainly one of the cornerstone events of the Verizon IndyCar Series,” said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda. “This race has so much history. It really is the Indy 500 of street courses. This event has also had a huge impact on my life, both personally and professionally over the years.”
The twenty-one full-season Verizon IndyCar Series entries will take to the iconic circuit in anger for two practices today, one practice and Verizon P1 Award qualifying on Saturday and a final warmup practice and the race on Sunday. The race length has been extended five laps to 85 this year, which Graham Rahal said will alter strategy up and down pit lane.
"I think that is going to make it a lot better for the fans,” said Rahal, driving the No. 15 PennGrade Motor Oil Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “You are going to see guys pushing a lot harder because if it's green (for the entire race) like last year, there is no way anybody will make it on fuel (on two stops).
“You might see some different strategies because it's probably going to be firmly a three-stopper, so you will stick to that and have pretty big (pit) windows and see drivers try to pit at different times. It should make it a lot more exciting for everyone."
Today’s first practice, Saturday’s practice and Sunday’s warmup stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. This afternoon’s practice airs live at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Qualifying will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com at 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday and be shown on delay at 7:30 p.m. on NBCSN. The race airs live at 4 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.