Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview and Writer's Prediction Pool

Ryan WordenFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2010

LONG BEACH, CA - APRIL 19:  Tony Kanaan (L) second place finisher sprays race winner Dario Franchitti with champagne on the podium as Will Power, third place finisher looks on during the IRL IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19, 2009 on the streets of Long Beach, California.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Following a quick turnaround from the inaugural Grand Prix of Alabama, the Indycar Series turns their attention to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.  This will be the second official race at Long Beach under the IRL, although the race was run in 2008 as a Champ Car event when the IRL regulars went to Motegi.

The temporary 1.968 mile street course winds through Long Beach, just south of LA.  The event will feature 85 laps on the 11 turn course for a total of nearly 170 miles.  Dario Franchitti won the 2009 race after starting second on the grid.  He swapped places with polesitter Will Power, who was running part time for Penske Racing.  Power also won the Champ Car event at the track in 2008.

Penske has certainly got off to a fast start during the 2010 season, winning all three races, with Will Power taking two and Helio Castroneves one.  Penske is currently 1-2 in the season standings, and all the other teams will be looking to knock them down a peg.

Passing looks to be increased from the Alabama race that saw little opportunity for overtaking other than in the pits.  Long Beach has wider turns and more high speed straights to allow drivers to outbrake competitors going into turns.

The main passing areas should be in turns one, six, and nine.  Eleven can be a difficult, slow turn where mistakes can lead to being overtaken on the front straightaway.

The action gets underway at 3:30pm on the Versus network.  Qualifying can be seen at 6:00pm on Saturday night on the same network.

Without further previewing, its time to get to the writers picks.  Alabama was a tough week for the writers, as I was the only one scoring points—and I scored the fewest points possible.  Does this mean your writers are infallible?  No, it simply means there wasn't enough passing at Barber, and fuel strategies decided the race.

Current standings are:
Ryan Worden: 16 points
Christopher Leone: 13 points
James Broomhead: 11 points
Chad Smith: 3 points
Steve: 0 points

Christopher Leone:

Win : Will Power. He’s always good at Long Beach, for one. I also feel like last weekend’s finish down in the order was an aberration due to pit strategy. When it comes to actual racing, nobody’s as good as Power thus far this year.

Place : Dario Franchitti.

I say this mostly because he won the whole thing last year. He had a couple of podiums at the track while it was still a CART event as well. Ganassi is due for its first win of the year—it’s been three races since the last time they won, right?

Show : Marco Andretti.

Last weekend gave us all some reason to believe in the kid, after he led two thirds of the race and probably could have won it with a few more laps. I think he’ll carry the momentum.

Dark Horse : Mike Conway.

This is more a superstition thing than anything—he’ll be carrying TranSystems colors this weekend, the same colors that carried him to a career-best third at Sonoma last year. But Conway was fast last weekend at Barber, and he’s starting to get it together.

First to Crash : Alex Lloyd.

Just a hunch. Don’t know why.

Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race Winner : Jimmy Vasser in the Pro category, edging out Keanu Reeves. In the Celebrity category, I’m going with Patrick Warburton, just because I’ve been on a Family Guy bend lately (he’s Joe). 

(Writer's note: pick is just for fans, I have no idea on the Pro-Celeb race)

James Broomhead

1st: Will Power

2nd: Helio Castroneves

3rd: Scott Dixon

More of the same, I’m afraid, as we stick to the road courses. A mild improvement is that this week it is one where overtaking isn’t rarer than hen’s teeth, so we should have some sort of racing and not the fast guys stuck behind everyone else. That said, Milka Duno presents a greater danger as the walls get closer to her.

Dark Horse : Justin Wilson

Perhaps the most experienced man in the field on the modern Long Beach layout was robbed a chance to show what he could do last year when he was nabbed by a typical traffic jam at the hairpin. Wilson has shown the expected promise so far this year, but needs to convert it into wins, and with ovals looming, he should do it soon.

First To Crash : E.J. Viso

Long Beach's turn one might as well already start cleaning up the mess that will occur on the start now. Several cars are unlikely to get around that corner with all the wheels and wings they started with.

No doubt it’ll start in the midfield, domino back and forth through the pack, and whoever started it, will finish in the Top Five.

Chad Smith

First Place : Ryan Briscoe

Power dominated the first two weeks, Helio got his last week…it’s just his turn to get Roger another win.

Second Place : Dario Franchitti

Last year’s winner will once again be near the front.

Third Place : Raphael Matos

I like the way Matos has been performing this season, and it’s about time he finds his way to the podium.

Dark Horse : Mike Conway

Conway has shown such great improvement, especially last weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is up near the front again this week.

First to Crash : E.J. Viso
…..just watch…

Ryan Worden

Win: I'm going with Ryan Hunter-Reay...why you ask?  Because he's awesome. 

Reason No. 2...did you see that Race to the Party thing that IZOD did?  It was epic.  They surely spent enough on it to fund the rest of his season, so he will be out to show them that they should.  Aside from that, I am really sick of seeing Penske win (and I like Penske), so I'm mixing it up.

Show: Scott Dixon 

The iceman hasn't had the best of luck so far this year, but he is far too talented to not be on the podium very often.  He currently sits fifth in points and would like to gain some ground on Will Power before we head to the ovals.

Show: Which of course leads us to Will Power. 

Why?  Because he has been the best driver each and every week of the 2010 season.  He finished fourth in his only non-victory last week and likely would have won if the pit strategies of others didn't work.  Will needs to bank points before heading to ovals with his new team.

Dark Horse : Alex Tagglianni 

Taggs has experience here from his Champ Car/CART days, and he has been good so far this year.  It's time for him to take that experience and take his new team and lead them to a top-five finish.

First to Crash :

This is a tougher one this week, as Long Beach sees a fair amount of contact.  I'm going to go with my new favorite crash causer in Takuma Sato.  He didn't wreck at Barber, but neither did anyone else.  He may be the Viso of 2010.

And filling in this week for Steve (who is moving to the new offices) is my roommate John... John's only knowledge of Indycar is my drunken rants at a bar.

First: Helio Castroneves  

I am a lawyer, and anyone who can beat tax fraud charges despite being as guilty as OJ gets my vote.

Second: Marco Andretti

Why?  Because his family renewed his contract with the devil to keep this kid racing.  That and I had a venom energy drink for lunch and someone told me they sponsor him.

Third: Danica Patrick 

Reason... because if she wins, we see more skin, and third place is close enough.  Skin to win baby!

Dark Horse: Bertrand Baguette

Entry form says he is Belgian.  I love Belgian beer.  Godspeed you sandwich-sounding driver.

First to Crash: Dario Franchitti  

Like Steve, I am a Hoosier, and everything relating to Kentucky must go down.  Franchitti's wife is their "unofficial" cheerleader, so he is kissing the wall.

Well that'll do it for this week, enjoy the race!