IndyCar

Preview: 2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Long Beach

5 Mins read
Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

The NTT IndyCar Series is back in action for the second week in a row, with the championship heading to California for the 2019 Grand Prix of Long Beach; one of the most historic street races in the world.

Racing on the streets of Long Beach began as far back as 1975, with the Grand Prix being a Formula 1 event before the event turned into an IndyCar race in 1984. The track has undergone many alterations since, with the now 1.9-mile layout comprising of eleven turns and three major straights.

Here is everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s iteration of the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

What happened in 2018 at Long Beach?

The 2018 Grand Prix of Long Beach saw Andretti Autosport‘s Alexander Rossi put on an absolute clinic. The Californian led two of the three practice sessions and went on to put on a dominant display in qualifying, putting in just one lap in the final round of qualifying to take pole position by almost half a second; beating the usual qualifying specialist, Team Penske‘s Will Power.

At the start of the race, Rossi pulled away from his challengers on the long run to turn one. A full-course caution would soon follow due to an incident between Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal at the first turn, but Rossi would be unimpeded, pulling away yet again on the restart.

Over the course of the race, two further cautions would occur, with Rossi dealing with the pressure on both occasions to maintain his lead. For much of the race, Rossi would remain out front uncontested, only losing the lead during pit-stop sequences.

The third and final caution of the race would set up a nine-lap sprint to the finish, with Rossi being put under pressure for the first time all day by Penske’s Power, who had much more push-to-pass than Rossi. Despite this, Rossi would keep Power at bay, coming home to take the chequered flag with a 1.2-second gap back to second-placed Power.

The win was Rossi’s third in his IndyCar career at the time and would be the first victory of what went on to be a title contending campaign by the end of the season.

Behind Rossi and Power, Chip Ganassi Racing‘s new recruit, Ed Jones, would complete the podium. Jones would hold-off Andretti’s rookie Zach Veach, who would take fourth place in only his third IndyCar start.

Further back, both Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon had been on course to challenge for the victory before being caught out by one of the full-course caution periods. The pair had yet to make pit-stops at the time of the caution, forcing them to fall down the order. Dixon would ultimately finish in eleventh, with Bourdais further back in fourteenth.

You can read the full reports from last year’s qualifying and race at Long Beach by following the links below

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

What should I look out for this weekend?

Heading into the fourth round of the 2019 season, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden continues to lead the championship, now holding a twenty-seven point lead over reigning champion Scott Dixon. Josef has so far had his strongest start to a season yet, having won the season-opener at St. Petersburg, taken second place at COTA and finishing fourth last week at Barber Motorsports Park despite having qualified down in sixteenth place.

In the past, Long Beach has not been the strongest of hunting grounds for Newgarden, with the American having taken just one top-five finish in his seven attempts at the race when he finished in third place back in 2017. If he can take a second Long Beach podium this weekend, he will most likely be leading the championship heading into the all-important month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After his aforementioned domination in last year’s race at Long Beach, Andretti’s Alexander Rossi will be one to watch this weekend. The first three races of 2019 have been decent but unspectacular for Rossi. Whilst he has finished in the top ten at every race, he has finished no better than fifth place. Alexander will want history to repeat itself this weekend, as he seeks to jump-start his 2019 campaign and move up from his current championship position of fourth.

Another driver hoping to be in contention this weekend is Penske’s Will Power. After finishing third at the season-opener at St. Petersburg last month, Power has endured some familiar bad luck. The Australian was forced to retire from a dominant race lead at COTA after a driveshaft failure towards the end of the race. He then suffered repeated tyre-wear issues last week at Barber, which led to him finishing outside the top ten in eleventh place.

Will has two previous race wins on the streets of Long Beach on his resume, with numerous other podium finishes to boot. A third win this weekend would do wonders for his championship hopes heading into May’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Indianapolis 500, two events that he won last year. The next three races could ultimately decide whether or not Power will challenge for a second championship by the end of the season.

Finally, as ever, keep an eye on the various rookies on the grid at Long Beach. In the first three races of the season so far, Colton HertaFelix RosenqvistMarcus EricssonPatricio O’Ward and Santino Ferrucci have all finished inside the top ten on at least one occasion.

Of course, the most notable rookie performance so far this season came from Herta when he became the youngest-ever IndyCar race winner at COTA last month. He will be hoping to bounce back from an unfortunate race retirement at Barber last week by taking a strong finish on the streets of Long Beach.

Meanwhile, Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s Ericsson enters the weekend with momentum having taken a fantastic seventh place finish at Barber despite starting down in twentieth place. Marcus has shown flashes of unbelievable speed so far this season, having also driven extremely well at COTA before receiving a penalty for an unsafe pit-release. The Swedish driver will want to once again take the fight to his veteran team-mate, former Long Beach race-winner James Hinchcliffe, this weekend.

Of course, Rosenqvist, Ferrucci and O’Ward will all be ones to watch too, as the quintet of drivers all attempt to leave California as the highest placed rookie. If any of them can get to victory circle, it will be the first time since 1999 that a rookie will have won at Long Beach, with Juan Pablo Montoya being the last driver to do so.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Friday 12 April

13:00 ET / 18:00 GMT – Practice one
17:00 ET / 22:00 GMT – Practice two

Saturday 13 April

12:00 ET / 17:00 GMT – Practice three
14:45 ET / 19:45 GMT – Qualifying

Sunday 14 April

16:00 ET / 21:00 GMT – Race

Where can I watch the 2019 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.

As a part of the IndyCar’s UK coverage deal, both qualifying and the race will be broadcasted live on Sky Sports F1.

In the United States, television coverage for Long Beach will be shown on NBC Sports.

Further coverage of practice and qualifying will be provided in the United States by NBC Sports Gold.

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

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

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

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