2018 Verizon IndyCar Series: Grand Prix of Long Beach – Preview

by Jordan Groves

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series teams and drivers have had no time to rest after last weekend’s race at Phoenix. The series is back in action this weekend for the third round of the season, the 2018 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in California. Here is a rundown of everything you need to know in the run-up to Sunday’s race:

What happened in 2017 at Long Beach?

Helio Castroneves once again stamped his authority over the Long Beach street circuit in qualifying. The Brazilian veteran took his third consecutive pole position for the event, lowering the lap record even further in the process to a 1:06.2254.

Sadly, Helio was not able to convert his pole position into a race lead on the run down to turn one on Sunday. A poor getaway at the drop of the green flag put Helio down into sixth place initially, with Scott Dixon taking the lead early on.

When Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing team unknowingly put the New Zealander on a poor strategy, the race lead was inherited by Andretti Autosport‘s Ryan Hunter-Reay. The lead looked like it was going to go the way of Hunter-Reay’s team-mate Alexander Rossi after the final pit-stops, but Rossi’s engine blew.

The ensuing caution allowed Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe to take the lead from Hunter-Reay. With the Canadian now facing a final segment of the race where he had to hold off the former race leader. However, this task became much simpler, when Hunter-Reay’s car ground to a halt with just five laps to go.

Hunter-Reay’s retirement left Hinchcliffe relatively unopposed as he went on to take the chequered flag, a second and a half clear of second-placed Sebastien Bourdais. Penske’s Josef Newgarden completed the podium.

You can read the full qualifying and race reports from last year’s Grand Prix of Long Beach here: 

What should I look out for this weekend?

This weekend will see the teams and drivers return to a street course for the first time since the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg last month. Undoubtedly the star of that weekend, as well as last weekend’s Phoenix Grand Prix, was rookie Robert Wickens.

The Canadian driver has driven superbly in his first two races in IndyCar, having dominated the race at St. Pete up until his late collision with Alexander Rossi, before going on to take a fantastic second place in his first oval race last Saturday. It will certainly be interesting to see whether or not the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver can continue his run of fantastic form into this weekend. If he can, he may even be able to get to victory circle for the first time.

Another team hoping to continue their run of good form will be Team Penske. Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden comes to Long Beach as the most recent race winner after taking the chequered flag at Phoenix on Saturday night. The American is currently at the top of the championship tables after his strong first two races, but his team-mates, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power could do with a strong result this weekend to put them further up; as neither are currently in the top ten.

Despite having won the last three consecutive Long Beach pole positions with Helio Castroneves, Penske have only won once the historic race twice in the last ten years. The team and their drivers will be hoping to get to victory lane again this year; with Pagenaud and Power likely to be determined to join their team-mate Newgarden in becoming a 2018 race winner.

Finally, Long Beach will see the return of British part-time Ed Carpenter Racing driver Jordan King. Jordan was perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the season-opening race after the former Formula 2 driver set a new lap record in qualifying en-route to claiming fourth on the grid. King even took the race lead away from the dominant Wickens before the race went awry, with the #20 ECR driver suffering a puncture that would put him a lap down. Nevertheless, it was a great performance by King, one that he will be keen to better, if able, at this weekend’s race at Long Beach.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Friday 13 April

13:00 ET / 18:00 GMT – Practice 1
17:00 ET / 22:00 GMT – Practice 2

Saturday 14 April

13:45 ET / 18:45 GMT – Practice 3
18:30 ET / 23:30 GMT – Qualifying

Sunday 15 April

16:30 ET / 21:30 GMT – Race

Where can I watch the Grand Prix of Long Beach?

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s race. Head to the Grand Prix of Long Beach website for more information.

In the United Kingdom, television coverage is limited to just the race itself. Race day coverage will start at 21:00 GMT on Sunday on BT Sport ESPN.

Coverage of practice and qualifying will be available in the UK on IndyCar’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

In the United States, television coverage for the Grand Prix of Long Beach will be provided by NBCSN, with added broadcasts on Facebook and YouTube courtesy of IndyCar.

How can I keep up to date with all the action over the weekend?

If you cannot make it to Long Beach for this weekend’s Grand Prix, you can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag. We will have coverage of not just this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions, but for all on-track action throughout the season.

Be sure to also follow IndyCar on Twitter – @IndyCar – for live updates throughout the event.

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