For the second straight weekend, the NTT IndyCar Series stars will hit the track once again. After last weekend’s race at the Barber Motorsports Park, it’s time to shift our focus back to a street course race in Long Beach.
The prestigious Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (4 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IndyCar Radio Network) will take place on Sunday. This is one that everyone wants to win.
See, if you had to rank the races on the annual Indy Car schedule to win at, Long Beach will rank up there with the best of them, if not tops behind Indianapolis.
That alone is a big storyline, but here are five more.
Alexander Rossi celebrates after winning the 2018 Grand Prix of Long Beach – INDYCAR Media Site
7 Different Teams To Win Since 2013
This is a big one to win, but it’s a hard one to figure out as well. See, over the last six races, we’ve seen six different organizations triumph on the 1.968-mile scenic street circuit.
AJ Foyt Racing (Takuma Sato) won in 2013. Ed Carpenter Racing (Mike Conway) won a year later. Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon), Team Penske (Simon Pagenaud), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Hinchcliffe) and Andretti Autosport (Alexander Rossi) have followed.
Will we see a seventh different team win Sunday’s race?
If so, the only ones left are Dale Coyne Racing (Sebastien Bourdais, Santino Ferrucci), Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal), Harding Steinbrenner Racing (Colton Herta) or Carlin (Max Chilton, Pato O’Ward).
These are all viable options too.
Plus, we’re three races into the 2019 season and have seen three different race winners from three different teams. If you go back to last year, the last seven races to be exact, the series has produced eight different race winners from six different organizations.
Alexander Rossi circles the Long Beach Grand Prix race track in 2018 – INDYCAR Media Site
7 Straight Different Drivers To Win
To further my point above, we’ve also seen seven different drivers celebrating in victory lane in consecutive years too. Will Power won for Penske in 2012 joining the others in the point above this. If any of those drivers from those teams that have not won in the point above can win Sunday’s 85 Lap race, then we will have seen no repeat winners since 2012. That’s the entire era of the DW12 and this new car that debuted last year.
Scott Dixon leads Sebastien Bourdais in the 2018 Grand Prix of Long Beach – INDYCAR Media Site
Cautions Could Dictate The Race
We’ve seen it happen on street course races before. An ill advised caution can flip the field in an instant. It happened in St. Pete a few times and can happen in Long Beach as well.
It’s a bold move to short pit a pit sequence, but for those drivers that start in the back, you almost have to. But, if you counter up front, you could waste away an opportunity to spread the gap between themselves and those in the back.
But, if you don’t pit and a caution does end up flying, then what happened to Will Power, Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon in COTA can happen again on Sunday.
That’s why pit strategy is so huge at street course races. You don’t want to short pit if you’re a leader, but you also don’t want to wait too long and get screwed by a caution.
Luckily, the cautions have been few and far between in Long Beach. Over the last four years, we’ve only seen four of them. There was just one caution in 2015, none in 2016 and three in 2017. We did see four yellows fly in the 2018 race, but none fell in the middle of a pit sequence.
How will Sunday’s race play out?
A large crowd for the 2018 Grand Prix of Long Beach – INDYCAR Media Site
Starting Position Matters
This goes well in the point above. Since 2008, nine drivers have won this race from a starting position no worse than Row 2. That’s nine of the last 11 overall. Plus, the last four race winners have come from – 3rd, 3rd, 4th and 1st respectively.
With how the races have gone, expect making the Fast Six to make or break who wins this weekend’s race.
Last Race Before Indy
You always want to win in Long Beach, but even more so this year. See, after the checkered flag drops on Sunday’s race, the Indy Car stars aren’t in racing action for a whole month.
The next race on the schedule is the IndyCar Grand Prix on May 11. That’s a lot of time off between now and then. Granted, there is an open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the oval configuration in a couple of week, but in terms of on track competition, there is none for a month.
Plus, you always want to take the most momentum with you to Indy. Racing is very much a momentum based sport, with heading into the biggest month of the year, you don’t want to be entering May on the heels of a rough weekend in Long Beach.