IndyCar: Grand Prix of Long Beach preview

As we look to the classic Long Beach IndyCar weekend, we consider the chances for Sebastien Bourdais, the trials of Scott Dixon and the likely focus on race stewarding.

Normal service resumes for Honda?

Was it just the rain in Louisiana or have Honda made progress? Sadly it was just the rain. Even in the mixed conditions at the start of the Grand Prix of Louisiana, the Honda teams were struggling. The dominance of the Chevys in St Petersburg is very likely to be replicated at Long Beach. The question is who will be at the sharp end.

Another false start for Bourdais?

The opening two races of the season have hinted at Sebastien Bourdais’ having a season that is all too familiar: quick and in contention for wins but hampered by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In his Champ Car prime Bourdais ruled Long Beach so he has the talent and circuit knowledge to contend for the win. With Chevy power and the always effective KVSH Racing, Bourdais will be in good shape. It will just be a case of whether he can hook a weekend up with no mistakes and no assaults from rivals.

Of course anyone aiming to win in California will need to beat at least one Penske driver. Montoya – back at another of his former Champ Car stomping grounds – surprised last Sunday in the race after flunking out of qualifying. Undoubtedly the series points leader will be going head to head with Power and Castroneves for the win on Sunday. We all look automatically to Power on street circuits but Helio is no slouch on the streets either.

Ganassi’s paradox

Similarly to Bourdais and Montoya, Tony Kanaan was a pretty good street course hustler during his time in Champ Car and should be considered another potential fly in the Penske ointment. Running well and under he radar somewhat so far, the same cannot be said for his team-mate Scott Dixon who will be looking at Long Beach as the ‘start’ of his season.

The Kiwi has not had his problems to seek so far in 2015. Frustratingly for him and for fans wishing to see more competition for the Penske juggernaut, Dixon has not had the opportunity to show his true form. There is no reason why Dixon cannot match Tony Kanaan and get himself in the mix up front starting this weekend.

A second chance for IndyCar

IndyCar came in for criticism during the Louisiana weekend for everything from running sessions too late and not avoid the rain storms, to questionable penalties applied. On the evidence of St Petersburg, Long Beach will be another challenge in terms of race stewarding.

Despite the many caution periods last weekend, the reinforced wing elements mandated by IndyCar weren’t really tested. Within the concrete confines of Long Beach it could be another debris strewn race. That will present IndyCar with challenges in terms of how they manage the race and caution periods. Whilst the drivers know the reinforcement has been implemented to stop debris, the natural instinct of a racer is to take every advantage. Strengthened parts might end up being an incentive to get the elbows out more instead of less. A bit of rubbing is fun but this isn’t stock car racing.

Long Beach is a great event for the series to visit. It is everything IndyCar should be: the circuit, the setting, the legendary previous winners and the busy grand stands give Long Beach the prestige other circuits lack. Sadly it also highlights the work to be done at many other IndyCar events but for a weekend is a nice reminder of better days and the potential that still exists.

Whoever wins on Sunday will be a worthy victor and will find himself sitting in some pretty impressive company.

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