Round 2: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 7-9.
After nearly a month long gap since the season opener at St. Pete's, the 43rd running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is almost upon us. It is the oldest running street race in North America and was founded by local travel agent Chris Pook in 1975.
The first race was a round of the SCCA Formula 5000 series and was won by British driver Brian Redman in a Lola T332-Chevrolet V8. Following the success of the F5000 event and only 6 months later Pook convinced FISA to hold the F1 United States Grand Prix West, which was was won by Swiss F1 veteran Clay Regazzoni, driving a Ferrari-312T. The United States Grand Prix West remained on the F1 calendar until 1983. Interestingly, it wasn't until 1980, that Toyota became the race sponsor.
After the 1983 Grand Prix, with the increasing costs of sanctions and shipping charges, it was felt F1 was too expensive to run and having been approached by CART to host a race. The following yea, Long Beach became a CART/Champ Car perenial event until the final Champ Car race, held on April 20, 2008 as part of the 2008 IndyCar Series split weekend.
Although series reunification took place in late February 2008, it emerged there was a calendar clash between Long Beach and the IndyCar Series round at Motegi in Japan. With both races so early on in the year and more or less finalised, neither venue could change their date; particularly Long Beach, due to the preparations required for a street course. It was decided both races would go ahead, with points from Long Beach counting towards the the IndyCar Series championship. It was won by Will Power driving for KV Racing, in a Panoz DP01-Cosworth. The race became part of the IndyCar Series calendar the following year.
Last year's race was the first since 1989 without a caution period and subsequently was the fastest race in the history of the event, at 01:33:54. It was also the closest finish, with Simon Pagenaud winning 0.3032 seconds ahead of Scott Dixon but not without controversy. During the second round of stops, Pagenaud was able to get out of the pits just ahead of Dixon and take the lead. However, Pagenaud had placed two tires over the blend line of the acceleration lane at the exit of pit lane, while trying to beat Dixon to turn one. Pagenaud’s pit exit was deemed an infraction per Rule 126.96.36.199. 'Lane Usage' of the INDYCAR Penalty Guidelines: Failing to follow designated procedures entering or exiting the pit area, including the proper use of the acceleration and deceleration lanes. Despite protests from Ganassi, IndyCar officials let Pagenaud off with a warning for the incident.
Recently there were rumours as to the future of the race. However, the Grand Prix Association, which owns and promotes the race and the City of Long Beach, signed a new three-year agreement after the 2015 race, with an additional two-year option.
The driver with the most wins: 6. Al Unser Jr., 1988 - 1991, 1994, 1995.
The team with the most wins: 6.
Newman/Haas Racing. 1984, 1985, 1987, 2005, 2006, 2007.
Chip Ganassi Racing. 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2009, 2015.
Team Penske 1993, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2012, 2016.
The track is a temporary road course and since the 1975 F5000 race, the layout has changed noticeably, from the original. Below are the original and current layouts. However, rather than fill the intro with all the various track changes that have taken place, this link shows them all.
Original 1975-1981 layout:
Length: 2.02 miles (3.251 km)
Length: 1.968 Miles (3.167 Km)
Lap record: Hélio Castroneves, April 19, 2015. 1:06.6294, 106.331 Mph (171.12 Km/h). Team Penske,
Dallara DW12-Chevrolet, Verizon IndyCar Series.
Last year's race:
Pole: Hélio Castroneves 1:07.12, 105.547 mph (169.861 km/h). Team Penske, Dallara. DW12-Chevrolet IndyCar V6
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske. Dallara DW12-Chevrolet IndyCar V6
Distance: 157.44 Miles (253.375 Km)
Race Time: 01:33:54
Average Speed: 100.592 mph (161.88 Km/h)
Caution periods: 0
NBCSN. April 17. 4:00pm ET.