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LBGP Notebook: Race, venue remain favorites with drivers
When the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach comes around, there is never a shortage of drivers who talk about how special it is to compete in it. Count Vitor Meira of Brazil is among them.

"There's a lot of tradition there; it's a very famous course because of the drivers who've raced there," said Meira, who toils in IndyCar for A.J. Foyt Racing. "It gets great crowds and it's always a fun weekend because of the general atmosphere.

"Last year it was one of the best street races we had aside from Brazil."

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won at Long Beach last year, gave even higher praise.

"Winning at Long Beach is something every driver in this series wants to do," Hunter-Reay said. "Trust me, it is high on every driver's list. If not No. 1, No. 2. Indy (500) is a big one, too."

Paul Tracy, who recently signed for a partial ride with Dragon Racing, has won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach four times. He, too, spoke about the event in glowing tones during a conference call Wednesday.

"I'm really excited to get the opportunity to work with (Dragon team owner) Jay (Penske) and his crew, to come back to Long Beach, which is really the place where I started my (major open-wheel) career," Tracy said. "My first-ever start was there with Dale Coyne, and then my first-ever win with Roger (Penske).

"It's been a fantastic venue for me. It's one of the crown jewels of the series and I've been lucky enough to win it, win the race four times."

Then there is the track, one that is both forgiving and unforgiving.

"The good thing about that street circuit is that long, main straight," Meira said. "Street courses with long straights make for good opportunities to pass. At Long Beach, you can pass also on the backstretch and coming into the second third-gear complex, so it's a good street course for passing."

Now the bad news.

"What you have to watch out for is the hairpin, the last turn," Meira said. "Very often cars are getting together there and it shuts down the track so you can't pull through. You have to be really careful not to try to pass there because it's always very inviting.

"You really think you can pass there, but once you get in there, the car doesn't have enough radius to turn, so a lot of people get stuck there."  Long Beach Press Telegram

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