Thursday, April 18, 2013

Track Walk: Long Beach 2013

Andretti Autosport heads to the streets of Long Beach coming off back-to-back wins with James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The team looks for it's third consecutive win to start the season and it's third win at Long Beach in the last four races on Shoreline Drive.

Who Can Keep It Up?
Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson are the only four drivers to have a top ten in the first two races. Since returning to Long Beach in 2009, Castroneves has not finished better than seventh. Dixon's best finish is fourth at Long Beach; his next best finish is fifteenth. Marco Andretti has finishes of sixth, fourteenth, twenty-sixth and twenty-fifth at Long Beach. Due to racing in ChampCar, Justin Wilson has more appearances at Long Beach than those three, with six top-tens in nine Long Beach Grand Prix. Wilson more impressively has started in the top ten in eight of his nine Long Beach Grand Prix, with his worst start being eleventh in his first career ChampCar race in 2004.

Meanwhile, other unlikely names occupy spots in the top ten in points. Charlie Kimball finished fourth at Barber and ran well all weekend. He currently sits sixth in the points. EJ Viso has been clean in two race weekends and is tenth in points with finishes of seventh and twelfth. Kimball's two finishes at Long Beach are twenty-fourth and eighteenth and Viso has one top ten, a ninth back in 2008.

AJ Allmendinger: Round Two
Allmendinger was impressive at Barber, being in the top ten in every session between Friday and Saturday. He was running in the top ten most of the day before stalling after a pit stop put him a lap down. He would get himself back on the lead lap under green flag conditions and finish nineteenth. Allmendinger returns to Long Beach for the first time since the opening round of the 2006 ChampCar season. Allmendinger was teamed with Justin Wilson at RuSport and started fourth before getting caught up in a lap one, turn one accident with Oriol Serviá, Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira.

Another driver making a return to the streets of Long Beach is the 2011 winner of the Long Beach Grand Prix, Mike Conway. Conway raced in the FIA World Endurance Championship opening round at Silverstone last week. He drove the #26 LMP2 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Nissan with John Martin and Roman Rusinov to thirteenth overall, seventh in class.

Busy "Off Weekends"
Conway wasn't the only one on track last weekend. Takuma Sato ran the opening round of the 2013 Super Formula (formerly Formula Nippon) season at Suzuka. Sato started sixth and finished fifteenth. Notable drivers Sato raced against former Formula One drivers Kazuki Nakajima and James Rossiter and past IndyCar drivers João Paulo de Oliveria and Hideki Mutoh.

Other Notes
Dario Franchitti will be making his 250th career start this weekend.

Ten cars are entered for the Indy Lights races with Canadian Matthew Di Leo making his Lights debut.

2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice will be competing in RallyCross at X Games Brazil. Other drivers competing include Ken Block, Brian Deegen, Tanner Foust, Travis Pastrana, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Scott Speed.

Interesting fact: Charlie Kimball has lead more laps this season than his teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti combined.

Zero chance of rain this weekend. Temperatures call for 81 degrees on Friday, 77 on Saturday and 73 on race day.

The track record at Long Beach on the current layout was set by Sébastien Bourdais in 2006. He ran a lap of 1:06.886.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has a really good track record at Long Beach with one win. Will Power has been on the podium in five of his seven Long Beach starts. I'm going out on a limb and taking Simon Pagenaud. He had a great race at Long Beach last year and is in great position to take his first career victory this weekend. Castroneves should be able to hold on to the points lead. Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing finally gets its first top ten of the season. Dario Franchitti will finish better than twenty-fifth this weekend. Sebastián Saavedra will not qualify in the top ten this weekend. Sleeper: Tony Kanaan.