It's about 11:30 a.m. local time here in Long Beach. The Indy Lights race recently concluded with Gabby Chaves taking victory, Zach Veach finishing second, and Matthew Brabham third. The Stadium Super Trucks will be racing at 12 noon, with Verizon IndyCar Series pre-race slated to begin around 12:30, and the green flag for the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach scheduled for 1:15 p.m. PT. And it promises to be an exciting one.
To begin, the three most recent Long Beach winners, each of whom have been fast this weekend, will start deeper in the field. St. Pete winner Will Power starts 14th, defending champion Takuma Sato rolls off 15th, and 2011 winner Mike Conway starts 17th. Power, of course, won the 2012 race from the 12th grid position. Expect each of these three to make a move forward early, and depending on cautions/pit strategy could be near the front come the end of the day.
Speaking of strategy, today's race is 80 laps, putting the pit window for two stops at lap 27. We talked to a few people this morning, who said they thought some drivers at the back may go "off sequence," with a three-stop strategy. Dale Coyne reminded us that Justin Wilson finished third last year using a three-stop strategy, after starting 24th. However, generally speaking, most seem to believe it can be done on two stops, presuming the race does not run green the whole way.
Look for Mikhail Aleshin to be aggressive when the green flag falls.
A driver to keep an eye on today is Schmidt Petersen Motorsports rookie Mikhail Aleshin. From our vantage point, the driver of the #7 SMP Racing Honda gets off the hairpin onto Shoreline Drive as well as anyone, and was able to overtake a few drivers during the warm-up into turn 1. Aleshin starts 20th this afternoon.
Another thing to note is that it is relatively overcast and somewhat cool here in Long Beach today. And looking at the forecast it appears that will remain the case throughout the day.
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