20 cars expected for Long Beach UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement that 20 car/driver combinations have been entered for Long Beach - see Hot News page.
04/07/08 With today's announcement of 7 more cars for Long Beach, plus the previously announced 10 the total car count would be 17. However, 2 more cars are expected from Walker Racing plus one more from Minardi Team USA bringing the total up to 20 cars, the biggest field in years.
04/06/08 In the aftermath of the open-wheel racing merger of the Champ Car World Series and Indy Racing League, speculation on the field for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach ranged from a combination of IRL and CCWS veterans to perhaps the smallest field in the event's history.
The reality for the April 20 events lands in the middle and with good cheer, with a lot of recognizable names and race teams who are committed to making the final race in Champ Car history and the 34th Grand Prix special.
The five race teams that have made the jump to the IRL for the 2008 season will all run multi-car teams here, led by Newman/Haas' Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal. Most of the five teams that have been left by the curb in the wake of the merger will also drive here, topped by Forsythe Racing.
It hasn't been officially announced yet, but three-time winner Paul Tracy is expected to be one of three drivers for Forsythe, which chose to go in a different direction and join the IRL. [Editor's Note: Last we heard Forsythe is not even talking to Tracy and as we write this there is no deal for him to run Long Beach, but that could change.]
There should be minimally 17 cars in the field.
One of the merger's sticking points was the conflict between the IRL's date in Japan the same weekend as the Grand Prix. After being unable to move the date of the overseas race, it was determined that Long Beach would be the final race in Champ Car history and drivers would use their leftover Panoz cars from 2007.
"We acknowledge that it's Champ Car's swan song," Grand Prix CEO Jim Michaelian said.
"Since it coincides with their silver anniversary here, we wanted to put together a program that would reflect those 25 years. Whatever happened to Champ Car, they've been great partners and a big part of our success.
"All of the race teams indicated a strong desire to finish strong and enter as many cars as they could despite all of the variables involved. Some of these teams are actively in the IRL so they have other concerns, but no one wants to walk away from Long Beach because it's been so good for racing."
Tracy, who is trying to find a ride for the current 2008 IRL season, has already officially left the employ of Forsythe but he's indicated he will run Long Beach once terms are set.
Pacific Coast Motorsports and driver Alex Figge did not join the IRL either, and the two have parted company, but Figge will be back to drive his No. 29 car for PCM.
A lot of drivers made their open-wheel debut at Long Beach, so it resonates as an important place to be, both on a personal and professional level.
"Long Beach was the first Champ Car race for me and it will be the last Champ Car event ever," said Justin Wilson, who made his debut here in 2004, finished fourth here last season, won his first Champ Car event in the Netherlands late last season and now drives for Newman/Haas. "I think everyone will come to Long Beach to have some fun and make it a good race."
"My feelings are bittersweet," Figge told reporters last week. "It was my favorite race last season and now it's my final race with PCM. I think I was ready to surprise people this year. I'm close to these people personally and professionally, so I'm looking forward to it." Long Beach Press Telegram