Thursday, April 14, 2016

Track Walk: Long Beach 2016

The third round of the 2016 IndyCar season will be IndyCar's 33rd trip to Long Beach
IndyCar remains out west for the 42nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Scott Dixon is the most recent winner in IndyCar and the defending Long Beach winner. Dixon's victory at Phoenix two weeks ago put him in a tie with Al Unser for fourth all-time in IndyCar victories. That victory also vaulted him up to second in the championship, four points behind Simon Pagenaud, who has finished second in each race this season.

Time: Coverage begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday April 17th. Green flag at 4:45 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN.
Announcers: Rick Allen (Leigh Diffey is on Formula One duty), Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will be in the booth. Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Kate Hargritt and Robin Miller will work the pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice- 1:00-1:45 p.m. ET (45 minutes). 
Second Practice- 5:00-5:45 p.m. ET (45 minutes)
Third Practice- 1:00-1:45 p.m. ET (45 minutes).
Qualifying- 5:00 p.m. ET
Warm-up- 12:00-12:30 p.m. ET (30 minutes).
Race- 4:45 p.m. ET (80 laps).

Will Someone Buck the Trend?
Five different teams have won the last five Long Beach races. Mike Conway took a surprise victory in 2011, driving for Andretti Autosport. He passed Ganassi driver Dario Franchitti and Penske drove Ryan Briscoe to score his first IndyCar victory. In 2012, the grid was jumbled up after all Chevrolet entries took ten-grid spot penalties for engine changes and Will Power won from 12th on the grid. Takuma Sato scored his first career, and so far only, IndyCar victory and A.J. Foyt Racing's first victory in over a decade at Long Beach in 2013. Mike Conway doubled up on Long Beach victories in 2014, this time for Ed Carpenter Racing and he won from 17th starting position, matching the furthest back a Long Beach winner has come from. Last year, Scott Dixon won at Long Beach for the first time.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is another past Long Beach winner. He won the 2010 race when he was on trial for Andretti Autosport. Outside of that victory, Hunter-Reay has struggled at Long Beach. He has finished outside the top ten in the last three races and outside of the top fifteen in three of the last five Long Beach races. Marco Andretti has finished in the top ten in the last three Long Beach races but his best finish in seven starts is sixth. Carlos Muñoz finished third on his Long Beach debut in 2014 and won the Long Beach Indy Lights race in 2013. Three of Muñoz's five career podiums have come on street circuits. Californian Alexander Rossi will make his Long Beach debut. Rossi has not had much success on street circuits. He made nine starts at Monaco across Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2 and while he had two podiums he also had two finishes outside the top fifteen and three retirements. Rossi made his Formula One debut last year at Singapore, where he finished 14th.

Three of the four Penske drivers have won at Long Beach. Juan Pablo Montoya won the 1999 race, his first career IndyCar victory in his third start, and Hélio Castroneves won in 2001. Montoya has finished fourth and third the last two years at Long Beach while Castroneves finished runner-up last year but prior to that Castroneves' best finish at Long Beach since 2009 was seventh with an average finish of 10.0. Simon Pagenaud has finished in the top ten in the last four Long Beach races with his best finish being second in 2012. Power has won at Long Beach twice and has six podiums in ten Long Beach starts but has finished outside the top fifteen in two of the last three Long Beach races. Last year was only the second time Power failed to finish on the lead lap at Long Beach.

Sato is in his fourth season at A.J. Foyt Racing. He has finished 18th or worse in four of six Long Beach starts. Jack Hawksworth has not had much luck at Long Beach. He has finished 15th and 14th in his two appearances and he was taken out before completing a lap in his lone Indy Lights start at Long Beach in 2013.

Josef Newgarden is the only Ed Carpenter Racing this year at Long Beach. Newgarden's first Long Beach start was in 2012 and he started second on the grid after all the Chevrolets had to serve grid penalties. Newgarden didn't make it through turn one that year after Dario Franchitti made contact with the Tennesseean. His seventh-place finish last year was Newgarden's best Long Beach finish. Newgarden has qualified in the top ten the last two years.

Chip Ganassi Racing has won six Long Beach victories, tied with Newman/Haas Racing for the most. While Dixon won last year, the New Zealander has finished outside the top ten in seven of nine Long Beach starts. Tony Kanaan has one podium, five top fives and seven top tens in 12 Long Beach starts. Kanaan has lead in only two Long Beach races. He led 44 laps in 1999 and seven laps in 2009. Charlie Kimball's best finish in five Long Beach starts is 15th, which came last year. He has retired three times and all three have been because of mechanical issues. Max Chilton is coming off his first career top ten at Phoenix. Chilton finished fifth after starting tenth in last year's Indy Lights race at Long Beach.

Who Could Continue the Trend? 
Four teams could extend the streak of different teams winning at Long Beach to seven and of those four teams only one has previously won at Long Beach.

KV Racing won the final Champ Car at Long Beach in 2008 with Will Power behind the wheel. KV Racing's driver Sébastien Bourdais leads all active drivers with three Long Beach victories. Since returning to IndyCar in 2011, Bourdais' has finished in the top ten only once at Long Beach and that was his sixth-place finish last year. He has failed to finish on the lead lap in three of the last five Long Beach races.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has never won at Long Beach in Indy Lights but has won at the track twice in Indy Lights. James Hinchcliffe finished fourth and third in his first two Long Beach starts but his best finish in the last three trips to Long Beach is 12th and has twice retired because of accidents. Mikhail Aleshin finished sixth after starting 20th in his only appearance at Long Beach in 2014.

Dale Coyne Racing has only one podium at Long Beach. That came in 2013 when Justin Wilson finished third. Conor Daly made his Long Beach debut last year for Dale Coyne Racing, substituting for an injured Rocky Moran, Jr. He finished 17th and completed every lap. Daly's lone Indy Lights victory came at Long Beach in 2011. Luca Filippi made his Long Beach debut last year and finished 22nd after stalling entering the pit lane and losing three laps.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has never won at Long Beach but has six podiums and has had a driver finish runner-up four times. Graham Rahal finished second in 2013 but has only one other top ten finish in nine Long Beach starts. His father Bobby finished runner-up four times in 15 Long Beach starts.

The third round of the 2016 IMSA SportsCar Championship season will be held at Long Beach. Prototype championship leader Extreme Speed Motorsports will not be at Long Beach as it starts its 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship campaign at Silverstone. Scott Pruett is second in the championship and he will not be racing at Long Beach after running the first two rounds with Action Express Racing.

The de facto championship leaders will be two-time defending champions Christian Fittipaldi and João Barbosa in the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP. The Brazilian-Portuguese duo have 60 points and lead their #31 Action Express Racing teammates Dane Cameron and Eric Curran by one-point. Marc Goossens is two points back in the championship and he will be joined by Ryan Hunter-Reay in the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP as Ryan Dalziel will be on FIA WEC duty with Extreme Speed Motorsports. Hunter-Reay will be the first driver to run a sports car race and an IndyCar race in the same weekend since Ryan Briscoe ran at Lime Rock Park and Pocono on July 6-7, 2013. Briscoe won in LMP2 at Lime Rock Park and finished 14th at Pocono.

Ricky and Jordan Taylor won last year at Long Beach and they trail Fittipaldi-Barbosa by five points in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP. Rounding out the entry list will be the two Mazda prototypes. Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito will be in the #55 Mazda and Tom Long and Joel Miller will share the #70 Mazda. The #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-HPD of John Pew and Oswaldo Negri, Jr. will look to extend Ligier's winning streak to three consecutive races. Katherine Legge and Andy Meyrick return in the #0 DeltaWing.

For a second consecutive year, Corvette enters Long Beach off victories in Daytona and Sebring but this time the #4 Corvette of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin are leading the way. They are ten points ahead of the #912 Porsche of Earl Bamber and Frédéric Makowiecki. Two points behind the Porsche is the #25 Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW of Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner. Auberlen and Werner won last year at Long Beach. Antonio García and Jan Magnussen trail their Corvette teammates by 16 points. The #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander is a point behind García and Magnussen with the #68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Daniel Serra and Alessandro Balzan another point behind the Risi Ferrari.

The Ford GTs return with Joey Hand and Dirk Müller in the #66 and Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook in the #67. Hand and Müller won in GT at Long Beach in 2011 driving a RLLR BMW. Müller also won at Long Beach in GT2 back in 2008 driving a Tafel Racing Ferrari with Dominick Farnbacher. John Edwards and Lucas Luhr will drive the #100 RLLR BMW and Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy will drive the #911 Porsche.

The Prototype Challenge class returns to Long Beach for the first time since 2013. Jon Bennett and Colin Braun won that 2013 race and they both return in the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca and are coming off a victory at Sebring. Tom Kimber-Smith and Robert Alon lead the PC championship after finishing second in the first two races in the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca. They are three points of the #85 JDC-Miller Motorsports drivers Stephen Simpson and Mikhail Goikhberg. Renger van der Zande and Alex Popow are third in the championship in the #8 Starworks Motorsports Oreca and they are six points back.

Johnny Mowlem returns in the #20 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca and will be joined by Tomy Drissi, who drove with BAR1 at Daytona but not Sebring. James French and Kyle Marcelli will drive the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca will Mark Kvamme and Ashley Freiberg in the #88 Starworks Motorsports Oreca.

The IMSA races will take place on Saturday April 16th at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Pirelli World Challenge
Long Beach will be the third round of the Pirelli World Challenge season and 24 cars are entered for this year's race.

Cadillac's Michael Cooper and Johnny O'Connell are first and second in the championship. Cooper has 362 points in the #8 ATS-V.R.GT3 and leads the #3 of O'Connell by two points as Cooper has three podiums from four races while O'Connell has a victory, a third and two fifths. The #41 EFFORT Racing Porsche of Michael Lewis swept the St. Petersburg weekend and is third, 21 points behind Cooper. The K-PAX Racing #9 McLaren of Álvaro Parente and the #31 EFFORT Racing Porsche of Patrick Long rounds out the top five of the championship with 281 points and 273 points respectively. Long won the first race of the season at Austin and Parente's best finish was second at St. Petersburg.

James Davison is sixth on 262 points in the #33 Nissan, three ahead of the #99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing McLaren of Jon Fogarty. The #13 K-PAX McLaren of Colin Thompson's is two points behind Fogarty. Andrew Palmer has 254 points in the #87 Bentley Team Absolute Continental GT3 and is three ahead of the #05 Nissan of Bryan Heitkotter and #2 CRP Racing Audi of Kyle Marcelli. Ryan Eversley is a point behind Heitkotter and Marcelli in the #43 Acura.

The #76 Calvert Dynamics Porsche of Andrew Davis has 239 points and is 18 points ahead of the #07 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Martin Fuentes, the top GT-A driver. K-PAX's #6 McLaren driver Austin Cindric rounds out the top fifteen with 219 points. The #88 Bentley Team Absolute Continental GT3 of Adderly Fong is the top driver to have yet to finish in the top ten through four races with 191 points. Peter Cunningham is eight points behind Fong in the #42 Acura. GT-A entry Frankie Montecalvo has 172 points in the #66 DIME Racing Mercedes-Benz with the #67 TRG-Aston Martin of Duncan Ende 16 points back. GMG Racing's James Sofronas returns in the #14 Porsche after missing St. Petersburg. Sofronas is 20th in the championship and finished ninth in the second Austin race.

There are four more GT-A entries. Jorge de la Torre is back with #4 TRG-Aston Martin after missing St. Petersburg. Tim Pappas has missed the first two rounds but he has entered his #54 Black Swan Racing Dodge Viper GT3-R. Bill Sweedler is set to make his PWC debut in the #11 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari. Brett Holden will drive the #44 GMG Racing Porsche.

The Pirelli World Challenge race will be held at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday April 17th.

Fast Facts
This will be the sixth IndyCar race to take place on April 17th and first since Mike Conway's victory at Long Beach in 2011.

Hélio Castroneves set the track record last year with a lap of 66.6294 seconds in the third round of qualifying.

Chevrolet swept the top seven finishers last year at Long Beach and had eight of the top ten.

Honda leads all manufactures with 11 victories at Long Beach. Chevrolet is second with ten victories.

Foreign drivers have won the last five Long Beach races. The longest gap between American victories at Long Beach is seven years (2003-2009).

Chevrolet has won the last 22 pole positions in IndyCar. The last Honda pole position was Simon Pagenaud at Houston 1 in 2014.

The pole-sitter has not won at Long Beach since Sébastien Bourdais won in 2007.

The average starting position for a Long Beach winner is 4.375 with a median starting position being 2.5.

A Long Beach winner has started outside the top ten five times. Alex Zanardi won from 11th in 1998. Will Power won from 12th in 2012 after a ten-spot grid penalty. Michael Andretti won the 2002 race from 15th. Twice has the winner started 17th, Paul Tracy in 2000 and Mike Conway in 2014.

The average number of cautions at Long Beach is 2.9 with a median of three. The average number of caution laps is 11.84 with a median of 12.

Last year's Long Beach race had four laps under caution, the fewest since the race went caution-free in 1989.

Possible Milestones:
With a victory, Scott Dixon would become the fourth driver in IndyCar history with at least 40 victories.

Hélio Castroneves needs to lead 9 laps to reach the 5,500 laps led milestone.

Tony Kanaan needs to lead 41 laps to reach the 4,000 laps led milestone.

Will Power needs to lead 70 laps to reach the 3,000 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs to lead 67 laps to reach the 2,500 laps led milestone.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 10 laps to reach the 1,000 laps led milestone.

James Hinchcliffe needs to lead 76 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

Will Power needs one podiums to reach 50 career IndyCar podiums.

Tony Kanaan needs one top ten finish to reach 200 career IndyCar top ten finishes.

Scott Dixon wins his second consecutive race of 2016 and his second consecutive Grand Prix of Long Beach. Simon Pagenaud scores his third consecutive podium. A Honda does finish in the top five. A Californian finishes in the top ten. At least two drivers score their first top tens of 2016. There will be at least four caution periods. At least one incident will involve four cars or more and one will be because of an incident at the hairpin. Sleeper: Conor Daly.