(Our devoted IndyCar analyst Matt Lennon gives his crystal ball a bit of a clean and casts his eyes over the prospects of the contenders for his weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. With Penske having monopolised the top step of the podium so far this season, can anyone else pose a serious threat at this classic street race? Let’s find out…)
In the early 1970’s, local travel agent Chris Pook envisioned more for the seaside town 32kms from downtown Los Angeles. Through his persistence, approval was eventually granted and a Formula 5000 race around the streets of Long Beach was held in 1975. It was an overwhelming success, with crowds loving the atmosphere provided by a combination of the desirable weather patterns around the first half of the year, and the thrill and spectacle offered by wheel-to-wheel action-packed racing machines. Formula 1 took notice and the following year, the United States Grand Prix West came to Long Beach.
From 1984 to 2008, Long Beach was a staple on the annual calendar of CART & Champ Car, and from 2009 has been the home of the IndyCar series. This weekend, the IndyCars return for another instalment in the history books of this great event.
Team Penske seem unstoppable after three consecutive wins from three consecutive starts, with Will Power taking the first two, and Helio Castroneves winning last weekend in Alabama. Chip Ganassi Racing, winners of this race 4 years in a row with Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser, are the defending champions of this race. They will be out to defend their title with all the effort they can muster, for no more reason than to get on the winners board in 2010 and try to stop the runaway Penske train.
His grandfather Mario is the only man to win this event as both a Formula 1 and a CART event, and father Michael is a twice- winner of this race, in 1986 and 2002.
With three top-10 finishes to start the year and a podium finisher at Long Beach in 2009, Tony Kanaan is building momentum nicely and will be a serious chance this weekend. Danica Patrick is showing signs of the form that took her to victory in Japan in 2008 and can’t be ruled out. Ryan Hunter-Reay is currently contracted on a race-to- race basis and will be looking to cement a full-time position by continuing the positive form he has shown so far.
Long Beach never fails to impress, and all signs this weekend point to another fascinating race. Who will power their way down Shoreline Drive to win this Sunday?