The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to the track for its second race of the 2014 season, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in California. The 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit has been hosting IndyCar events since 1984, with Mario Andretti winning three of the first four events at the track (1984, 1986 and 1987).
Defending race winner Takuma Sato won the pole for the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Florida and came home seventh for A.J. Foyt Racing. Only five drivers – Mario Andretti, Paul Tracy, Al Unser Jr., Alex Zanardi and Sebastien Bourdais – have won in back-to-back years, and Bourdais won the event three straight seasons (2005 to 2007).
Will Power pulled off the victory in St. Petersburg, his third win in a row dating back to last season. Power is a two-time winner at Long Beach (2008 and 2012), and has three additional top 10 finishes in six races on the circuit; last year, Power couldn’t put it together at Long Beach, finishing 16th after starting third.
Defending IndyCar champ Scott Dixon finished fourth at St. Petersburg, but seeks his first win at Long Beach after some dismal finishes. Dixon has a best finish of fourth back in 2010 and finished 11th last season. Mike Conway, on the other hand, is seeking his second victory at Long Beach. Driving part-time on the street circuits and road courses for Ed Carpenter Racing this season, Conway earned his first IndyCar victory at Long Beach back in 2011. Conway finished 16th at St. Petersburg.
Helio Castroneves won at Long Beach in 2001, earning three top 10 finishes in four races under CART sanctioning and three in five races under IndyCar; he finished third to open the season at St. Petersburg. Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won in 2010, has four top 10 finishes on the circuit dating back to 2003; he was runner-up at the season opener.
Sebastien Bourdais, whose CART career included three wins and a third-place finish in five races at Long Beach for Newman Haas Lanigan Racing, has had nothing but disappointment in three races in the IndyCar Series, with a best finish of 15th last season. He finished a disappointing 13th to start the season at St. Petersburg for his new team, KVSH Racing.
Another former winner on the circuit is Juan Pablo Montoya, making his return to open-wheel racing with Team Penske after spending seven seasons in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series with Chip Ganassi. Montoya won at Long Beach in 1999 under CART sanctioning with Ganassi, but only turned in a 19th-place finish in 2000.
Qualifying for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach takes place Saturday, April 12 at 1:15 p.m. PT, with the race going green Sunday, April 13 at 1:50 p.m. PT.
Source: “Fast Facts: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach,” IndyCar Media